SPA 2017 Biennial Meeting: Breakfast Lecture with Richard Shweder and Byron Good

This week we’re featuring a summary of The 2017 Biennial Meeting of The Society for Psychological Anthropology Breakfast Lecture. This year, the Breakfast Lecture presented a conversation with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Richard Shweder, and the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Byron Good. In this event, Dr. Shweder and Dr. Good reflect on morality and “the mental” in both Cultural Psychology and Psychological Anthropology, discussing how profoundly different worlds still share some moralities and orientations. They also discuss some critical challenges and opportunities for psychological anthropology. By interviewing each other, a foundational technique in anthropology itself, Dr. Shweder and Dr. Good explore their past works, theoretical orientations, and their anticipation of where anthropological explorations of psychological processes are heading.

2016 SPA Lifetime Achievement Awardee Richard Shweder

The conversation begins with Dr. Good asking Dr. Shweder to “tell us about your history.” Dr. Shweder delves into his upbringing in Great Neck on the north shore of Long Island, at the time an emerging suburb with a very progressive, left-wing population. He discusses the first time he heard the word anthropology in his 11th grade English class when “Mr. Beal” said, “for any of you who don’t know what to do in life, there’s this thing called anthropology.” After graduation Dr. Shweder went to the University of Pittsburgh where Dr. Arthur Tuden, an Africanist and Cultural Anthropologist, taught his Introduction to Anthropology class, bringing in the study of culture with current events and ultimately solidifying Dr. Shweder’s path in Anthropology. From Pittsburgh, Dr. Shweder progressed to Harvard, where he states several figures had an impact on his intellectual growth, including Cora DuBois and John Whiting. After finishing his Ph.D. at Harvard, Dr. Shweder taught at the University of Nairobi in Kenya before finally landing at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Shweder then, discussing approaches and schools of thought in Cultural Psychology, defines Cultural Psychology as “the study of differences in mentalities across human populations.” Psychological Anthropology, for Dr. Shweder, has been more interested in taking universal psychological schemes and applying them to particular cultures to see whether or not different practices or beliefs were essentially manifestations of a broader psychological concept, such as a variation on an Oedipus complex. There is not a denial of universals in Cultural Psychology, however, since, to Dr. Shweder, there is not a way of studying differences without also studying universals. Dr. Shweder describes his way of defining the Cultural Psychology of Morality as “investigating the fates of moral absolutes in history and to show the way they get transformed, take on different content, and lead to different judgments.” To Dr. Shweder, behind a culture or individual is a set of moral absolutes, or rules of moral reason. Yet these moral absolutes and rules are abstract concepts which do not present determinations of actual cases, histories, or cultural contexts. Cultural Psychology is not about looking for likenesses, but looking for the differentiations and local adaptations that have taken place. For Dr. Shweder, the psychological means looking at differences in “the mental.” “The mental” refers to what people know, think, feel, want, and value as good and bad. Dr. Shweder states, “Anywhere you look in the world you’re going to find that people know, think, feel, want, and value things as good and bad. In some sense, that’s what it means to be a person.”

Dr. Shweder follows up with a discussion that anthropologists are supposed to fairly represent the groups they study; to try to portray their way of life in a way that the people the anthropologist is writing for might see them not as “exotic aliens,” but as morally sensitive persons who do things for recognizable reasons. Dr. Shweder proposes the conspicuous use of the notion of “oppression,” or seeing the social order as oppressive, combined with the now popular term “agency,” suggests that to have agency was to be opposed to culture. Thus, for Dr. Shweder, the concept that there might be people whose agency was used to carry forward a cultural tradition which was in a framework where they felt they could be fulfilled, was gone. “When I went to India I was in a world where if I approached it as ‘a good liberal,’ assuming everything is free choice and the world is there to satisfy my preferences, I would have seen it as an oppressive order. Yet the people who live there, for the most part, feel quite at home with rich, meaningful lives,” Dr. Shweder states.

Building off the discussion of morality, Dr. Good then engages with concepts of morality and oppression. Dr. Good states that for him, the experience of morality is often an experience of oppression. He expresses that many people spend at least parts of their lives resisting or fighting against morality, feeling that the moral system around them is actually an oppressive system causing them to live their lives “wrongly” within it. It seems to Dr. Good that reading ethics with a grand “they” or a grand “we” misses, ethnographically, another side of the story. Dr. Shweder responds that there is a multiplicity of the moral world. The moral world has many goods and desires that are in conflict with each other, and one cannot have them all. This sets up the dynamic of resistance since the system of conflict and prioritization pushes alternatives to the side. Dr. Shweder states that within any society there is the orthodox and the heterodox, that which is center stage and that which is done covertly. The mistake is to privilege one ethic over another, to act as if that privileging itself is not a choice or commitment, or to label the ethic of autonomy as the “natural way” in which anyone who is fully enlightened will ultimately go. Dr. Shweder cautions against the view of “liberalism as destiny,” where there are stages of moral development, the height of moral development being an autonomous, individualized person or society.

2017 SPA Lifetime Achievement Awardee Byron Good

Dr. Good then discusses his personal and academic history. He starts by commenting that his childhood and upbringing couldn’t have been more different than Dr. Shweder’s, growing up on a Mennonite farm in the Republican mid-west. Dr. Good spent much of his life feeling that religion and divinity grounded and oriented aspects of his academic life. “I don’t romanticize ethical norms if they, over time, have become more and more interested in controlling our lives in ways that we have very little direct knowledge of,” Dr. Good states. “I don’t romanticize suffering.” While at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, Dr. Good started studying mathematics before spending a year at the University of Nigeria. Dr. Good expressed this time as having a powerful impact which changed his life. “My worldview became profoundly different,” he states. Coming back from Africa convinced that there had to be something more than mathematics, Dr. Good decided to go to Harvard Divinity School. It was there that he began taking courses in anthropology and religion. Attending the University of Chicago for his Ph.D., Dr. Good states his first year at Chicago was Clifford Geertz’s last year. Yet even after Geertz left, Dr. Good still considered him a mentor and inspiration. This was also a very political moment for universities and the country in general. Dr. Good describes how he came of age in anthropology in a time of the Vietnam War, in a time of activism, and in the time of the Civil Rights Movement. These were all very powerful influences on how Dr. Good conceptualized the importance of anthropology.

Discussing his research, Dr. Good describes the time he spent in a genuinely post-colonial conflict setting of Aceh, Indonesia.  He became very aware of colonialism and its colonial history and how it had impacted political life along with a diverse set of religious and cultural influences. It was a setting that had a history of tremendous violence. “It was my first experience of working in areas of really intensive conflict,” Dr. Good states, “and I have to say that I went home from that experience very affected by listening to stories of violence.” Terms like “post-colonialism” and “post-colonial subjectivity,” and even terms like “haunting” and “hauntology” became central to his vision of what Psychological Anthropology can be today. Dr. Good poses the question of how one does Psychological Anthropology in settings of violence. “My thinking about hauntology started off with being in Aceh, and thinking about what Aceh was like post-tsunami and post-conflict,” Dr. Good remarks. Aceh was a place where ghosts and spirits of the dead were everywhere, alongside the ghosts of the recent violence and the emergence of political gorillas who had been previously hidden away. “Suddenly Aceh was no longer in the midst of a war and people who had been fighting were coming back and appearing in everyday life,” Dr. Good explains, “and I began thinking about post-authoritarian Indonesia and why it is that there are certain moments in a society that ghosts begin to appear in a very powerful way, and ghosts that are related to historical violence.” Dr. Good became fascinated with the relationship between historical memory, histories of violence, how they make themselves present, and how they reintroduce themselves in psychological experience.

To wrap up the Breakfast Lecture, Dr. Shweder discusses how the issue of nationalism is front and center in a very powerful way at the moment. He suggests that anthropologists should be qualified to talk about the ethno-national impulses people are facing and examine why it is that some people feel like their way of life, or their control over their life, is being threatened by globalization, for example. He calls on anthropologists to give a native point of view instead of simply reacting with fear and mainstream ideology. “This is anthropology. There are in-groups and there are out-groups. People have ways of life and traditions; they want to exercise control over their way of life. This has to be examined,” Dr. Shweder states. He further discusses that one of the things that’s exceptional to the United States is that we are a nation in which constitutional patriotism is the binding feature. In principle, that means there is space for cultural diversity. “The ways in which tyranny can be built up and balanced through distribution of power are all rich topics right now. Immigration. Making sure we represent minority views in a way that majority groups understand them and why the way they live is both meaningful and justifiable.” Dr. Shweder finishes by stating that there are also threats to anthropology from within. He warns against a “liberal tyranny” which can be compared to a “white-man’s-burden-style” of thinking with regard to cultural differences. Dr. Shweder sees this as using the notion of oppression or exploitation as an excuse for interventions into other people’s ways of life rather than starting by seeing whether or not one can understand other practices and social organizations in a morally-motivated way. Dr. Good closes the conversation session by encouraging anthropologists to be engaged in both theoretical debates within the discipline as well as policy and implementation projects and practices which can benefit the people in the communities we study.


Richard Shweder is the Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Human Development in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Thinking Through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology (1991) and Why Do Men Barbecue? Recipes for Cultural Psychology (2003), both published by Harvard University Press. Dr. Shweder is also an editor or co-editor of many books in the areas of cultural psychology, psychological anthropology, and comparative human development. For more information on Dr. Shweder, visit his page at the University of Chicago here, as well as the Society for Psychological Anthropology 2017 Biennial Conference Breakfast Lecture website, available here.

Byron Good is a Professor of Medical Anthropology at, and former Chair (2000-2006) of, the Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University. Dr. Good is director of the International Mental Health Training Program, funded by the Fogarty International Center to train psychiatrists from China in mental health services research. Dr. Good’s broader interests focus on the theorization of subjectivity in contemporary societies, focusing on the relation of political, cultural, and psychological renderings of the subject and experience, with a special interest in Indonesia. He is the editor or co-editor of many significant volumes, books, and is a former editor-in-chief of our Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry journal (1986-2004). For more information on Dr. Good, visit the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine website here, as well as the Society for Psychological Anthropology 2017 Biennial Conference Breakfast Lecture website, available here.

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Message from the Society for Psychological Anthropology 2017 Biennial Meeting

spa-logoThe Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry editorial team sends our greetings this week from the Society for Psychological Anthropology 2017 Biennial Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. This year’s meeting will be held March 9-12th, 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.

Highlights from this conference will be featured on the blog next week.

Consider submitting an abbreviated version of your SPA 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 Sonya Petrakovitz at smp152@case.edu for details.

Best wishes,

The CMP Editorial Team

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.

 

AAA 2016 Session Highlights: Part 1, Evidence

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Image via AAA Website

This is the first 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. Though not intended to be exhaustive in scope, this series will highlight a selection of sessions at the AAA that may interest our readers and conference attendees. The sessions spotlighted here centered around two themes: evidence (Part 1) and discoveries (Part 2.) These two subjects are also the core themes of this year’s annual meeting. For more information, find details about this year’s conference at this link.


Sessions on “Evidence”: Paper Sessions on the Themes of Knowledges, Certainties, Uncertainties, Evaluation, and Medical Data in Practice

HEGEMONY OF EVIDENCE: THE SHAPING OF KNOWLEDGE AND UNCERTAINTY

Wednesday, November 16th / 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Chair: Shannon Satterwhite (University of California, San Francisco)

This session will include papers on biopolitics, medical documentation, certainty and diagnosis, maternal health data collection, and nursing and primary care practices.

AMBIGUITIES OF CERTAINTY: NEGOTIATING KNOWLEDGE AND NAVIGATING THE BOUNDARIES OF EVIDENCE

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

Chair: Anna Zogas (University of Washington)

Papers in this session will address health rationalities and socialities, the nature of uncertainty and medical evidence, and the boundaries of medical knowledges.

EVIDENCE? ACCIDENT? DISCOVERY? PSYCHOSIS, MORAL SUBJECTIVITY AND CARE 

Thursday, November 17th 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM

Organizer(s): Neely Myers (Southern Methodist University) and Michael D’Arcy (University of California, Berkeley)

Chair: Lauren Cubellis (Washington University, St Louis)

Discussant: Elizabeth Bromley (University of California, Los Angeles)

In this session, the presenters will explore numerous connections between psychological experiences, illnesses, and clinical evidence.

EVIDENCE AND THE ENDS OF AIDS: SCIENCE, DISCOURSE, AND POLITICS AT THE END OF THE TREATMENT SCALE-UP ERA

Thursday, November 17th 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Organizer(s): Nora Kenworthy (University of Washington, Bothell) and  Matthew Thomann (Columbia University)

Chair: Richard Parker (Columbia University)

Discussant: Vinh-Kim Nguyen (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva, Switzerland)

Papers in this session will explore global AIDS/HIV landscapes, including the reframing of risk, data, and treatments. They will also consider the ties between science and politics in HIV/AIDS research and global health initiatives.

CLINICAL IMPRESSIONS: REGIMES OF INTERPRETATION AND EVALUATION IN HEALTHCARE

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

Organizer(s): Adam Baim (University of Chicago), Colin Halverson (University of Chicago)

Chair(s): Talia Weiner (University of Chicago), Miao Hua (University of Chicago)

Discussant: Barry Saunders (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

This session will explore how biomedical systems are evaluated, how biomedical practitioners evaluate illness, and how medical evidence and interpretation align in numerous settings.

Conference Feature: “Other Psychotherapies”

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This week on the blog, we are highlighting an upcoming conference on global psychotherapies across geography and time. This feature was written by our CMP social media intern Sonya Petrakovitz, PhD student in anthropology at Case Western Reserve University.


“Other Psychotherapies – across time, space, and culture”

University of Glasgow

Monday, April 3, 2017 – Tuesday, April 4, 2017

This conference brings contemporary forms of Western knowledge about mental health and well-being into dialogue with psychotherapeutic approaches from ‘other’ geographically, historically, or otherwise ‘distant’ cultures. Specifically, presentations will address ancient and medieval approaches to psychotherapy and how those techniques have become incorporated into today’s approaches. The sessions will also explore the development of psychological practices over time and across changing spatialities of care practices, specifically how post-colonial and indigenous forms of healing influenced the perceived credibility of psychotherapies. They will likewise examine the therapeutic/salutogenic dimensions of subcultures.

Addressing psychotherapy in this way brings together multiple disciplines and expands our understandings of medicine, health, culture, therapies, and pedagogies. The themes of the conference would be of interest to historians, physicians, literary scholars, mental health practitioners, anthropologists, and anyone interested in learning about different perspectives on psychotherapies within a broader global context.

For interested applicants, visit the Call for Papers page at http://otherpsychs.academicblogs.co.uk/. The Conference Committee invites abstracts of up to 300 words for 20-minute presentations, to be submitted by no later than August 31, 2016. Abstracts should be emailed to  arts-otherpsychs@glasgow.ac.uk along with a short biography of 100 words or less.

Blog Archive: Latour’s AAA 2014 Address

In this installment of the blog, we revisit one of our first conference features. This commentary piece examined Bruno Latour’s Distinguished Lecture address at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, DC. You can access the original post here.


 

This year at the American Anthropological Association 2014 Meeting, Bruno Latour was invited to deliver the distinguished lecture. Entitled “Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene,” Latour discusses the rise in the term anthropocene to describe our current stage of natural history. Although the term makes reference to how “human” (anthro) our current age may be, Latour jests that this term was introduced by geologists, not social scientists. In the anthropocene, it is humans that play the defining role in our geological historical moment.

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via Wikimedia Commons

The assumption, Latour notes, is that human agency is the prime source of action that shapes the physical world. Humans are responsible for climate change, for pollution, for altering the literal, natural fabric of our world. Yet we know that not all humans have the same impact on our environment. As Latour quips, there is not “One Human” who is responsible for the changes we see in our climate or environment. We are simultaneously assessing human power as a plural, collective entity, as well as using this concept to suggest that the blame for global change does not fall evenly across all humans. As anthropologists and cultural theorists, we know how fragile human agency can be when we divide it amongst many contending social and cultural groups.

Is there another way to think about human action that does not problematically configure humans as both collective and individual, acting but not universally accountable for all human actions? Latour posits that rather than focusing solely on agency, with a strong emphasis on human intention and purpose when committing action, we could think instead about animation, or what forces–human and non-human– are in motion in a given social space. To do so, we can no longer assume that the human agent is a colloquial be-all-end-all.

How does this assertion speak to medical anthropology, social medicine, and medical humanities? At first, we might raise our brows at the discussions of geography, environment, and most of all the suspicion surrounding the primacy of human agency. Decentralizing the human agent, we might say, is perhaps the least humanistic approach to the study of human experience. Indeed, medicine is the care of humans by humans!

However, our human ability to question our own power and position in the universe, amidst other natural and non-human forces, is a mark of our species. Whether through philosophy, religion, or social science, humans have a proclivity for ruminating about our place in the material, corporal world. We crave knowledge about what sets us apart from non-human things, and how we are sometimes reliant on them. For scholars of medicine, such inquiries about our relationships with the physical universe is key. We consider the place of non-human agents in disease and care. We ask: why do physicians rely on certain tools? Why do patients see stethoscopes, thermometers, and scalpels as making a clinician legitimate in his or her practice? How are medical traditions made unique by their tools and pharmaceutical formulas? Could the layout of a hospital or clinic itself alter the way care is given?

In an age where technology permeates developed and developing societies, Latour’s suggestion to destabilize human agency is productive when considering medicine as a cultural object. We must think not only of ourselves, but the physical environments we live in and the material objects and devices we cannot seem to live without.

Many scholars understandably resist Latour’s idea that non-humans could have some primitive agency. Yet even if we do not assign agency to non-human tools, things, and environments, thinking seriously about their role in sociocultural systems is informative. Medicine is a lively site of exchange between patients and physicians, as well as practitioners and devices, patients and new medical innovations, and the built environments which house them. As Latour invites us to do, we should pause to consider humans within the midst of a rich material world around us that– like humanity itself– is constantly in motion.