Margaret Pollak Lecturer, Global Health Studies and Anthropology

Research and Teaching Interests

Medical anthropology, American Indian studies, science and technology studies, history of medicine, indigenous science, bioethics, health disparities, anthropology and public health, food and nutrition, oral history, and ethnographic research methods.


Margaret Pollak is a cultural and medical anthropologist whose work focuses on the interrelationship of human health and human culture.

Pollak’s primary research explores the experience of diabetes in Chicago’s Native community. American Indian populations have some of the highest rates of diabetes worldwide and are disproportionately affected by the secondary complications when compared with other ethnic groups. In her dissertation, Pollak argues that the diabetes epidemic among America’s indigenous peoples evinces the continued influence colonialism has today.  Colonialism continues to act upon Native bodies and communities through intergenerational trauma, displacement, chronic poverty, and altered foodways. Pollak’s dissertation further demonstrates how members of Chicago’s Native community – a community with individuals representing more than 140 American Indian Nations – articulate a shared Native identity through a mutual vulnerability to diabetes that transcends tribal differences in the urban space.

Pollak’s current research builds upon her dissertation by studying urban Native American foodways. Through oral history interviews and ethnographic and archival study, Pollak documents urban Native diets and access to food from the 1950s to today. In this study, she investigates how food and diet relate to income, gender, indigenous identity, colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and local conceptions of health and nutrition.

Pollak is developing several manuscripts for publication based upon her primary research, including an article on diabetes care in Native Chicago and an article on Native elders’ reflections on relocating to urban areas in the post-World War II era. Pollak is also developing plans for a book on American Indian life and health in Chicago, bringing together her current and previous research. Additionally, Pollak has presented her findings on diabetes care and prevention to community members at the American Indian Center of Chicago and is in talks with community members on how to more effectively treat and prevent diabetes in the community.

Global Health Courses Taught