RELIGION, HEALING AND THE BODY; PUBLIC HEALTH PROMOTION AND CULTURAL THEORY; BIOETHICS
Arlene Macdonald's research and teaching interests are situated at the intersection of religion, medicine and media in North America. Her research queries the place of religion in the medical arena, and in the public sphere more broadly. The spiritual lives of patients, religious responses to medical technologies, the employment of moral discourse in health promotion, and the accommodation of religious diversity in healthcare are areas of specialization.
Dr. Macdonald received her doctorate in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto. Her dissertation research was an ethnographic study of organ transplant recipients, their encounter with perennial questions of death and survival, their theological and ritual responses to the technological reinvention of their bodies and persons, and their engagement with the political and social infrastructures generated by organ transfer. The dissertation was also a cultural study of North America's collective expressions of transplant as found in Christian journals, popular media, advocacy literature and public policy statements. Much of the bio-ethics literature on organ transplant treats religion as a series of moral imperatives for (or moral injunctions against) organ donation. The thesis examined the much wider religious world that is tied to organ transplant, including the spiritual lives of recipients and the religious metaphors and symbols used in the public promotion of organ donation. Dr. Macdonald is currently a member of the Loeb Research Consortium on Organ and Tissue Donation, a multi-disciplinary research team committed to examining organ and tissue donation through an interdisciplinary lens in order to inform policy, law and practice.
In 2009 Dr. Macdonald was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa on a collaborative research project entitled “Culture, Religion and Integration among Young Adults of Immigrant Background in Canada”. Focus groups and interviews were conducted across six Canadian cities to discern the opinions of young immigrant adults on complex ethical questions about religious freedom, religious equality, gender equality, social cohesion and public morality. This research provided the background for Dr. Macdonald's evolving interest in religious accommodations in healthcare for both patients and practitioners. For the 2010-2011 academic year, Dr. Macdonald pursued research on religious diversity and healthcare as a MITACS Elevate Postdoctoral Fellow. She is also a member of the Religion and Diversity Project, a major collaborative research initiative based at the University of Ottawa.