Dan Small

Research Interests

  • The Lived Experience of Illness
  • Medical and Healthcare Culture
  • Peer to Peer Regulation and Assessment
  • Therapeutic and Healing Narratives
  • Hereditary Cancer
  • Globalization, Capitalist Culture and Contemporary Social Problems: Homelessness, Mental Illness and Addiction
  • Removing Healthcare and Housing Barriers
  • Addiction, Harm Reduction and Marginalized Populations
  • Law Enforcement and Harm Reduction

Dan Small is a medical anthropologist and Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. He has a PhD in medical anthropology (University of British Columbia), an MPhil in circumpolar studies (University of Cambridge), an undergraduate degree in sociology and anthropology (Simon Fraser University, 1st class honours) and an undergraduate degree in psychology (Simon Fraser University, 1st class honours). He has helped develop, operate and evaluate a range of initiatives including social enterprises, healthcare, housing, employment and support services for marginalized populations including: harm reduction (e.g. syringe distribution, supervised injection, safer crack kits, managed alcohol, intravenous antibiotic treatment and a drug users resource centre), an inner-city bank, detox, dental clinic, grocery store for the low-income community, art gallery, recovery programs and supported housing.  His role in developing, operating and protecting Insite, North America’s only supervised injection facility, took place in a busy socio-political intersection requiring cultural analysis of implicit and explicit values. His experience in medical regulation and medical student assessment has included involvement in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (2000-2014) and Medical Council of Canada (2007-2014). He teaches in both anthropology and sociology.

Selected Publications: 

  • Small, D (2019). Mendes, N., Merhy, E., and Silveira, P., eds. “Cultural Kidnapping: State Abduction of Children from First Nations in Canada.” Extermination of the Excluded, Editora Redeunida, Porto Alegre, Brazil: 441-468
  • Small, D (2019). “Structural violence and Canada’s overdose catastrophe: time for a Royal Commission.” CMAJ Blogs, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Canada.
  • Small, D. and Bruce, A (2019). Mendes, N., Merhy, E., and Silveira, P. eds. “Breastfeeding, Drug Use and Compulsory Adoption.” Extermination of the Excluded, Editora Redeunida, Porto Alegre, Brazil: 303-310.
  • Drucker, E., K. Anderson, R. Haemmig, R. Heimer, D. Small, A. Walley, E. Wood and I. v. Beek (2016). “Treating Addictions: Harm Reduction in Clinical Care and Prevention.” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry13(1): 1-13.
  • Gurstein, P. and D. Small (2005). “From Housing to Home: Reflexive Management for those Deemed Hard to House.” Housing Studies20(5): 717-735.
  • Kerr, T., Wood, E., Small, D., Palepu, A., and W. Tyndall, M. (2003). “Potential Use of Safer Injecting Facilities Among Injection Drug Users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 169(8): 1-5.
  • Small, D. (2004). “Mental Illness, Addiciton and the Supervised Injection Facility: New Narratives on the Downtown Eastside.” Visions: BC’s Mental Health and Addictions Journal2(1): 37-39.
  • Small, D. (2005). “Looking Into the Cultural Mirror: Addiction, secret lives and lost personhood.”Visions: BC’s Mental Health and Addiciton Journal2(5): 29-30.
  • Small, D. (2005). “Two cultures passing in the night.”International Journal of Drug Policy16: 221-222.
  • Small, D. (2006). “Patient, prisoner or person?” Harm Reduction Journal3(23): 1-2.
  • Small, D. (2007). “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread: Playing God with Vancouver’s Supervised Injection Facility in the political borderland.”International Journal of Drug Policy18: 18-26.
  • Small, D. (2008). “Amazing grace: Vancouver’s supervised injection facility granted six-month lease on life.” Harm Reduction Journal5(3): 1-6.
  • Small, D. (2008). “Fighting addiction’s death row: British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield shows a measure of legal courage.” Harm Reduction Journal5(31): 1-16.
  • Small, D. (2009). “Foundation skills assessment and expectancies: Pygmalion returns?” Teacher: Newsmagazine of the BC Teachers’ Federation2(4): 1-3.
  • Small, D. (2009). “Love as harm reduction: fighting AIDS and stigma in Vietnam.” Harm Reduction Journal6(34): 1-5.
  • Small, D. (2010). “An appeal to humanity: legal victory in favour of North America’s only supervised injection facility.” Harm Reduction Journal7(23): 1-3.
  • Small, D. (2011). “An anthropological examination of an exotic tribe: The Naicisyhp.” BC Medical Journal53(1): 1.
  • Small, D. (2012). “Canada’s highest court unchains injection drug users; implications for harm reduction as standard of healthcare.” Harm Reduction Journal9(34): 1-11.
  • Small, D. (2012). “Visual AIDS: Standard of Caring.”CATIE: Canada’s source for HIV and hepatitis C information: 1-2.
  • Small, D. (2016). “Cultural Alchemy and Supervised Injection: Anthropological Activism and Application.” Practicing Anthropology39(2): 26-31.
  • Small, D. (2016).  Obituary: Ian Whitaker (1928-2016). Polar Record.
  • Small, D. and E. Drucker (2006). “Policy makers ignoring science and scientists ignoring policy: the medical ethical challenges of heroin treatment.” Harm Reduction Journal3(16): 1-14.
  • Small, D. and E. Drucker (2007). “Closed to reason: time for accountability for the International Narcotic Control Board.” Harm Reduction Journal4(13): 1-8.
  • Small, D. and E. Drucker (2008). “Return to Galileo? The Inquisition of the International Narcotic Control Board.” Harm Reduction Journal5(16): 1-6.
  • Small, D., A. Glickman, G. Rigter and T. Walter (2010). “The Washington Needle Depot: fitting healthcare to injection drug users rather than injection drug users to healthcare: moving from a syringe exchange to syringe distribution model.” Harm Reduction Journal7(1): 1-12.
  • Small, D., A. Palepu and M. W. Tyndal (2006). “The establishment of North America’s first state sanctioned supervised injection facility: a case study in culture change.” International Journal of Drug Policy: 1-10.
  • Small, D. (2017). “Defining Moments and Healing Emplotment: “I Have Cancer; It Doesn’t Have Me”.” Health Communication:1-3.
  • Small, D. (2018). “Creating Zones of Acceptance: Fitting Services to People rather than People to Services.” Pp. 429-68 in Criminalização ou Acolhimento?, edited by Bruce Alexander, Emerson Elias Murphy, and Paulo Silveira. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Editora Redeunida.
  • Small, D., Shelly Bolton, Sarah Zwaryck, Danielle Turone, and Belrina Hanuse. 2019. “From Bean to Bar: Cultural Esteem and Healing Through Chocolate.” Practicing Anthropology 41(2):40-46.
ANTH 202A Contemporary Social Problems: Anthropological Examination of Addiction, Mental Illness and Homelessness

This course examines some of the most significant of contemporary social problems with special emphasis on addiction, mental illness, and homelessness from the point of view of anthropology. It focuses on addiction as a case study for a socio-cultural approach to understanding social problems and includes both applied and ethnographic materials relating to implicit or explicit values, narratives and psychosocial interventions. The theoretical framework for the course is rooted in applied, critical and public anthropology that relies on a socio-cultural analysis and includes an exploration of the potential influence of globalization and capitalist narratives on social problems.

ANTH 202B 002 Contemporary Social Problems: Anthropological Examination of Drugs, Societal Responses and Moral Order: Drugs, Demons and Damnation

This course employs anthropology, with its socio-cultural and qualitative approach; to examine drugs and drug related issues. It includes theoretical, applied and ethnographic materials relating to implicit or explicit values, narratives and societal approaches to answer the question: what, exactly, are drugs? Students will learn that in some ways, this is like asking about the difference between a weed and a flower. These questions cannot be answered meaningfully without first exploring the meanings that we have ascribed to the objects we observe. The course will explore moral, legal, scientific, medical and pharmaceutical narratives about drugs within an historical and cultural context.

ANTH 227 002 Introduction to Medical Anthropology

Culture, Health and Illness (Medical Anthropology)

This course surveys some of the fields of medical anthropology that can be used to enrich our understanding of illness, healing and clinical encounters. Ultimately, students will also be invited to explore the idea that medicine is not only influenced by culture, it is, in and of itself, a cultural process. From beginning to end, this course will contemplate an important question for medical anthropology and for everyday people experiencing illness: can patients and clinicians stand closer together as they face inevitable illness and mortality? The course will examine narratives and experiences of patients, families and clinicians in an attempt to convince the student that the answer to this question is yes, definitely yes.

SOCI 250 Crime and Society

This course examines crime and society. It begins with a question: what, exactly, is crime? A diverse range of human activity could be considered criminal such as that relating to persons, the state, environment, property, human rights, hatred, internet and financial systems. However, crime is not an immutable or naturalized phenomenon, but is subject to the vagaries of society. A significant assumption, and assertion, within this course is that notions of crime and deviance are socially constructed and vary across time and jurisdiction. Without sociology, it will be argued, there is no way to adequately moor our understanding of crime and society. This course attempts to convince students that the examination of sociological currents is not only useful, but necessary, if we are to adequately investigate, understand and address crime and society.

Nov-Dec 2005 – Special Guest of the United States Government Under the International Visitor Leadership Program
2000-2001 – University Graduate Fellowship
1997-2000 – S.S.H.R.C. Doctoral Fellowship
1997-1998 – Koerner Doctoral Fellowship (declined)
1997-1999 – University Graduate Fellowship (declined)
1998 – U.B.C. Canadian Airlines Travel Prize
1998 – U.B.C. in 2010 Essay Competetion Prize
1996 – Overseas Research Scholarship (declined)
1996 – Queen Elizabeth II Centennial Scholarship
1993 – Simon Fraser University Open Scholarship
1992 – Simon Fraser University Open Scholarship
1991 – Simon Fraser University Open Scholarship