Kaler, Amy

Social Structure and Social Policy

PhD (Sociology) 1998
University of Minnesota


Research Interests
I am interested in power, identity, gender, culture, social structure and individual agency. These interests translate into questions such as "How do people perceive the options available to them in their lives, and how do they choose among these options?" "How do new things,  be they technologies, ideas, or resources, enter into people’s lives?” "How do people pursue their own goals, while coping with the constraints of the social structures they live in?" "What stories do people tell to account for their own lives, the lives of other people around them, and the changes in their social worldsng?” And in particular “How can we make out worlds better?”. To date, I have sought insights into these questions in Canada, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan.I have  chosen to explore these questions through studying the organization of fertility, sexuality, and human reproduction. Human reproduction is always crucially significant  for two reasons:

1: because of its intrinsic biological importance as the way that societies and groups within societies maintain their existence over time; and

2: because sexuality and fertility are so laden with symbolic meaning, in cultural productions such as myths, art and ideology and also in individuals' sense of identity.

Through studying how fertility and reproduction  are controlled and managed in any time and place we can learn a lot about how gender, identity and power are constructed in that time and place, and we can learn about the sorts of structures which constrain women's and men's choices in life. Fertility, sexuality and reproduction, in other words, form a lens through which we can view some of the most interesting of all social processes. My work in this area  has focused on family planning and on HIV risk, prevention and treatment in  southern and eastern Africa, although I am also working on  the organization of gender and reproduction in other parts of the world, especially present-day North America.


I am also interested in how communities - from families to nations - survive and transform in periods of rapid social and economic change, or in the face of challenges to their viability. When old ways are no longer working, how do people create new ones? What values, beliefs or philosophies drive the desire to change the social world, whether one is working in one’s own community, or exporting ideas across the globe? In practical terms, this translates into a second research focus on international development and transformations in rural livelihoods in eastern and southern Africa.  

Articles in Submission, March 2014

Kaler, Amy and John Parkins. “ ‘The Dependencies”: Food, Oil and Donors in South Sudan”. Submitted to Third World Quarterly.

Kaler, Amy, Nicole Angotti and Susan Watkins. “Buzzing and Blooming in the Age of AIDS: Fifteen Years of the Malawi Journals Project”. Submitted to Journal of Southern African Studies. 

Watkins, Susan, Ann Swidler, Philip Anglewicz, Amy Kaler and Nicole Angotti. “The ethics of feedback of HIV test results in population-based surveys of HIV infection: A response to Dermot Maher”. Submitted to Bulletin of the World Health Organization.


Selected Recent Publications



Kaler, Amy.  Baby Trouble in the Last Best West: Making New People in 20th Century Alberta. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Kimmel, Michael; Amy Aronson and Amy Kaler (eds.). The Gendered Society Reader, third Canadian edition. Toronto: Oxford University Press.


Kaler, Amy and Melanie Beres. Essentials of Field Relationships (Qualitative Research Essentials series). Walnut Creek CA: Left Coast Press.


Kaler, Amy. Running After Pills: Politics, Gender and Contraception in Colonial Zimbabwe (Social History of Africa series). Portsmouth NH: Heinemann.

Journal Articles


Angotti, Nicole, Maggie Frye, Amy Kaler, Michelle Poulin, Susan Watkins, Sara Yeatman. “Popular Moralities and Institutional Rationalities in Malawi’s Struggle Against AIDS”. Final revisions accepted and forthcoming in Population and Development Review.


Angotti, Nicole and Amy Kaler. “The More You Learn, the Less You Know: Interpretive Ambiguity Across Three Modes of Qualitative Data Collection”. Demographic Research, 28:33, 952-980.

Kaler, Amy. “The National Gain is Nil: Infant Mortality as Failed Reproduction in Early Twentieth Century Alberta”. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 38:3, 309-331

Bedingfield, Nancy, Walter Kipp, Amy Kaler and Tom Rubaale (2013). “Revelations of  HIV-infected Patients Treated With Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) in Rural Uganda”. AIDS Care. 26:1, 75-78.


Kaler, Amy; Arif Alibhai; Water Kipp; Tom Rubaale; Joseph Konde-Lule. “Walking Corpses and Kindly Neighbours: Retrospective Accounts of AIDS Stigma in Western Uganda”. World Journal of AIDS. 2:3, 174-182.


Alibhai, Arif; Walter Kipp, Duncan Saunders, Ambikaikapan Senthilsevan, Amy Kaler, Stan Houston, Tom Rubaale, Joa Okech-Ojony, Joseph Konde-Lule. (2010). “Gender-related Mortality for HIV-infected Patients on Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) in Rural Uganda”. International Journal of Women’s Health,2, 45-52. 10% contribution.

Kaler, Amy; Arif Alibhai, Walter Kipp, Tom Rubaale, Joseph Konde-Lule. “Enough Children: Reproduction, Risk and “Unmet Need” Among People Receiving Antiretroviral Treatment in Western Uganda”. African Journal of Reproductive Health, 6:1 (2012), 133-144. 80% contribution.

Kaler, Amy and Susan Watkins. "Asking God About The Date You Will Die: HIV Testing as a Zone of Uncertainty in Rural Malawi". Demographic Research 23:32, 905-932. 60% contribution.

Kaler, Amy; Arif Alibhai, Walter Kipp, Tom Rubaale, Joseph Konde-Lule. ““Living by the Hoe” In the Age of Treatment: Perceptions of Household Well-being After Antiretroviral Treatment Among Family Members of Persons with AIDS”. AIDS Care, 25:4, 509-519.


Kaler, Amy. "Health Interventions and the Persistence of Rumour: The Circulation of Sterility Stories in African Public Health Campaigns." Social Science & Medicine. 68, 1711-19.

Kaler, Amy. “Gender-as-Knowledge and AIDS in Africa: A Cautionary Tale”.  Qualitative Sociology, 33:1, 23-36. 

Amy Kaler, Running After Pills: Gender, Politics and Contraception in Colonial Rhodesia Portsmouth NH: Heinemann (Social History of Africa Series). December 2003


Selected Awards and Research Grants


2004: Received Faculty of Arts Research Award, given annually for "extraordinary accomplishment in research at the assistant professor level".



Project title: Protecting The Health Of Pregnant And Delivering Mothers And Newborns In Ethiopia: A Systems Approach To Strengthening Skilled Birth Attendance And Referral

Source: Canadian International Development Agency

Role in grant: Co-applicant.  


Project title: Healthy Ecologies: Linking Agro-Food Systems And Community Equity For Food Security In Rural Ethiopia

Source: International Development Research Centre

Role in grant: Co-applicant


Project title: Transferring a Rural Community-based HIV Treatment Program in Uganda From Researchers to Local Stakeholders: Can Program Successes Be Maintained?

Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Role in grant: Co-applicant


Project title: Improving Food Security and Soil Productivity in Ethiopia by Developing Improved Pulse Crops

Source: International Development Research Centre

Role in grant: Co-applicant



Project title: Baby Trouble in the Last Best West

Source: Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Role in grant: Principal (and sole) applicant



Project title: Gender and Well-Being in the Households of Persons Receiving Antiretroviral Treatment

Source: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Role in grant: Principal (and sole) applicant



Project title: Health in an Unequal World: Global Ethics and Policy Choices

Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Role in grant: Co-applicant



Project title: Community-Based Antiretroviral Treatment for AIDS Patients in Rural Uganda

Source: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Role in grant: Co-applicant


Supervised Students

Ayalah Aylyn
Kara Granzow (co-supervision)
Habiba Mohamud
Irene Shankar
Melanie Beres
Ellen Whiteman (co-supervision)

David Matsinhe

Sharon Springer

Laura Graham

Tyler Myroniuk

Ryan Mason (co-supervision)

Sarah Flynn

Yuko Henden (co-supervision)



Additional Information

Extensive manuscript reviewing for academic journals and university presses

Service on SSHRC adjudication committees for Standard Research Grants and Insight Grants

Service on University Research Ethics Board

Extensive engagement with local and national media on issues pertaining to gender, to HIV/AIDS, and to Canada’s role in international development

Speaker and panelist for university and community events