Margaret Lock



  • Advisor
  • Humans & the Microbiome


  • McGill University
Department of Social Studies in Medicine


  • Canada


PhD (Cultural Anthropology), University of California, Berkeley
MA (Anthropology), University of California, Berkeley
BSc (Biochemistry), Leeds University


Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Margaret Lock researches the relationship among culture, medical practices, technological innovation and the human body.

She initially researched the 20th-century revival of the indigenous Japanese medical system that continues to proliferate to the present day. She has also carried out ethnographic inquiries into adolescence and old age in Japan. Her comparative research on midlife aging in Japan and North America transformed thinking in the social sciences about the relationship among biology, culture and society. It also influenced recommendations for medical practice.

In addition, Lock has carried out extensive comparative research in Japan and North America regarding recognition of brain death, organ retrieval and transplantation. Her recent research deals with the entanglement of aging and dementia; the shift to biomarker detection of amyloid in healthy people; and the impact on families in connection with genetic testing for the APOE gene. Lock’s current project concerns the impact of emerging epigenetic knowledge on the rethinking of gene/environment interactions, with implications for theories about disease causation.


Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2015

Officer of the Order of Canada, 2010

Canada Council for the Arts Killam Prize, 2005

Officier de l'Ordre national du Québec, 2004

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, 1994

Relevant Publications

Lock, M. "Comprehending Embodiment in the Era of the Epigenome." Current Anthropology 56 (April 2013): 151–77.

Lock, M. "Detecting amyloid biomarkers: Embodied risk and Alzheimer prevention." BioSocieties 8, no. 2 (May 2013): 107–23.

Lock, M. "The lure of the epigenome." The Lancet 381, no. 9881 (June 2013): 1896–1897.

Lock, M. "The Epigenome and Nature/Nurture Reunification." Med. Anthropol. 32, no. 4 (2013): 291–308.

Lock, M. "Learning Again to Live with Uncertainty: Postgenomic Knowledge and Genetic Testing." In The Postgenomic Era and its Social Repercussions, edited by Rod MacDonald and Louis Maheu, 249–86. Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 2011.

Lock, M. The Alzheimer Conundrum. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Lock M., and V. Nguyen. An Anthropology of Biomedicine. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Atkinson. P. et al., eds. Handbook of Genetics and Society: Mapping the New Genomic Era. London: Routledge, 2009.

Lock, M., and J. Farquhar, eds. Beyond the Body Proper: Reading the Anthropology of Material Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

Lock, M. Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.