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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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!

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

In the News: Health Disparities and Water Quality in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics

 

August 2016 – The 2016 Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has dominated news headlines in recent weeks. The athletics event, taking place from August 5 to August 21, featured 207 countries in the Parade of Nations as well as the first ever Refugee Olympic Team. It is the first time the games have been held in South America. But besides highlights on the events and spotlights on athletes’ training regimens and backgrounds, there is another stream of news stories surrounding the Olympic Games. These stories have focused on two key public health issues related to this year’s Games: health disparities and water quality issues.

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Rio’s Olympic beach volleyball venue is on Copacabana Beach. Photo from Marcio Jose Sanchez for AP.

Only two years ago the FIFA World Cup was making similar headlines in Brazil. As reported in 2014, and highlighted in this blog[1], there have been past concerns about access to quality healthcare despite the surge of funds for the World Cup event. These reports unmasked a problematic system of health disparities to a global audience. The Daily Californian[2] stated that many Brazilians were “unhappy that their government [was] funding stadium renovations instead of spending on more instrumental matters like improved health care and emergency services.” Reports relating to the current Olympics have painted a similar picture for the present health scene. As Reuters[3] reported in December 2015, the governor of Rio de Janeiro declared a state of emergency “as hospitals, emergency rooms and health clinics cut services or closed units throughout the state as money ran out for equipment, supplies and salaries.” According to CNN[4], the financial crisis has been causing difficulties in the “provision of essential public services and can even cause a total breakdown in public security, health, education, mobility and environmental management.”. While the state of emergency declaration provides a critical 45 million reais ($25.3 million) in federal aid and may facilitate the transfer of future funds, estimates state that Rio de Janeiro owes approximately $355 million to employees and suppliers in the healthcare sector alone, and the state needs over $100 million to reopen the closed hospital units and clinics.[5] While the city of Rio spent approximately $7.1 billion on improving toll roads, ports and other infrastructure projects, the Brazil Ministry of Health devoted only $5.7 million to address health concerns[6].

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The Christ the Redeemer statue is visible above the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro. Photo from Joao Velozo for NPR. 

In addition to these issues (and the high-profile Zika virus, which is causing health concerns in multiple countries[7]), concerns surrounding water quality and cleanliness in Brazil has garnered considerable attention. A recent scene involving the diving and water polo pools turning a swamp-green color because of an algae bloom left some athletes complaining of itchy eyes.[8] While the Olympic Games have brought international attention to the impact of water quality on the athletes and visitors, the residents of Rio have been dealing with theses concerns on a daily basis for much longer. With almost 13 million people living in and around Rio, the current sewage system is struggling to cope. One news report[9] notes that “about 50 percent of what Brazilians flush down the toilet ends up in the country’s waterways. Diseases related to contaminated water are the second leading cause of death for children under five in Brazil.” Tests performed in a variety of areas, including the sailing venue of Guanabara Bay, over the course of a year found high levels of “superbugs of the sort found in hospitals on the shores of the bay.” The possibility of hospital sewage entering the municipal sewage system remains a concern.[10]

An economic recession, compounded by water concerns, political unrest, and a presently faltering healthcare system all leave many Cariocas— citizens of Rio– who rely on the public health system in a challenging and hazardous situation across the social, medical, and political spheres. With hopes of local profits from the Olympic Games ranging in the billions of dollars, much is at stake for both residents and investors.[11] Despite the risks and tribulations, many residents welcome the international event and attention, and credit the Olympics for cultivating “several underutilized, often abandoned spaces have been transformed to ones that appeal and cater to local residents”. Many “beautification” projects leave residents hoping the installation of new art and the newly constructed spaces will leave a lasting impression on its residents and visitors long after the games end.[12]  Despite this optimism, the citizens of Rio are not impacted equally by the Games.[13] The improved infrastructures will likely benefit those who already have access to services. Tourism, and tourism cash, has been weak in the favelas, or shantytowns, which house at least 25% of the population in Rio. The infrastructure inequities have even bypassed some neighborhoods entirely, leaving those residents out of the celebrations.[14]

Overall, these Olympic Games promise once again to bring the world’s cultures together in competition and camaraderie, yet they do not do so without controversy. This global spectacle illuminates athletics and sportsmanship, as well as the intersections between cultural events, politics and nationalism, power and profit, and community health. These larger issues lead to questions about what will happen to the residents of Rio after the Games have drawn to a close.

 


[1] https://culturemedicinepsychiatry.com/2014/07/11/news-the-2014-world-cup-and-healthcare-in-brazil/

[2] http://www.dailycal.org/2014/07/08/uc-berkeley-faculty-graduate-students-look-world-cup-different-light/

[3] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-health-emergency-idUSKBN0U716Q20151224

[4] http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/18/americas/brazil-rio-state-emergency-funding-olympics/

[5]http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-health-emergency-idUSKBN0U716Q20151224

[6] http://wuwm.com/post/let-s-do-numbers-money-spent-rio-olympics#stream/0

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/29/world/americas/brazil-zika-rio-olympics.html?_r=0

[8] http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-olympics-rio-diving-pool-idUKKCN10O0UW?feedType=RSS&feedName=sportsNews

[9] http://wuwm.com/post/rios-water-problems-go-far-beyond-olympics#stream/0

[10] http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/02/sport/rio-2016-olympic-games-water-quality-sailing-rowing/index.html

[11] http://www.newsweek.com/rio-2016-who-stands-benefit-successful-olympics-453094

[12] http://www.kvia.com/news/rio-olympics-bring-beautification-projects/40884340

[13] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetorch/2016/08/11/487769536/in-rios-favelas-hoped-for-benefits-from-olympics-have-yet-to-materialize

[14] http://www.reuters.com/video/2016/08/14/olympic-infrastructure-causes-suffering?videoId=369565427

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.

Summer 2016 Update Schedule

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As we head into June, the Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry blog will shift into its summer update schedule of bi-monthly posts. New updates will continue to go live here on our website, and will be spotlighted on our Twitter and Facebook accounts. This summer, we look forward to sharing our latest articles with you, which will arrive in the June 2016 issue. Want to see what will be published at the journal soon? Check out our online first articles here.

As always, we continue to accept submissions for guest commentaries and blog posts on our website. We are also happy to feature new academic book releases by our colleagues in medical anthropology, sociology, and humanities, as well as medical science and technology studies. For details, contact our social media editor Julia Knopes at jcb193@case.edu.

Wishing all the best to our readers,

The CMP Editorial Team

 

Book Release: Haraway’s “Staying with the Trouble”

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Image via Duke UP website

Debuting this September 2016 from Duke University Press is Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (available here.) Haraway’s text challenges the concept of the anthropocene, noting that in an age of ever-increasing environmental degradation, any centralization of the human detracts from the ill-effects of a “damaged earth” on all forms of life. Haraway posits a new term, the Chthulucene:, to describe the contemporary state of human and non-human existence. She argues that this new term highlights the multi-directional, tentacular ways in which life forms are bound together as kin in this new world. Moreover, this term encourages us to consider not human self-making, but rather sym-poiesis: the mutual entanglements of human and inhuman life as they “make” and define one another. The text unites an environmental approach with themes that resonate throughout Haraway’s work: including feminism, technoscience, kinship, and the destabilization of the “human” category.

This publication will be of interest to anthropologists spanning environmental studies, medical anthropology, and anthropological theory, as well as scholars of science and technology studies. Haraway’s commentary on “making kin”and the Chthulucene previously appeared in the open-access journal Environmental Humanities and is available in full here.


About the Author

Donna Haraway serves as Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz in the History of Consciousness Department. In addition to Staying with the Trouble and many past publications, Haraway has also released a collection of her manifestos this year, entitled Manifestly Haraway. The collection is available here through the University of Minnesota Press.