Contact information

Email: msdolson@uwaterloo.ca

Research Interests 

My current research interests are in qualitative approaches to structural violence, social suffering, homelessness, and mental health in urban contexts. I’m also interested in critical approaches to the neoliberal restructuring of workfare/welfare programs in both Canada and Iceland, and their effect on marginalized populations.   As a medical anthropologist, I’m keenly interested in ethnographic theory, method and writing, as well other approaches to qualitative research such as narrative analysis, social phenomenology, discourse analysis, etc.  In addition to the aforementioned areas, I also have interests in critical approaches to biomedicine, particularly psychiatry as well as the interface between informal, community-based models of care and care-giving and biomedical approaches thereto.


Mark earned a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology (with a research focus on mental health and poverty) in 2012 from Western University; an MA in the Anthropology of Medicine from McGill University; and an Honours BA in Anthropology from Western University (with a focus on medical anthropology). Mark completed a SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship focusing on homelessness, addiction, political violence and social suffering in Reykjavik, Iceland through the Scott Polar Research Institute in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. Before completing his Ph.D., he worked as a medical anthropologist for the Department of Paediatrics at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University as well as at the Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. While part of the Department of Paediatrics, he carried out an ethnographic research project which sought to understand the power dynamics between medical residents and their teachers in the context of medical education at the Children’s Emergency Department at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. During Mark's time at the Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, he took part in developing research projects centered on youth Indigenous health issues in remote First Nations communities in Northern Ontario. Mark’s current research and teaching expertise are in ethnographic approaches to homelessness and mental illness (particularly trauma, addiction and their socio-political causes); as well as critical approaches to neoliberalism, workfare, moral regulation, and policy related to poverty reduction and housing/re-housing the homeless in both Canada and Iceland. Following his SSHRC-funded Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge, Mark is in the midst of completing research on an ethnographic approach to homeless and marginalized subjectivities in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is attempting to trace ethnographically the shifting contours of one informants’ experience with hoarding, her self-exile into homelessness and extreme existential suffering resulting from political violence and paternalistic attitudes towards the homeless.  During Mark’s two years at Western University, he won the USC Social Science Award of Excellence in Teaching each year.  Mark has supervised HLTH 472 and HLTH 473 (Honours Thesis Research) courses on a variety of topics including racism and mental health, help-seeking behaviours and colonialism and health.  

Courses Taught

  • HLTH 173/273: Introduction to Indigenous Health in Canada
  • HLTH 260: Social Determinants of Health
  • HLTH 344: Qualitative Methods for Health Research
  • HLTH 373: Addiction and Poverty
  • HLTH 432a/b: Honours Research Thesis 
  • HLTH 448: Health and Homelessness
  • HLTH 472: Independent Reading Courses
  • HLTH 473: Re-Imagining Care
  • HLTH 652: Qualitative Methods and Analysis 

Graduate Supervision

  • Homelessness, extreme poverty and addiction
  • Workfare, moral regulation and health
  • Ethnographic method and theory; qualitative approaches 
  • Critical theory and health
  • Mental health and illness
  • Structural violence and social suffering
  • Theories and critical analyses of care and care-provision 


BA Anthropology with focus on Medical Anthropology (with Honours), Western University

MA Anthropology of Medicine, McGill University

PhD Medical Anthropology - Research Focus on Mental Health and Poverty, Western University

Postdoctoral Fellowship - Research focus on political violence, homelessness and addiction, Reykjavík, Iceland, The Scott Polar Research Institute, The University of Cambridge

Selected publications

*2019- (in preparation) Dolson, M. S., Forchuk, C. and T. Wafa. An Ethnographic Examination of the Lived-Actualities of Choice and Decision-Making in Homeless and Street-Involved Youth: The Youth Matters in London Study. To be submitted to Canadian Journal of Nursing. 

*2019- (in preparation) Dolson, M. S. Subjectivity, Homelessness and the Limits of the Politics of Help and Housing in Reykjavík, Iceland. To be submitted to Medical Anthropology Quarterly

2018 - Dolson, M.  S.  “The Best Laid Plans…” Of Qualitative Research: On Chance and Precarity in Doing Ethnographic Fieldwork.  Book chapter for The Craft of Qualitative Research.  Steven Kleinknecht, Lisa-Jo van den Scott and Carrie B Sanders (Editors).  Canadian Scholars Press.

2017 - Bannister, S, Dolson, M. S., Lingard, L., Keegan, D.  Not just trust:  Factors influencing opportunities for residents to conduct technical skills on real patients.  Medical Education 52(6): 1-15.

2015 -Dolson, M. S. By Sleight of Neoliberal Logics: Street Youth, Workfare and the Everyday Tactics of Survival in London, Ontario, Canada. City & Society 27(2): 116-135.

2014 - Dolson, M. S.  Precarity, Workfare, and the Social Contingency of Suffering: The Story of a Canadian Street-Youth. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. Published Online first (October 8th, 2014 DOI 10.1007/s11013-014-9409-4) 39 (1): 134-161 (March, 2015).

2013 - Forchuk, C., Richardson, J., Laverty, K., Bryant, M., Rudnick, A., Csiernik, R., Edwards, B., Fisman, S., Mitchell, B., Connoy, M., Dolson, M. S. & Kelly, C.  Service Preferences of Homeless Youth with Mental Illness: Housing First, Treatment First, or Both Together. In Youth Homelessness in Canada:Implications for Policy and Practice.  S. Gaetz, B. O’Grady, Bucceri, K., Karabanow, J., and Marsolais, A. (eds). York University, Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press. *Authorship role: I wrote the entire chapter and analyzed the data (authorship order follows the medical model).

2013 - Dolson, M.S. Reflections Through Reflexivity: Why my Collaborative Research project in arctic Labrador did not work.  Collaborative Anthropologies, vol. 6: 201-236.

2010 - Dolson, M. S. On the Possibility of a Synergy Between Indigenous Knowledges of Health and Healing and Western Biomedicine: Toward a Phenomenological Understanding. Platforum 11: 38-50.                     

2009 - Dolson, M. S. On Benjamin's Temporality of Crisis, Foucault's Subjugated Knowledges, and their Import in Theorising Revitalisation Movements: A Critical Theoretical Examination. Anthropological Notebooks 15(3): 43-64.

2008 - Dolson, M.S.  Book review for: Improvising Theory: Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork, by Cerwonka, Allaine & Malkki, Liisa. Anthropologica: Journal of the Canadian Anthropology Society, 51(2): 442- 443.

2006 - Dolson, M. S. & Naqshbandi, M.  Review of Canadian Aboriginal Literature  and Funding: Current Status, Gaps and Strategies.  Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative: Health Canada and Canadian Institutes for Health Research (Canada Institutes for Health Research—CIHR) Report. Pp. 1-35.

2005 - Dolson, M. S. The Role of Dialogue, Otherness and the Construction of  Insight in Psychosis: Toward a Socio-Dialogic Model.  Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 36 (1): 75-112.

University of Waterloo