Brian McKenna, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Brian McKenna
College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
Behavioral Sciences
Thursdays 12:00 - 1:00 on Chat (Also, by Appt. , Phone or Zoom)

Teaching Areas:


Research Areas:

Medical Ethics, Neoliberal Culture, Primary Care Systems

Biography and Education

Brian McKenna, Ph.D. is a medical/environmental anthropologist and journalist with over three decades of experience as an applied, public anthropologist. He received a B.A. in Communication Arts from Temple University, an M.A. in Anthropology from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Michigan State University.

Before joining the faculty at University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dr. McKenna worked as a health policy analyst for several non-profits in Philadelphia, as the developmental specialist for National Public Radio's “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” and as an environmental health researcher for the Ingham County Health Department in Michigan.

Teaching Interests: Medical Anthropology; Anthropology, Health, and the Environment; Indians of North America; Doing Anthropology (i.e., Anthropology research methodology); Psychological Anthropology

Research Interests: Applied Anthropology; Medical and Environmental Anthropology; Critical Pedagogy; Neoliberalism and Comparative Political Economy; Public Anthropology and Journalism

Selected Publications and Presentations

McKenna, Brian, “Medical Education for What? Neoliberal Fascism Versus Social Justice,” Journal of Medical Humanities, 2021, 42, 587-602. 

McKenna, Brian, “Planetary Health Requires Planetary Medicine: Stepping Outside Educational Siloes to Create a Brave New Way of Healing the World.” 10th Annual Conference of inVIVO Planetary Health, Online video presentation, December 2021. 

McKenna, Brian, “The Agony of Flint: Poisoned Water, Racism and the Specter of Neoliberal Fascism,” Anthropology Now, 2018, 10, 45-58. 

McKenna, Brian, “Confronting Tyranny in a Public Health Agency:  Crafting a ‘Philosophy of Praxis’ into a ‘Community of Resistance’” March 2018, in Carl A. Maida and Sam Beck, Eds., “Global Sustainability and Communities of Practice.” Berghahn: London. 

McKenna, Brian, “Anthropology at the Red-Green Crossroads,” November 2017, in Liam J. Leonard, Ed., “Green Criminology & Environmental Crime." Emerald: Ireland. 

McKenna, Brian, “Ban Michigan Fracking: The Role of Academic Civic Engagement and Activist Anthropology,” 77th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM, March 2017.

McKenna, Brian, “Confronting Tyranny in a Public Health Agency: Crafting a ‘Philosophy of Practice’ into a ‘Community of Resistance,’” 2016, Anthropology in Action, 23, 31-38.

McKenna, Brian, “The Collapse of ‘Primary Care’ in Medical Education: A Case Study of Michigan’s Community/University Health Partnerships Project,” 2015, In Trish Greenhalgh, Saville Kushner and Jill Russell, Eds., Advances in Program Evaluation volume on Case Study Evaluation. London: Emerald Group Publishing.

McKenna, Brian, “Paulo Freire’s Blunt Challenge to Anthropology: Create a Pedagogy of the Oppressed for Your Times,” Critique of Anthropology, 2013, 33(4), 447-475.

McKenna, Brian, “Dow Chemical’s Knowledge Factories: Action Anthropology Against Michigan’s Company Town Culture,” 2013, in Carl A. Maida and Sam Beck, Eds., Toward Engaged Anthropology. Berghahn: Oxford.

McKenna, Brian, "The Clash of Medical Civilizations: Experiencing Primary Care in a Neoliberal Culture" Journal of Medical Humanities, 2012, 33, 255–272.

Awards and Recognition

  • Eco-Champion Hall of Fame, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (2018)
  • Rudolf Virchow Professional Award, Honorable Mention, Society for Medical Anthropology (2014) 
  • Fellow, Society for Applied Anthropology (2010-present)
  • Faculty Member of the Year, University of Michigan-Dearborn Alumni Association (2009)
  • Academic Service-Learning Faculty Fellowship, Civic Engagement Project, University of Michigan-Dearborn (2006) 
  • Environmental Achievement Award, Ecology Center, Ann Arbor, MI (2002)