Associate Researcher at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in the Free University Berlin

Fellowship : October 2019 to June 2020

Discipline(s) : Anthropology

Pays : Germany

Research project: "Productive pathologies: professional patients and the commodification of disease in Egypt"

Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this project investigates the changing perception of disease among a segment of the Egyptian population, called“professional patients”. In response to increasing poverty, deteriorating living conditions and the shift to neo-liberal economic policies in Egypt, these patients commodify their diseases and establish them as a main source of income. In medical schools, the absence of opportunities for students to work with patients and to examine their bodies within a curricular setting, has led to the emergence of the professional patient who provides this service to students. To survive poverty, commodifying disease and selling knowledge is a growing phenomenon in medical establishments in Egypt. Large numbers of patients, especially the marginal and the poor, maintain their disease conditions and market knowledge about their condition. The phenomenon of the professional patient creates biosocial groupings of patients and brokers. Within these groups are found mutual support, organized activities and even assignment of tasks to different members. This project examines different levels of this emergent phenomenon: the medical school institution, the individual experience and management of disease, the dynamics and internal politics of professional patient groupings, and the community and family.


Mustafa Abdalla is an Associate Researcher at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in the Free University Berlin. He received his master’s in Anthropology from the American University in Cairo and his PhD from the Free University Berlin. His research focuses on gender, sexuality, masculinity, medical education, changing perception of disease and migration. He has conducted research in both Egypt and Mali. His current research project in Egypt deals with the emerging phenomena of professional patients and their utilization of their ailing bodies to restore their social roles and to make economic gains.


ABDALLA, Mustafa, et al. (eds.). Spaces in Movement : New Perspectives on Migration in African Settings, Cologne, Köppe Verlag, 2014.

ABDALLA, Mustafa. "Beach Politics: Gender and Sexuality in Dahab", in Cairo Papers in Social Sciences, The American University in Cairo Press. Cairo, Egypt, 2007.

ABDALLA, Mustafa. "Friendly skulls, Mechanical Bodies: The Encounter with Cadavers in Medical School in Egypt", in Medical Anthropology : Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, 2015.

ABDALLA, Mustafa. "Medical Students’ Experiences with Professional Patients in Egypt", special issue in Anthropology in Action: Negotiating Care in Uncertain Settings and Looking Beneath the Surface of Health Governance Projects (NICHTER, Mark and RAFFAETA, Roberta), 2015.

ABDALLA, Mustafa. "Challenged Masculinities: Men on the Margins of Tourism and Sexuality", in Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Cultures (OZYEGIN, Gul), London, Ashgate, 2014.