University of Heidelberg

Dr. Sheela Saravanan

Dr. Sheela Saravanan Dr. Sheela Saravanan


  • Research associate

Contact information

Heidelberg University
South Asia Institute
Department of Anthropology
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330, Room 502
69120 Heidelberg

DFG project "Wunschkinder"
Phone: +49 6221 54-8848

Short biography

Dr. Sheela Saravanan has two Master’s degrees from the Indian Universities of Bombay and Pune in Geography and Development Planning. Her PhD thesis in Public Health from Queensland University of Technology, Australia was on the influence of biomedical frameworks of knowledge on local birthing practices in India. She has worked and published on the status of reproductive health in South Asia, violence against women and female infanticide in India. Since 2009 her research work in the German Universities of Heidelberg and Goettingen has focused on gender and assisted reproductive technologies in the context of Asia and Europe. She has widely published on commercial surrogacy in India from a feminist, global inequalities and reproductive justice perspective. Theoretically she has drawn on critical medical anthropology; Lock and Scheper-Hughes ‘mindful body’, theories of global justice and feminist theories of reproductive justice, transnational feminism and intersectionality in the context of commercial surrogacy in India. In her PhD thesis, she applied Jordan’s (1993) concept of ‘authoritative knowledge’ to assess the extent to which there is a synthesis of both biomedical and locally practiced knowledge in the design and content of TBA (Traditional Birth Attendant) training in India. She is presently working on a DFG funded project titled ‘A study of ‘desired children’ in Germany and India as a context leading to prenatal genetic diagnosis and selective abortions’. In this research on prenatal diagnosis she has applied Lock and Scheper-Hughes ‘mindful body’ in examining the notions of Wunschkinder in Germany and India. She has been teaching ‘Theories and Practice and Socio-ethics of Assisted Reproductive Technologies’, ‘Feminism and Public Health’ and ‘Gendered Embodiment of Complementary Medicine’ to Master’s and Bachelor students at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University.

 Contents of the right column
Centre for
Asian and

Ethnology in Heidelberg
Conferences, Publications and externl lectures

The department on events -

Recent Publications

Unani Medicine in the Making:
Practices and Respresentations in 21st-century

Dr. Kira Schmidt Stiedenroth



Reviving “A forgotten Sunna:” Hijamah (cupping therapy), prophetic medicine, and the re-Islamization of Unani medicine in contemporary India

Dr. Kira Schmidt Stiedenroth

Online article


2018. "We are like the river water, always flowing" : some urban nomads of Delhi. In: Soziale Ästhetik, Atmosphäre, Medialität

Prof. Dr. William Sax

UB Heidelberg

Occasional Paper Series

Heidelberg Ethnology

Richard Fox

All papers viewable here.


Becoming like money: Proximity and the social aesthetics of “moneyness”

Jens M. Zickgraf

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7(1), 303–326.


Lethal Spots, Vital Secrets: Medicine and Martial Arts in South India

Roman Sieler

For further information, please see here.


Patient Agency Revisited: "Healing the Hidden" in South India.

Roman Sieler

Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 28: 323-341.

Special edition

Modern Asian Studies

Volume 48 - Issue 05 - September 2014

Click here to view the contents.

Collected edition

Asymmetrical Conversations

Contestations, Circumventions, and the Blurring of Therapeutic Boundaries

Epistemologies of Healing, Vol. 14, edited by Harish Naraindas, Johannes Quack, and William S. Sax, New York 2014.
At the UB: click here.


The anthropology of neoliberal India: An introduction.

Daniel Münster and Christian Strümpell

The politics of dispossession in an Odishan steel town

Christian Strümpell

Both in Contributions to Indian Sociology 48 (Feb. 2014).


Ritual Healing and Mental Health in India.

William Sax

Transcult Psychiatry (Feb. 2014).