Released this January 2016 from Cornell University Press is Judith Lasker’s Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering (available for purchase here.) Lasker’s book examines the phenomenon of overseas medical volunteering, wherein individuals from wealthier countries travel for short periods to the developing world to offer humanitarian aid and medical services. These volunteers are sponsored by churches, non-profit organizations, or arrive in poorer countries via for-profit “voluntourism” companies that plan such travel.
Through participant observation, surveys, and interviews with volunteers, key figures in humanitarian organizations, and volunteer staff members native to developing nations, Lasker examines the impact of these ventures on host communities. She weighs present arguments that suggest that global health volunteering is a form of neo-colonialism, that this form of humanitarianism may cross ethical boundaries in the host community, and that volunteers’ need to “give back” may be otherwise misguided and harmful. Lasker places special emphasis on how volunteer organizations themselves benefit from the work of volunteers in developing countries. She likewise addresses whether or not these organizations’ objectives are truly responsive to the needs of the host community, or to what the host community identifies as a concern. She then weighs whether such aims place the volunteer’s experience ahead of the needs of the people who are the perceived recipients of aid.
Lasker’s text will be of equal interest to global health scholars and medical anthropologists and sociologists. Its attention to neo-colonialism and themes of globalization and power will likewise interest scholars who study global development and cross-cultural biomedicine.
About the author: Judith N. Lasker is N.E.H. Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
This week, we are featuring two book releases from the University of Chicago Press. The first book is Gregory Mitchell’s Tourist Attractions: Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil’s Sexual Economy. This new book, published in December 2015, presents an ethnographic perspective on gay sex tourism in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia, and the Amazon. Mitchell examines issues of race, masculinity, and sexual identity amongst both sex workers and sex tourists. In particular, he asks how men of various racial, cultural, and national backgrounds come to understand their own identities and one another’s within this complex series of commercial, sexual, and cultural exchanges. Details about the book can be found here.
About the author: Gregory Mitchell is assistant professor at Williams College, where he teaches in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.
Image via UC Press website
The second book, debuting in September 2016, is Hallam Stevens’ Biotechnology and Society: An Introduction (cover image not yet available.) Each chapter of the text will address a different topic in the cultural and historical study of biotechnology, from gene patents, to genetically-modified foods, to genetic testing and disability, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), and the intersections of race, diversity, and biotechnologies. The text will be of equal interest to scholars of science and technology studies (STS), posthuman theory, and the history and culture of medical technology. Details about the book can be found here.
About the author: Hallam Stevens is assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He teaches courses in the history of the life sciences and information technologies. He is the author of Life Out of Sequence: A Data-Driven History of Bioinformatics, also available here via the University of Chicago Press.
Released in January 2016 from the University of North Carolina Press is Nancy Tomes’ Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers. Through historical and cultural analysis, Tomes illuminates the threads between public relations and marketing in medicine, asking throughout: how have patients in the United States come to view health care as a commodity to be “shopped” for? What connections are shared between the history of medicine and the growth of consumer culture? Likewise, Tomes investigates what it means to be a “good patient” in this system of marketed care, and how “shopping” for care can both empower and disorient patients in the contemporary age. She also reviews the resistance, and ultimate yielding, of the medical profession to this model of care seeking. The book was recently reviewed in the New York Times (read the article here.)
The book will prove insightful for both historians of medicine and medical anthropologists who study the political-economic landscape of biomedicine and patienthood in the United States. It will also speak to conversations in bioethics about patient autonomy, choice, and medical decision-making.
About the Author
Nancy Tomes serves as professor of history at Stony Brook University. She is also the author of The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life, published by Harvard University Press (details here.)
Have you published a recent book in medical anthropology, history of medicine, social medicine, or medical humanities? Email our blog editor (Julia Knopes) at email@example.com with a link to the book’s page at the academic publisher’s website, and we will feature it here.
To herald in the New Year 2016, today we feature a book publication highlight of a new text in medical anthropology co-authored by Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry‘s 2016 Honoree, Arthur Kleinman. Read our editor-in-chief Atwood Gaines’ announcement of the annual honoree here.
Image via UC Press website.
Out this month from the University of California Press is Arthur Kleinman and Iain Wilkinson’s A Passion for Society: How We Think About Human Suffering (paperback edition details here.) The book examines the concept of suffering as a broader social “problem,” both in the contemporary age and through history. The authors explore how notions of suffering and care are reflective of present social and moral conditions, and how social science as a profession responds to “social suffering.” They argue that enlivened discussions about care have invigorated a new approach to the study of suffering by social scientists, who no longer engage with human suffering dispassionately. This shift has widespread implications for an “engaged social science” that takes a humanitarian approach to analyzing, understanding, and ameliorating human suffering. The text will interest applied social scientists as well as medical anthropologists and scholars of social medicine, who study illness and social inequities both across time and in cross-cultural contexts. The book can be purchased in hardcover here.
About the Authors: Arthur Kleinman is a medical anthropologist and psychiatrist who serves as professor in the departments of Anthropology, Social Medicine, and Psychiatry, and Director of the Asia Center, at Harvard University. Iain Wilkinson is a sociologist and Reader in Sociology in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent.
Due for release in March 2016 from Duke University Press is Megan Crowley-Matoka’s Domesticating Organ Transplant: Familial Sacrifice and National Aspiration in Mexico. The text explores the familial nature of kidney transplantation in Mexico, where the organs are donated between relatives rather than received by strangers. Crowley-Matoka also examines kidney transplant in Mexico beyond the family unit, assessing national pride in transplantation procedures performed at hospitals operated by the state. Through family and government, organ transplantation thus becomes an iconic procedure in Mexican society– both within the home and across the nation– that represents the curative promise of contemporary medicine. Crowley-Matoka’s ethnography highlights the relationships between embodied experience, domestic life, national identity, and clinical practice. This text will appeal widely to scholars who study biomedicine in the Americas, the connections between medicine and the state, and familial networks of caregiving.
About the author: Megan Crowley-Matoka is Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University. You can access more details about her upcoming book here.
Out this November 2015 from Oxford University Press is an edited collection by William S. Sax and Helene Basu entitled The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State. The text presents both contemporary and historical case studies of the relationship between spiritual conflict and judicial exchanges across cultures. While rituals to exorcise spirits from the afflicted are typically characterized solely as acts of healing, they are also scenarios in which spirit healers do justice by the possessed by driving out a spirit who has committed an act of evil against the person they inhabit. Spirit possession may similarly provide valuable opportunities for members of a community to contact restless spirits through a human oracle. These otherworldly entities may then offer evidence to the living as to how to avenge or appease them, thereby restoring social harmony. Healing, justice, cosmic order, and religion are thus closely integrated within these culturally meaningful negotiations.
The authors of the text challenge the assumption that these spiritual encounters– which have consequences for both medicine and the law in many societies– are antiquated and do not belong in modern societies or in secular governments. By drawing on examples from East Asia, South Asia, and Africa, the authors assert that spiritual healing and law nevertheless persist in the contemporary age as a way to meet social and religious needs in many cultures.
Learn more about the book (in paperback) by clicking here.
About the editors: William Sax teaches at the University of Heidelberg, where he serves as the Chair of Cultural Anthropology at the South Asia Institute. Helene Basu is the director of the Institute of Social Anthropology at Münster University.
Released this August 2015 from University of California Press is Carlo Caduff’s The Pandemic Perhaps: Dramatic Events in a Public Culture of Danger. In the text, Caduff focuses on alerts in 2005 posted by American experts about a deadly, approaching influenza outbreak. These urgent messages warned that the outbreak would have crippling effects on the economy and potentially end the lives of millions of people. Even though this potentially-catastrophic outbreak ultimately never occurred, preparedness efforts for the slated pandemic carried on.
The text is the product of anthropological fieldwork carried out amongst public health agents, scientists, and other key players in New York City surrounding the influenza scare. Caduff demonstrates how these figures framed the potential outbreak, and how they sought to capture the public’s attention regarding the disease. The book grapples with questions about information, perceived danger, and the meaning of safety in the face of large-scale epidemics. Likewise, Caduff examines how institutions and individuals come to cope with the uncertainty of new outbreaks.
The book will be of interest to cultural medical anthropologists as well as epidemiologists and scholars in public health. Caduff’s work will no doubt shed a timely new light on the way that the threat of epidemics shapes health policy and public perceptions of disease and security.
Caduff is Lecturer in the Department of Social Science, Health, and Medicine at King’s College London. His research addresses the anthropology of science, technology, and medicine, as well as issues surrounding knowledge, expertise, safety, and disease.
Released this May 2015 from Duke University Press is Sandra Harding’s Objectivity and Diversity: Another Logic of Scientific Research. Harding’s book critically examines the notion of objectivity, and posits a new framework for scientific thought that does not strive to be politically and culturally neutral. Instead, Harding argues, scientists must consider the economic, social, and political dimensions of their work, and seek to produce knowledge and new technologies that are sensitive to the ways in which these innovations may impact disenfranchised populations. In this way, Harding suggests that science may be truly “objective” by reflecting the social reality of the world in which it is practiced and produced.
Harding’s book contributes to the constructivist body of literature on the social and cultural dimensions of scientific practice, alongside the likes of Daston and Galison’s Objectivity (2010), Agazzi’s Scientific Objectivity and its Contexts (2014), and Shapin’s The Scientific Revolution (1996). Harding similarly demonstrates the cultural situatedness of science, while underscoring the responsibility of contemporary science to promoting social justice. This publication will be of interest for science and technology (STS) scholars as well as anthropologists researching biomedicine and the culture of scientific and evidence-based care practices, particularly amongst underserved or marginal populations.
Sandra Harding is Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA. Her work explores the philosophy of science, epistemology, and feminist and postcolonial theories.
Out this August 2015 from the University of California Press is Janis H. Jenkin’s Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Illness. This ethnographic text explores the lives of patients of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds experiencing trauma, depression, and psychosis, taking into account the identity, self, desires, gender, and cultural milieu of the participants. Jenkins’ text pays special attention to the reduction of the severely mentally ill to a subhuman status, and the nature of this social repression.
Jenkins argues for a new, dynamic model of mental illness as a struggle rather than a constellation of discrete symptoms, noting that such a model should consider the ways that culture is implicated in mental illness experience from onset through recovery. The book posits that inclusion of culture into the clinical practice of psychiatry is crucial to the successful treatment of patients, and that anthropologists must not only consider the normative, day-to-day lives of participants but also the “extraordinary” and uncommon conditions regularly faced by those with mental illness.
This book will be of interest to psychological and psychiatric anthropologists, as well as those studying mental health care delivery systems. It will also shed light on medical narratives in mental health, and on generating new theories of human experience and medicalization.
This October 2015, Johns Hopkins University Press is slated to release Keith Wailoo’s Pain: A Political History. Wailoo’s book examines how the definition of chronic pain in the United States developed and changed alongside broader political and economic changes. The book begins with the culture of treatment following World War II, when public and political attitudes towards pain considered physical suffering real and potentially disabling. With decreasing support of disability programs throughout the 1980s, however, the validity and legitimacy of chronic pain came under question.
New conversations beginning in the 1990s about euthanasia reinvigorated the conversation surrounding pain, no doubt bolstered today by current discussions of medical marijuana laws and the burgeoning use of prescription painkillers for recreation purposes. This renewed interest in the nature and the extent of pain have enlivened the debate around who experiences pain, how we certify pain, and at what point pain requires medical intervention.
The book strives to illuminate the historical foundations of today’s contemporary pain medication and treatment market, particularly in terms of the liberal and conservative political trends between the 1950s and today. Wailoo’s account culminates with an exploration of the contemporary state of pain care: a severe imbalance between the overmedicated and the underserved who cannot access treatment for their chronic pain. Pain: A Political History will certainly prove insightful for historians of medicine as well as political-economic medical anthropologists, theorists of neoliberalism, and medical anthropologists carrying out research in the United States.
Wailoo is Professor of History and Public Affairs as well as the Vice Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.