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Seminar Series

WINTER, 2013

Seminar 1

Friday, January 18, 11am-1pm, SSB 105

Speaker: Bridget Haas, UCSD Anthropology

Title: “It’s a Matter of Life and Death”: Uncertainty, Temporality, and Suffering within the U.S. Political Asylum Process

ABSTRACT: This presentation will draw on research from my doctoral dissertation, in which I investigated the lived experiences of migrants seeking political asylum in the United States. I highlight the ways in which the (hyper)visibility and institutional/governmental ‘management’ of asylum seekers produces a sense of profound insecurity and uncertainty that permeates the quotidian for these migrants. In particular, this presentation will focus on the intersection of power, temporality, and subjectivity as it relates to suffering within the context of asylum seeking. I argue that the structural positioning of asylum seekers as ‘neither here nor there’ critically transfigures the self’s relationship to space and time, evoking a state of what I term ‘existential limbo,’ in which life and processes of meaning-making are experienced as immobilized. I will explore not only the subjective and embodied dimensions of suffering as they relate to space and time within this context, but also consider asylum seekers’ everyday strategies of enduring and navigating the onerous and protracted process of seeking asylum.

Seminar 2

Friday, February 15, 11am-1pm, SSB 105

Speaker: Charlotte van den Hout, UCSD Anthropology

Title: Redefining "Good" Female Personhood: Treating Borderline Personality Disorder at a Psychiatric Hospital in Morocco

ABSTRACT: These two dissertation chapters explore the diagnosis, treatment, and experience of borderline personality disorder (BPD) on the women's ward of a psychiatric hospital in urban Morocco. In the first of these, I examine how psychiatrists' understanding of this disorder engages with local gender norms and cultural definitions of "good" female personhood. The second chapter takes up this issue from a person-centered perspective, and analyzes the lived experience of a woman with BPD, who struggles to define herself as a person and as a woman.

The dissertation as a whole examines how psychiatric practice engages with and shapes changing female gender role-expectations in Morocco. Over the past twenty years, unprecedented socio-economic reform in this postcolonial Muslim society has triggered a shift in the definition of local gender norms; taking this development as my point of departure, I analyze the practices and ideas that frame the treatment of two disorders that are diagnosed almost exclusively among women: hysteria and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Critical scholarship in gender studies has shown that each of these diagnostic categories has been complicit in efforts to subject women to repressive gender norms. My research goes beyond these insights: I show that psychiatrists in Morocco employ these diagnostic labels not to enforce local behavioral norms, but to question them. I argue that treatment of these disorders – both commonly diagnosed in Morocco – creates an opportunity for the redefinition of ‘ideal’ female personhood. Where symptoms of hysteria are interpreted as the result of repressive ‘traditional’ gender norms, BPD is understood as the outcome of a modernization that is too ‘Western’. In the process of diagnosing and treating women for these two disorders, I argue, psychiatrists actively construct a new model of ‘good’ female personhood that is at once ‘healthy’ and ‘modern’, yet still culturally and islamically legitimate. Through in-depth analysis of the lived experience of female patients, I show that these women take an active part in this process of redefinition. For them, recovery and treatment are a struggle to reconcile new ideals with established value systems, but also hold a promise of empowerment.

Seminar 3

Friday, March 1, 3pm-5pm, Spiro Library (SSB 269)

Speaker: Ted Gideonse, UCSD Anthropology

Title: Productive Members of Society: Tactics and Strategies of HIV+ MSM Who Use Meth In San Diego

ABSTRACT: In San Diego, the collection of government and non-government organizations that focus either partly or exclusively on meth use and its sequelae like HIV, homelessness, addiction, and crime comprise what I call the anti-meth apparatus. Like most Foucaultian apparatuses, the anti-meth apparatus is not a united front; it is “a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble” of competing and confused discourses, institutions, regulations, laws, and procedures (Foucault 1991:194). However, this confusion belies the goal that both sides share: the creation of a healthy, drug-free, law-abiding subject, a “productive members of society.” In attempting to shape (construct, interpolate) these subjects, the men and women who work in the anti-meth industry pull from moral discourses of good and right behaviors that contrast and define bad and wrong behaviors: which synthetic substances are allowed in the body, how good and productive citizenship is defined, what responsible health behaviors are expected. In turn, those who are able or willing to develop the correct subjectivities are rewarded with services, care, and entry into the fold, while those who cannot or will not are cast, somewhat literally, over the walls, behind the fence, and into the canyons that line San Diego’s landscape like cracks in a broken windshield. Based on two years of fieldwork doing person-centered ethnographies of HIV+ men who have sex with men, this paper describes how my three of research subjects negotiated complex and fraught performances in order to access the care, services, and shelter they needed to survive. Whether it was by transforming themselves into recovering addicts in the structures of 12 step programs, learning how to manage the presentations of their addictions so that they could pass as a sober when in the “normal” world, or developing a network of charitable assistance through strategic recitation of prohibitionist discourses, three of my research subjects exemplified the tactics used by addicts to survive within the waving, weaving tentacles of the anti-meth apparatus

Seminar 4

Friday, March 1, 3pm-5pm, Spiro Library (SSB 269)

Speaker: Jessica Novak, UCSD Anthropology

Political Violence and State Subsidized Psychological Services: Contradictions in Public Health Policy and Clinical Narratives in Cartagena, Colombia

ABSTRACT: This paper examines how Colombian patients in the northern city of Cartagena learn to reframe their experiences of political violence and insecurity in mental health settings. In Colombia, the ongoing internal armed conflict and associated drug violence have resulted in the eighth highest homicide rate in the world and an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) population that is second only to South Sudan. In spite of these facts, the 2012 United Nations survey of ‘happiest countries’ ranked Colombia in the top ten percent of all member nations. Some scholars have argued that security and well-being are mutually constitutive categories, writing off Colombia as a paradox. I argue that Colombia’s 1993 national health care reform, leading to a 500% increase in the number of residents with access to state subsidized mental health services, provides an excellent ethnographic lens for examining the apparent security/well-being paradox. Drawing from fieldwork in two of Cartagena’s three mental health clinics, I claim that the extension of biomedical citizenship to formally marginalized citizens has allowed the state to consolidate power in what Das and Poole call “the margins,” while furthering what Jenkins (1991) describes as “the state construction of affect” by transforming the meaning of political violence and trauma through carefully articulated discourses about mental illness and personal recovery.



NAME: Angela Wood

AFFILIATION: Medical Humanities researcher Durham University and co-director of ‘Hearing the Voice’

TITLE: The Voice Hearer

DATE: Thursday, October 18 (2-4pm, Spiro Library)

DESCRIPTION: Professor Angela Wood is a medical humanities researcher at Durham University. Her research is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the social, cultural, and historical phenomenon of auditory hallucinations, as well as other so-called psychopathological experiences. She is the co-director of ‘Hearing the Voice’, a large, interdisciplinary project focused on studying the phenomenon of voice-hearing. She is also a collaborator on “Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study.


NAME: Adam Klin-Oron

AFFILIATION: Lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and researcher at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Currently a Morris Greenberg post-doctoral visiting scholar at UCSD.

TITLE: Merging with Heaven: Observations from a Channeling Course

DATE: Friday, November 2 (11am-1pm, SSB 105)

DESCRIPTION: Channeling, in which a person claims to bring through the messages of a disembodied entity (angel, light being, sage, God, and others), sees every person as having infinite potential for both self-control and access to the divine. On the basis of participant observation in an Israeli channeling course, I show how learning to channel involves the explicit presentation of a unique cosmology, but also the implicit fostering of experiences that bolster the reliability of the cosmology, and this through a series of ordered exercises. Practice, phenomenology and cosmology intertwine so as to bring about a substantial shift in the perception of the world and make that which was previously invisible quite tangible.

Psychological Anthropology Labs