Araceli Alonso holds an R.N., a Bachelor’s degree in History, two Master’s degrees, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology. A specialist in women’s health and human rights, she works to combat human trafficking and to end the sexual exploitation of women and girls. She directs UW-Madison’s UNESCO Chair on Gender, Wellbeing, and Culture of Peace and teaches in the School of Medicine and Public Health and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. Her publications include Health by All Means: Women Turning Structural Violence into Health and Wellbeing. In 2018, she was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching.
An interview with Araceli
What are your current research interests? What sparked your interest in this field?
My research-to-practice passion lies in the interaction of women’s health and human rights, locally and globally. My multidisciplinary background – Nursing, History, Medical Anthropology, Gender and Women’s Studies – took me soon into that direction; once I understood the clear interconnection of human rights violations with women’s health and disease, I could only move forward and keep learning, researching and acting upon my findings and extend them to different geographical areas; there was no way to stop, much less to go back.
What are some memorable experiences you’ve had doing research?
My two-year research in Havana turned my world upside down and down upside. It was the most profound research experience I could have envisioned, and it required me to use all my intellectual and human skills to dig up layers and layers of truths in order to uncover women’s life stories and even to discover myself.
What classes do you teach?
- Global Women’s Health and Human Rights
- Gender and Health in the Context of Human Trafficking and Migration
- International Internship
- Medical Spanish
Why do you believe is it important to conduct international research?
In my view, there is no separation, we are all connected. The category of “international” is only a perception. What we do in one country or community can have a profound impact in other countries or communities. Doing international work does not exclude doing research at home; the local is global and the global is local. I don’t think we have much choice nowadays, we must find research collaborators around the world and exchange research practices to better understand the local-global and global-local connections.
What motivates you to do this work?
A powerful sense of purpose, and a profound desire to cross borders—physical, geographical, arbitrary sociopolitical borders, even virtual borders; all of that united to a stubborn eagerness to learn.
What languages do you speak?
Spanish, English, French; proficient in Swahili
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work or about working with U.S. students on international topics?
I am totally convinced that working with students on global issues makes them better future citizens.