The Psychological & Medical Anthropology Seminar Series

The Medical and Psychological Anthropology Seminar provides support and coordination for research and graduate student training in medical and psychological anthropology, global health, and person-centered ethnography.

Lauren Nippoldt is the student coordinator of the UCSD Psychological and Medical Anthropology Seminar. Questions about the seminar can be sent to her at lnippoldt@ucsd.edu.

Fall 2017

Seminar 2: Dr. Paula Saravia

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Speaker: Dr. Paula Saravia

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

LocationPsychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

“No hay drama”: Precarity, Medicine, and Gender among mental health and HIV-AIDS patients in Northern Santiago, Chile

During the last decade, there has been an increase in the diagnosis of mental health illnesses and HIV-AIDS in the rural, semi-rural and mostly underserved communities of the Northern metropolitan area of Santiago, Chile. At the same time, the local mental health care center in Lampa and the National Network of Original Peoples (RENPO) reported to the Ministry of Public Health their concerns about the interaction between mental health diagnoses, HIV-AIDS, and ethnicity. According to RENPO, indigenous peoples and Haitian migrants are most vulnerable and at risk of suffering from mental illness and HIV-AIDS. However, despite their efforts, the request for an urgent public health strategy has gone unanswered. What are these very alarming statistics and the government silence about this problem showing about the experience to live and be ill in rural and semi-rural Santiago? What are the meanings behind the narratives of precaritization, alcoholism, and abandonment expressed by mental health and HIV-AIDS patients in Lampa? In this presentation I discuss the epidemiological information in relation to the experience of mental health and HIV-AIDS patients who are receiving treatment in the public health care system in Lampa. 


Seminar 1: Professor Hanna Garth

Speaker: Professor Hanna Garth, Ph.D.

Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

Dr. Garth is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist specializing in the anthropology of food. Her work addresses issues of inequality and structural violence, with regional interests in Latin American, the Caribbean, and the United States

“Shifting Subjectivities” in Contemporary Santiago de Cuba

In this book chapter, I turn to the relationship between food access and individual subjectivity. I use my interlocutors’ dilemmas surrounding the ethics of food acquisition (discussed in the previous chapter) to shed light on their imagined, or possible, selves as a part of ethical subject formation, and explore how they maintain particular social identities. I further refine the book’s central frameworks of the “practices of acquisition” and “the politics of adequacy,” and illuminate how these relate to shifts in subjectivity. I use the dilemmas of food acquisition to shed light on ethical subject formation, and the ways people maintain a sense of self and social identity. I argue that as the welfare state falters, and Cubans are unable to access the foods that they meaningfully link to their cultural and national identities, the emotional response to these struggles gives rise to a shift in their own understandings of their subjectivity.


Introductory Meeting: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Please join us for the first 2017-2018 meeting of the Psychological and Medical Anthropology Seminar.  We will cover introductions and share updates from the summer and plans for the academic year.

Psychological -Medical Anthropology Lab (SSRB 331) | 10:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m.


Spring 2017

Seminar 1: Jonathan Yahalom

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Speaker: Jonathan Yahalom, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, June 5, 2017, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Alzheimer’s in Oaxaca: Pragmatic Etiologies and the Experience of Social Suffering

This presentation addresses the lived experience of Alzheimer’s disease in Oaxaca, Mexico. Drawing on fieldwork and interviews conducted with family caregivers in the Zapotec language, this presentation explores the ways in which age-related forgetfulness serves as a prism to identify macro-level changes within the Oaxacan community. Etiological notions of Alzheimer’s disease will be analyzed in the context of this social dynamic and further assessed for the concrete effects they import on caregiving households. The lived experience of caregiving will also be explored to illustrate the way in which this practice exemplifies notions of social suffering, and how this dimension of caregiving experience reveals social attempts to address and resolve related community tensions.

Seminar 2: Salih Can Aciksoz

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Speaker: Salih Can Aciksoz, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

War Economies: Abandonment, Sacrifice, Community

How do veterans’ gendered experiences of war disability, care, and healing get entangled with politics?  Drawing on ethnographic research conducted since 2005 with Turkish military veterans of the Kurdish conflict, this talk explores the gendered vicissitudes of medical, familial, and communal forms of care that imprint disabled urban poor veterans’ efforts to recover their health and masculinities. I illustrate how disabled veterans’ shared social suffering draw them into communities of loss as their bodies traverse zones of abandonment and sacrifice. I then show how these communities serve as spaces for both non-medicalized healing and ultranationalist political activism. From an ethnographic vantage point at the intersection of gender, health and politics, this talk illustrates how violent conflicts have long-term political ramifications through their bodily, social, and psychic effects on combatants.

Seminar 3: Jacqueline Leckie

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Speaker: Jacqueline Leckie, Ph.D.

Date: Thursday, May 11, 2017, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Lialia? ‘Madness’, Indigenous Fijians and the Erasure of Historical Memory in Colonial Fiji

The terms ‘madness’ and ‘erasure’ are suggestive of how the label of craziness (lialia) could marginalize and silence from historical memory Fijians with aberrant and dissident actions and thought. The most extreme silencing and erasure of insanity from the community was when Fijians were committed to Fiji’s lunatic asylum. This is one of the Pacific’s longest functioning hospitals  — originally founded in 1884 as the Public Lunatic Asylum and functioning today as St Giles Psychiatric Hospital. Its patients reflected Fiji’s diverse ethnic communities, and although until the 1970s the majority were Indo-Fijians, a large proportion was always indigenous Fijians or i-Taukei. Mental illness within Fijian communities has received little attention but my research has revealed some of the mental suffering behind admissions to St Giles between 1884-1964. This raises questions about how Fijians understood and treated those with mental illness, and the process through which madness became entangled with Western biomedicine and colonial institutions of confinement. Erasure and madness could be manifested through many forms. On one level it could indicate how the real and imagined worlds of the insane have been rendered unknowable and generally lost from history, except for traces in surviving medical or court records, or in village rumor.  At another level erasure could refer to the impetus to remove ‘undesirables’ from the community — a little known village nuisance or a dissident leader who challenged religious, political and traditional authority. This seminar will discuss questions about the silencing of people deemed insane in a cross-cultural context and in the colonial past. 

Seminar 4: Joseph Anderson

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Speaker: Joseph Anderson

Date: Monday, April 24, 2017, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

A Home on the Range: A Cultural and Phenomenological Account of Firearm Use in San Diego County

The gun control debate has been raging for decades but it seems that a solution to gun violence is no closer. Despite the high proliferation of firearms in American society, few long term ethnographic studies of gun owners have been carried out. This talk aims to present data from an on-going research project that focuses on several gun owning groups in San Diego County, an area with over 400,000 gun owners. Of particular interest are the sensory, embodied actions of shooting that are so important to those who shoot regularly and this talk represents a preliminary effort to take a phenomenological look at the ways in which guns can act like subjects in the lives of their owners. This gets away from the tired language of the national debate and into the day to day lived experience of gun owners. Other important themes in this field include how new forms of gun rights activism are transforming the political landscape of Southern California and how gendered understandings of gun use are being questioned by an increasing participation by women and the LGBTQ+ community. This data is still in the early stages of being processed, so various methods of interpretation will be presented with an eye towards discussing what might be “good to think with” in relation to this topic. 

Seminar 5: Angel Martinez-Hernaez

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Speaker: Angel Martinez-Hernaez, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, April 3, 2017, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

A Message Without a Bottle: Presence, Crisis, and Anti-biography Among People Suffering From Schizophrenia

People afflicted with schizophrenia have unusual experiences (“extraordinary conditions” following Jenkins) which find a high refraction in our Euro or Western societies. They are considered de-authorized experiences and narratives that depict unreasonableness, strangeness, otherness, difference or, through the clinical lens, diagnostic categories as notions of truth that often end up generating an idea of “total patient” who also requires “total therapy.” They are “ob-scene narratives”, in the etymological sense of the word: offstage. This presentation, based on my long-term research on the lifeworld of people suffering from schizophrenia in Catalonia, will address two aspects related to this phenomenon. Firstly, the subjective dimension, where the crisis of presence generates a plurality of perspectives inhabiting the self in a manner that the being turns into an echo of the world, a world-through-the-being producing anguish and suffering, but sometimes identity and living purposes. Secondly, these experiences are usually perceived in the social worlds as a radical alterity which canvases common sense, understood here as a cultural system. It seems that recognizing the point of view of the others afflicted with psychosis will create an otherness on the first-person pronouns (I, we) and the risk of not-being-in-the-world. Social refraction of psychotic experiences often implies the silence and the emptiness projected onto a person (stigma, social abandon), making him/her conventionally insignificant, a kind of what Terradas has defined as “anti-biography”: what is done against the life of others, and without taking their lives into account.

Winter 2017

Seminar 1: Mark Fleming

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Speaker: Mark Fleming, Ph.D.

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2017, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Behind the Times: Work, Neoliberal Futures, and the Politics of Chronic Disease

 

This talk will present findings from an ethnographic study of transit workers in San Francisco, a group with excess rates of numerous stress-related, chronic diseases. Through fieldwork in the city’s transit system, I connect conditions and stratifications of chronic disease to the political production and uses of temporality in urban governance. I then interrogate the scientific and biopolitical rationalities through which the bodily impacts of work are made legible and contested. I suggest that understandings of health and chronic disease have been remade by transformations of work in American capitalism.

Seminar 2: Arnaud Dubois

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Speaker: Arnaud Dubois, Ph.D.

Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Color, Anthropology, Psychology and Technosciences: Genealogy of a Shared 

 

The shared interest of the works I will analyze in this presentation - from the late 1890’s Rivers’ Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits to the late 1970’s Berlin and Kay’s World Color Survey - is that they try to understand and to define the structural rules of the organization of the mind by studying chromatic discriminations and in reducing color to a perceptual phenomenon with a simple interaction between a colored object and a perceiving subject. One of the challenges of this presentation will be to show that the production of this chromatic knowledge is linked to the techno-scientific instrumental practices that allow the verification of this intellectual speculation. Indeed, this way of thinking « what is a color » is based on a series of professional practices born both in experimental psychological laboratories and in the industrial world in Europe in the mid nineteen century. By studying the construction of this powerful « naturalistic theory of color » by looking specifically at the practice of researchers, the methodologies they use and the materiality of color instruments used in their research, one sees that the dilemma between « objective versus subjective » and the necessity to choose between these two poles of analysis in anthropology is an etic perspective that doesn’t examine the historical and sociological construction of the concept of color. As Goody (1979) has rightly pointed out , "binary categories (...) have hampered our understanding of the structures of knowledge (p. 109). This process of standardization (...) is the result of the application of a graphic technique to an oral material. (139) » Can we say the same for visual and especially chromatic material? Is the « structuralism of color » the application of a binary logic to a field of plural knowledge?

Seminar 3: Dredge Byung'chu Kang

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Speaker: Dredge Byung'chu Kang, Ph.D.

Date: Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

I'm Every Woman: Transsexual Womanhood, Therapeutic Citizenship, and Human Rights in Thailand

 

The Thai Constitution guarantees equal rights for men and women, but failed to be amended in 2007 to include “all genders.” Advocacy for transgender rights in Thailand is ongoing and contentious, with various strategies being deployed simultaneously. In the last decade, activists have been organizing to depathologize gender identity disorder as a
“severe mental illness,” use female gender identity and body modification as justification to avoid mandatory military service for those born male, and to be able to change sex designations on national identity cards and passports. However, in 2010, the celebrity activist, Nok Yollada, argued for the sexual reclassification of “transsexual ladies” as female based on the legitimizing discourse of international biomedicine. She argued that transsexualism is “a disease and not a choice.” The deployment of therapeutic citizenship as a strategy for transsexual rights, however, reinforces the biopolitics of semi-colonial sexual dimorphism (heteronormative binary gender) to the exclusion of broader gender rights, ignores historical forms of Thai transgenderism, and severs potential alliances with other sexual diversity networks.

Seminar 4: Cassandra Hartblay

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Speaker: Cassandra Hartblay, Ph.D.

Date: Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Disabling Rehabilitation: Performing Disability and Therapeutic Citizenship in Russia

 

How do people with disabilities understand themselves as social actors and as Russian citizens? When a group of adult Russians in their twenties and thirties with mobility impairments gathered together for a weekly art therapy group, multiple modes of performing competence, citizenship, and selfhood came into play. This presentation traces the story of the art therapy group's rehearsals and subsequent performance of several skits based on the writings of the Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin, and describes the social negotiations that unfolded as group members and the facilitating social workers determined what to present and how to present it. In telling this story, I work to unpack how people with disabilities negotiate competing discourses to enact versions of themselves as morally complete citizens. In part, this work examines how notions of therapeutic selfhood move into and take on local meanings in the postsoviet context, and, how this idea is complicated in the context of persistent physical disability, wherein the individual in question is presumed by others to always be a less-than-competent citizen and cultural actor. I argue that therapeutic discourses, by seeking to rehabilitate individuals, individualize the social problem of the stigmatization of disability.  Based on ethnographic research in a northwestern Russian city in the fall of 2012, this presentation combines theoretical vantage points from disability studies and medical anthropology to argue that the psychosocial therapeutic model does not effectively interrupt, but rather reproduces, disability as a  relational inequality. In this way, attention to the perspectives of people with  disabilities themselves recasts our understanding of therapeutic citizenship, and the project of rehabilitation as a whole.

Seminar 5: Leticia Medeiros Ferreira

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Speaker: Leticia Medeiros Ferreira, Ph.D.

Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2017, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Good Practices with Survivors of Torture – The INTEGRA Project

 

INTEGRA evokes integral, integration, and incorporation. It's our way to address this polyhedron of experiences, of struggle, and recovery. It’s a specialized and holistic therapeutic program for survivors of torture suffering from trauma and at risk of social exclusion. Interventions are based on a combination of forces, bringing the work from different specialists all together: art-therapists, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and somatic-therapists. Dr. Medeiros-Ferreira presents the Exil Assoc. “Good Practices with Survivors of Torture” and focuses on the biography of “The Homeless Diplomat”, in order to illustrate this cultural sensitive approach in everyday clinical practice.

Seminar 6: Steven D. Hickman

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Speaker: Steven D. Hickman, PsyD.

Date: Monday, January 30, 2017, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

The Wisdom and Potential of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion in a Busy Life

 

The growing modern evidence for the transformative power of mindfulness and self-compassion practice is supporting what has been known and practiced for millennia in spiritual and religious traditions worldwide. As a result, empirically-supported mindfulness- and compassion-based programs are now being offered in medical, psychological, corporate, academic and athletic settings, just to name a few. Dr. Hickman will present a broad overview and brief experiential introductions to these practices, as well as a review of some key research findings to pique interest in mindfulness as a personal practice that might improve quality of life, reduce stress and support peak performance for those who attend. Some brief recommendations for followup learning will also be offered.

Seminar 7: Steven M. Parish

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Speaker: Steven M. Parish, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, January 23, 2017, 10:00 a.m - 11:50 a.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

How Modern Thought Erased the Self

 

How can we understand the ambivalence of modern thought about the idea of self?  What does it mean for the study of subjectivities and their personhoods, for moral experience and ethics?  How does the history of this ambivalence shape the larger context of anthropology and psychological anthropology? How has it organized forms of ethnographic refusal? Are we at the end of this history, or is the ambivalent attitude part of a cultural system, and likely to reproduce and reassert itself? These are some of the questions posed in a work-in-progress by Professor Parish.  We will have an open-ended and free form discussion of the issues and concepts, based on excerpts of the draft manuscript, and have the opportunity to think about the opportunities afforded and the constraints imposed on psychological anthropology by the cultural organization of European and North American thought and its institutions. 

Fall 2016

Seminar 1: Nofit Itzhak

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Speaker: Nofit Itzhak, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, November 14, 2016, 12:00 p.m - 2:00 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 

Does Religious Healing Work? If so, how? 

 

In this talk, I discuss how a particular form of contemplative prayer that aims to establish a co-presence with the divine facilitates healing or transformation. I focus on several cases of persons who suffered sudden and traumatic loss of close kin, examining the manners in which prayer either works or fails to elicit change. In doing so I suggest some of the possible mechanisms behind the therapeutic function of this form of prayer, asking what an investigation of religious healing has to offer us in theorizing processes of change more broadly. 

Seminar 2: Ted Gideonse


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Speaker: Ted Gideonse, Ph.D.

Date: Friday, October 28, 2016, 12 - 2 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

Seminar 3: Dredge Byung'chu Kang

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Speaker: Dredge Byung'chu Kang, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, November 28, 2016, 12 - 2 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331

 Spring 2016

Seminar 1: Thomas Ots


Speaker: Thomas Ots, MD, Ph.D.

Date: Monday, April 11, 2016, 12 - 2 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331


The End of the Meridian System? Thoughts on a Paradigmatic Shift in Chinese Medicine

 

In medicine, it is unimportant whether a certain culture-specific view is right or wrong. It is of importance whether a certain view is helpful, whether it empowers healers as well as patients. Acupuncture as part of traditional Chinese medicine was guarded and led by well-known concepts and theories like the yin-yang theory, the meridian theory, the theory of five phases and others. Acupuncturists over the centuries and under the guidance of these theories were able to cure and heal diseased persons. At present at least one of these theories faces a paradigmatic shift – the meridian or channel theory (经络理论). As early as 1978 Chinese doctors of traditional as well as conventional (Western) medicine looked for new ways how to substitute the concept of meridians. One of these new explanatory models was based on segmental anatomy, a view of human biology put forward by the British neurologist Henry Head in 1894. However after the official end of the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” in 1978 these modern views were dumped, because the Cultural Revolution was criticized due to its political upheavals. In 2005, Prof. Huang Long-xiang, Vice President of the Acupuncture Research Institute of the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing and Editor-in-chief of Acupuncture Research and World Acupuncture wrote: “The Channel Meridian theory has successfully accomplished its historical mission of preserving and developing acupuncture; now it has become the narrow neck of the bottle which is impeding the further development of acupuncture medicine in the 21st century.” However, this showed to be a solitary statement which obviously was pulled back some time later.

Thomas Ots will discuss the cultural, social as well as political implications of the slow speed of this
paradigmatic shift – a shift that probably got stuck.

Seminar 2: Utpal Sandesara


Speaker: Utpal Sandesara, MD-PhD Candidate, University of Pennyslvania

Date: Friday, April 29, 2016, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location: Psychological and Medical Anthropology Lab, SSRB 331


The Necessary Sin: Pragmatism, Moral Dilemmas, and Bargaining with God in the Context of Sex-Selective Abortion in Western India
 

Over the past three decades, kinship norms and biomedical practices in northwestern India have converged in a widespread and troubling form of family planning: the selective abortion of female fetuses. This presentation draws on four years of fieldwork in the vicinity of Mahesana, a western Indian city with the most skewed sex ratio (ages 0-6) in the country: 762 girls per 1,000 boys. I first provide an overview of the sex selection issue in Mahesana and my research on it. I then specifically consider the notion of a “necessary sin,” using the story of one couple—Meena-be and Gajendra-bhai—to open up questions of sex selection’s perceived necessity, its perceived sinfulness, and its relation to what we might call reproductive agency vis-a-vis the divine.

Fall 2015