Last Updated: May 2002

Malo 'e Lelei!         Welcome to my home page!

Heather E. Young Leslie



I'm an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anthropology  at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I am also an Assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.  I specialize in medical and feminist anthropology, and do research in Polynesia and Canada. 

     I am fascinated by different societies' systems for treating disease and suffering, and for producing professional healers and helpers. Many times, these systems which seem to be the same, are not, and their differences are both predicated by and act to replicate local aspects of culture, power and social structure. Thus I am very interested in the intersection between western biomedicine and modernity, both in Polynesia and in the Canadian North.

     My current research in Polynesia focusses on Tongan medical physicians. This includes research in Fiji, where I have been examining the records from the Suva Medical School and the Central Medical School, the institutions which evolved into the Fiji School of Medicine. It has also included archival research in England, because some of the  records from Tonga's past are housed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Public Records Office archives there. I hope, eventually, to expand these insights from the Pacific, to the Canadian scene, and the experiences of Canadian indigenous physicians. The project is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Standard Research Grant. For more information on current research projects, please use this link.

My previous research in the Kingdom of Tonga  examined the intersections of  women's work, cultural constructions of health and mothers' child care practices. Surprisingly, a key aspect in the everyday construction of health is the production and gifting of  women's 'cloth' wealth (shown as the background here). 

In Canada, I have conducted research on perceptions of risk among sport fishers for Health Canada.  I have also been an active proponent in the emergence of  the newest primary health care profession, midwifery.

Previous Experience
    Prior to teaching at U of A, I taught anthropology and women's studies at the University of Northern B.C. Prior to that I taught at the Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a [Nisga'a House of Learning] and at the Ontario Midwifery Education Programme. I was also Interim Coordinator of the Northern Secretariat of the BC Centre of Excellence for Women's Health.

   My applied work with the Midwifery Task Force in both Ontario and B.C., and my teaching experience in the Ontario Midwifery Education Programme lead to an appointment  in 1997 to the executive of the first Board of the College of Midwives of  B.C., which first began registering midwives in 1998.

Areas of  interest:
 Cultural construction of 'health', medical professionals & medical systems (across time and space), midwifery, gender, 'the body', development, qualitative methodologies, and women's material culture .


Areas of Interest

Publications & Current Activities

Past Experience


"Women's Wealth":

Tongan Textiles

Garment Project

Graduate Students's  Information


 All photographs copyright: H. Young Leslie
Fala.gif borrowed from <>
and <>