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About me

I am docent / associate professor and currently appointed head of the division of occupational therapy.  I hold a visiting professorship at Tokyo Metropolitan University (Japan) and have an research affiliation to Stockholms Sjukhem in Stockholm. 

I received my Ph.D. in occupational science from University of Southern California (2005), M.S. in occupational therapy from Springfield College (1995), B.A. in psychology from Cornell College (1993), and certificate in public health from Harvard University (1999).  In an attempt to balance work, rest, and play, I enjoy to spend time with family as well as cycling, ceramics, traveling, and training Aikido.


In brief...

I teach in the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs.  For the undergraduate occupational therapy students I am responsible for the first semester in Occupation and Health.  In the masters and doctoral programs I am primarily responsible for conceptual coursework and research methods, with a particular focus on occupational science, narrative, and participatory methods. I also serve as supervisor for students at the masters and doctoral levels. As a guest professor I also teach qualitative and visual methods at Tokyo Metropolitan University (Japan).

Short personal reflection on learning...

I aspire to create an environment where learning is the anticipated outcome rather than a specific product.  I contend that the most sustainable learning happens when it is born from the wishes of the learner, and is both internally and externally rewarded through an increased understanding of a given phenomena or topic.

Aspects of education today, such as learning in a second language or negotiating different pedagogic traditions, challenges the student to find strategies to manage diverse academic endeavors, but it also challenges todays teachers to embrace an ambiguity of not knowing what will emerge when cultures, pedagogic traditions, and multiple languages meet in the contemporary classroom.  Adding to this, is the complexity of the contemporary classroom itself, something that today can be completely virtual. 

Teaching and learning mirrors social change and requires continuous reflection and reconsideration in order to meet the diverse needs of education. Today culture in the classroom (including language, social background, family values, education, gender, among more) has a relevant impact upon the methods that we choose.  Ultimately, creative environments in which students feel encouraged to take risks and embrace challenges facilitate learning.  The teacher has an instrumental role in this context, but not in the form of making unilateral decisions or sticking to all original plans.  A current topic of high priority is what teachers and students can do together to facilitate learning in an environment of diversity.

Research description

My research has had a primary focus on occupation and participation intersected with identity, disability, and culture.  For example, I am interested in the meaning of growing older after international migration and what global migration does to local ideas about aging in place…or how mechanisms work that exclude people from the labor market and how this can levied through alternative approaches.  I am also in an early phase of planning to study primary prevention of stroke with an occupational perspective in focus.  I draw on various methods often stemming from a naturalistic and participatory paradigm and include narrative inquiry, ethnography, and photovoice.

The past decade has given way to several changes in perspectives regarding healthcare research related to people living with disabilities restricting participation and inclusion in society. An earlier focus on providing rehabilitation in an institution has been replaced with a focus on preventive programs and home-based interventions.  This shift is based on ample evidence that engaging in a repertoire of everyday activities in natural environments enhances health.  However, restrictions in participation/inclusion can occur for myriad reasons, such as social exclusion, being a minority, and disability among more.  Of relevance is to identify barriers to participation, appropriate measures, contextually relevant interventions, the development of a conceptual language grounded in the voices of the people each area concerns, and finally a relevant dialogue between theory and practice.  The principle focus of my research is to: (1) identify and explore current and relevant hinders for participation and inclusion, rooted in society and healthcare arenas, and (2) to contribute both theoretically as well as practically to an interdisciplinary body of knowledge in order to improve quality in healthcare practices as well as methodological approaches within research.

Selected publications in occupational science:

Bratun, U., & Asaba, E. (2008).  From individual to communal experiences of occupation: Drawing upon Qi Gong practices.  Journal of Occupational Science. 15(2), 80-86.


Asaba, E.  (2008).  Hashi-ire: Where occupation, chopsticks, and mental health intersect.  Journal of Occupational Science. 15(2), 74-79.


Asaba, E. & Wicks, A. (2010).  Occupational Potential.  Journal of Occupational Science. 17(2), 120-124.


Sakiyama, M. Josephsson, S., & Asaba, E. (2010). What is participation: A story of mental illness, metaphor, and everyday occupation. Journal of Occupational Science, 17(3).


Asaba, E. & Jackson, E. (2011).  Social ideologies embedded in everyday life: A narrative analysis about disability, identities, and occupation.  Journal of Occupational Science, 18(2), 139-152.


Johansson, K., Rudman, D., Mondaca, M., Park, M., Josephsson, S., Luborsky, M., Asaba, E. (2013). Moving beyond ‘aging in place’ to understand migration and aging: Place making and the centrality of occupation. Journal of Occupational Science. 20(2), 108-119.


Farias, L., & Asaba, E.  (2013). “The Family knot”: Negotiating identities and cultural values enacted through everyday occupations of a migrant family in Sweden. Journal of Occupational Science. 20(1), 36-47.

Teaching portfolio


Academic honours, awards and prizes

Neuro Foundation (2015 Reseach Grant)

National Research School in Healthcare Sciences (2014-2018 grant for doctoral student)

Norrbacka Eugenia Foundation 2013 Research Grant

The Toyota Foundation 2010 Research Grant (2011-2012)

Center for Care Sciences, Karolinska Institutet  (Postdoc Research Grant 2006)

2004 Penelope Louise Richardson Award (University of Southern California)

International Scholarship 2004-2005 (Phi Beta Kappa Alumni of Southern California - Alpha Association)

2003 Research Award (California Foundation for Occupational Therapy)

Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society (Province 16-USC) (Charter Member (April 27, 2003))

Wilma West Scholarship 2002 (California Foundation for Occupational Therapy)


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