Winter 2016 Blog Hiatus

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Dear readers,

In light of the winter holidays, the blog will be taking a brief break from new updates. Posts will resume in January 2017, under the direction of the new Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry Social Media Editor, Sonya Petrakovitz. We welcome Sonya into her new position and look forward to seeing the features that she will debut on the blog in the coming months.

As another year draws to a close, we would like to thank all of you for your continued readership and engagement with the journal and our social media.

Warm wishes,

The CMP Editorial Team

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Article Highlight: Vol 40 Issue 4, Media Representations of Opioid Misuse

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The December 2016 issue of Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry is now available here. In this series of article highlights, we will explore publications included in the latest issue. This week, we present a highlight on Julie Netherland and Helena B. Hansen’s “The War on Drugs That Wasn’t: Wasted Whiteness, ‘Dirty Doctors,’ and Race in Media Coverage
of Prescription Opioid Misuse.” 
The article is accessible in full here.

The authors open their discussion by remarking that the media in the United States has increasingly honed in on heroin and opioid use and misuse by white individuals, particularly featuring stories like that of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. However, throughout these articles, race is typically not mentioned in conjunction with white opioid users. At the same time, the media has historically depicted drug users as “black and brown,” and demonized these individuals as criminals whose drug use behaviors should be heavily policed.

Thus, the authors assert that there is a “narcotic apartheid” in the media, in which white drug users are insulated from the racist narratives that are attached to opioid misuse amongst non-white individuals. Coded language is typically used to delineate users by race: for instance, using “suburban” or “rural” to refer to white opioid users versus “urban” to indicate non-white users. Classist undertones also shape these narratives, as rural methamphetamine users are derided as ‘hillbillies’ who threaten the moralized order of “whiteness” as suburban and middle class. The type of drugs themselves have taken on racist and classist meanings, such that prescription drug misuse (often ascribed to wealthier, white individuals) is under-prosecuted compared to the use of methamphetamine (poorer, white individuals) and crack cocaine (people of color.)

Despite this, the authors state, it is the racist narrative that remains most prominent in media accounts. Through systematic coding and analysis, Netherland and Hansen found that middle-class white drug users are almost universally characterized in news stories as having “wasted” potential and being “victims” of a challenging climate of drug misuse. They also discovered that stories about drug misuse amongst people of color was not viewed as “newsworthy.” When it was reported, articles focused largely on arrests made or on convictions of drug-related crimes, or on the networks that linked drugs from black and Latina communities to white individuals in the suburbs. In the stories of white opioid users, the articles shifted blame away from the individuals, suggesting they did not ‘intend’ to become addicted. When discussing how to address white drug misuse, the articles most frequently turned to physicians’ prescription practices and the threat of over-prescription. Thus, the solution proposed entails greater regulation of prescription habits: again, beyond the level of the individual user.

Articles on opioid use amongst predominantly non-white, “urban” populations overwhelmingly suggested increased “criminal justice involvement” as the most appropriate response. These articles tended not to craft the stories of non-white opioid users as tragic or accidental. This centralized blame for addiction on non-white opioid users, whereas as noted before, white opioid users tended not to be blamed for their behavior. Further deepening these racist undertones was that the “dirty doctors” (those willing to prescribe opioids to predominantly white patients) reported on in the news were often themselves people of color or immigrants.

The authors conclude that characterizations of opioid news articles as “color-blind” due to the inclusion of stories on white users is misleading. While they agree that the representations of white opioid users demonstrates the impact of drug misuse across racial boundaries, there remains coded language that systematically disparages and marginalizes people of color who use these substances. Netherland and Hansen state that “in short, the problem of race and opioids cannot stop with expansion of access to treatment. Clinicians and health advocates have to address institutional racism, as reflected in media coverage of inner city heroin use versus the prescription opioid epidemic, if they want to dismantle racial exclusions in drug interventions” (page 680.)

Article Highlight: Vol 40 Issue 4, Social Withdrawal in Japan

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The December 2016 issue of Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry is now available here. In this series of article highlights, we will explore publications included in the latest issue. This week, we present a highlight on Ellen Rubinstein’s article “Emplotting Hikikomori: Japanese Parents’ Narratives of Social Withdrawal” (which you can access here.) Rubinstein observes that there has been a flurry of public attention to hikikomori, a socio-medical condition typically experienced by young people that is characterized by increasing, marked social withdrawal.

Rubinstein notes that though there is a perception of hikikomori as a condition of isolation, parents of “hikikomori children” often crafted narratives about their children’s illness that suggested it had discernible stages, signs of progress, and possibility of recovery. These narratives engaged parents in the present, facilitating connectedness between hikikomori children and their families, and thus challenging the assumption that hikikomori is a condition of perpetual or crippling isolation. For instance, some parents at a support group for hikikomori children and their families stated that their children were more mature than others, as their time away from other people encouraged them to be meditative and thoughtful.

One mother, named Kawano-san, first described her son’s hikimori as a process of productive, but not permanent, isolation in an interview with Rubinstein. Kawano-san said that her son’s withdrawal might lend him an opportunity to step away from the social world, assess his future, and prepare for college after initially failing to pass university entrance exams. She felt certain that this period would be one of reflection and reassessment, before the son eventually entered university. Kawano-san also criticized the expectation amongst many Japanese families that children should be extroverted and talkative, instead saying that her son was not pathologically isolated but simply different. Eight months after this initial interview, Kawano-san was interviewed for the second time about her son’s condition. The son had not entered college as Kawano-san expected, but the mother had readjusted her narrative such that she began to acknowledge that path might not be viable for her son. She instead noted that her son could have a disability, or that he simply needed more time to process his feelings. Kawano-san ultimately accepted that her initial expectations did not match her son’s experience, and began to try new approaches to her son’s condition: like encouraging her husband and daughter to write birthday messages to him that might make him feel more welcomed and included in their family unit.

Rubinstein examines similar cases to Kawano-san and her son, finding that many families engaged in a process of narrative emplotment and un-emplotment of their children’s hikikomori. Their narratives thereby gave order or meaning to what otherwise seemed like an ongoing and static psychological condition. Alternatively, they situated their children’s experiences in other contexts: such as expected developmental and social growth, and the efficacy of biomedical interventions or support groups for the condition. Parents of hikikomori children were not inactive bystanders, but rather active interpreters of their children’s experiences and advocates of their unique individual needs. The parents learned to read their children’s condition and support them accordingly, complicating the notion that hikikomori is solely about individual isolation or inaction.

Interview: Incoming Social Media Editor Sonya Petrakovitz

This week on the blog, we are featuring an interview with Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry social media intern Sonya Petrakovitz. Sonya will begin her tenure as the new social media editor on the journal’s blog, Twitter, and Facebook accounts in January 2017. As an intern, she has written an article highlight on Asperger’s syndrome, a conference feature, and a news piece on the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

Here, we discuss Sonya’s background, research interests, and vision for the journal in the months to come.

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  1. What is your academic background? How did you become interested in medical anthropology and humanities?

I began my interdisciplinary training in the humanities with Classical History, studying both the historical complexities of the Greco-Roman period, and the French war icons of the 1400s. While historical analysis is crucial to contextualizing culture and social change, I wanted to focus my studies more on the personal, individual aspects of daily experience in contemporary life. I then completed a second Bachelor’s in Photojournalism, bringing together intimate stories and visual narratives. I next spent a year working at an acute, inpatient psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents in Maine, mostly working with girls ages 12-18. Witnessing adolescents’ experience of illness and suffering further motivated me to want to understand subjectivity, personhood, and suffering in the context of medicine. I began my PhD studies in medical anthropology at Case Western Reserve University to pursue these interests. Both history and photojournalism seek to understand human experience, but anthropology has given me the theoretical frameworks and methodology that now characterize my research.

  1. What are your research interests as a PhD student in medical anthropology?

My research is located at the intersection of globalization, decolonization, ethnomedical systems, identity, and tourism. Specifically, I study native medical systems in the context of tourism and modernization on the island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile.) Rapa Nui is an excellent place to study these intersecting processes and phenomena, particularly due to an unusual juxtaposition of simplistic tourist discourses of a fabricated “Easter Island” with the internal narrative of a historical struggle for self-determination. Situated on the most remote, inhabited island in the world, my research will investigate whether the ancestral medicine on Rapa Nui– practiced in indigenous exclusivity– could not only bolster health: its use may also be a symbolic form of resistance against post-colonial development. Expanding upon anthropological theories of identity, decolonization, globalization, and medical pluralism within a healthcare setting, combined with an environment of rapid cultural change and commodification, I hope to investigate whether the ancestral medicine on Rapa Nui could be a symbolic gesture of resistance to the historical and residual present restrictions on their self-determination while an international tourism economy destabilizes the meaning of being Rapanui.

  1. What is your favorite running feature on the blog?

My favorite running features on the blog are Guest Blogs and Conference Features. It’s important to connect with current scholars and researchers in the medical humanities and share their work. Guest Blogs such as ‘In-Betweenness’: Liminality, Legality, and migrant Health in Siracusa, Italy with Adam Kersch (available here) highlights the importance of validating the suffering of migrants and how policies can impact health status. Conference Features, such as the latest American Anthropological Association Session Highlights (Part 1 and Part 2) also connect the Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry Journal to a wider academic community and emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration.

  1. What new features or ideas will you bring to the blog in the coming year?

I am looking forward to encouraging more guest posts and bringing together current events with article highlights and book releases. I am also hoping to introduce a new type of interview feature to the blog. My hope is to present the perspectives of experts from various disciplines to explore connections between current events and articles within CMP, fostering interdisciplinary communication. I am very much looking forward to joining the Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry team!

Book Release: Solomon’s “Metabolic Living”

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Image via Duke UP website

Newly released this May 2016 from Duke University Press is Harris Solomon’s Metabolic Living: Food, Fat, and the Absorption of Illness in India (available here.) In this text, Solomon takes an environmental approach to obesity as a global problem, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Mumbai, India. Rather than reading obesity as the result of the exportation of Western diets and food items, the author addresses food, fat, and the body as ‘porous’ with the city and the state. Obesity and diabetes, Solomon argues, are a matter of “absorption” between bodies and the environments in which they operate. Clinics, social service offices, food companies, markets, and kitchens exist between the domains of the body and the state: sites at which the relationship between the individual body and the larger societal structures emerge and develop, altering local experiences of obesity, food, and metabolic illnesses.

This text will interest medical social scientists and scholars of medical humanities interested in the intersections between urban life and human health, and between the environment and the body.


About the author: Harris Solomon is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Global Health at Duke University.

Message from the AAA 2016 Meeting

 

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via Wikimedia Commons

The Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry editorial team sends our greetings this week from the American Anthropological Association 2016 Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This year’s meeting will be held November 16th-20th, with session listings and other helpful information available here. We hope all of our readers attending the conference have safe travels to– and many productive conversations at– this year’s meeting. As a reminder, we continue to accept guest blog submissions on topics spanning cultural medical anthropology and related disciplines in the social sciences and medical humanities.

Consider submitting an abbreviated version of your AAA conference presentation as a guest blog, or write a commentary on one of the keynote speeches at the event. We look forward to sharing the work and research of our readers with our colleagues on the blog! If you are interested in submitting a guest blog, please contact social media editor Julia Knopes at jcb193@case.edu for details.

As a reminder, there will be no new blog entry posted next Wednesday, November 23rd 2016 in light of the upcoming holiday week.

Best wishes,

The CMP Editorial Team

AAA 2016 Session Highlights: Part 2, Discoveries

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Image via AAA Website

This is the second in a two-part series spotlighting sessions in medical anthropology at the upcoming 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In this second installment, we present a selection of sessions on the theme of “discoveries.” For more information about this year’s meeting, click this link.


Sessions on “Discoveries”: New approaches to the anthropological study of medicine and medical systems, and studies of new and contemporary medical technologies/therapies

RETHINKING GENDER NORMATIVITY, SEXUALITY, AND MORALITY THROUGH NON-BIOMEDICAL EPISTEMOLOGIES

Thursday, November 17th 8:00 AM – 9:45 AM

Organizer(s): Venera Khalikova (University of Pittsburgh) and Kristin Bright (Carleton University, Canada)

Chair: Venera Khalikova (University of Pittsburgh)

Discussant(s): Lucinda Ramberg (Cornell University) and Kristin Bright (Carleton University, Canada)

This session will propose new ways of thinking about gender and sexuality as heterogeneous subjects. The papers will examine how gender and sex are configured and reconfigured in biomedicine and complementary or alternative medical and health systems.

DISCOVERING WAYS IN WHICH DEATH OCCURS IN A CULTURAL CONTEXT

Friday, November 18th 8:00 AM – 9:45 AM

Organizer: Erica Borgstrom (Open University, United Kingdom)

Chair: Erica Borgstrom (Open University, United Kingdom)

Discussant: James Green (University of Washington)

In this session, presenters will reveal how death occurs and is interpreted in both biomedical and local cultural contexts. Papers address death, dying, and aging in India, China, the United States, and in migrant communities in Australia.

(RE)DISCOVERING PSYCHEDELICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Friday, November 18th 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM

Organizer(s): Shana Harris (University of Central Florida) and Hilary Agro (University of British Columbia, Canada)

Chair(s): Shana Harris (University of Central Florida) and Hilary Agro (University of British Columbia, Canada)

Discussant: Michael Oldani (Concordia University Wisconsin)

Papers in this session will explore the (re)emergences of psychedelic drugs, particularly in the contexts of treatment and medical research, but also beyond the boundaries of biomedicine: including traditional use of ayahuasca, and the use of drugs in rave culture.
NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE INTERSECTION OF MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND BIOETHICS 

Friday, November 18th 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Organizer(s): Eileen Anderson-Fye (Case Western Reserve University) and Jonathan Sadowsky (Case Western Reserve University)

Chair: Paul Brodwin (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

Discussant(s): Rebecca Lester (Washington University, St Louis) and Jonathan Sadowsky
(Case Western Reserve University)

In this session, presenters will offer four different anthropological cases that highlight the intersections of anthropology and bioethics: genomic research in Africa, physician-aided dying, body image and obesity, and transnational healthcare in Brazil.
“BODY-WORK”: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY STUDIES IN MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Saturday, November 19th 2:30 PM – 2:45 PM

Papers in this session will explore the intersections of medical anthropology and contemporary studies in science and technology. Paper topics include the use of human tissue in continuing medical education, ‘smart machines’ and disability, new genetics sequences technologies in a cancer clinic, neuropsychiatry and resistance, and relationships between nurses and patients in HIV clinical settings.