AAA 2015 & New Initiatives at the CMP Blog

To our readers:

This week, many of you are attending the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Meeting in Denver, Colorado. From all of us at Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, we wish you safe travels to the conference and new knowledge and fresh insights upon your return.

Last year on the blog, the editorial staff took this week to thank our readers and to share with you the future directions of our social media in the coming year. We are grateful to all of our readers and followers for helping us foster an online community for medical anthropologists and our peers in allied disciplines, whether on our Facebook page, on our Twitter feed, or here at the blog. Thank you to all of our colleagues for sharing our posts, retweeting our links, and reading our features: from news updates, to conference postings, to book releases, and journal issue highlights.

In addition to these features, we are embarking upon two new initiatives on social media into 2016. The first is a new submission mechanism for book release updates on the blog. If you are an author of a new academic text in medical anthropology, social medicine, or medical humanities, let us know about your publication, and we will share it on the blog. We hope this new initiative allows us to showcase new and trending topics in the field, while it spreads the word about the research our readers and colleagues are carrying out across the globe.

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The second new initiative will include interviews with anthropologists, historians, and other scholars (including graduate students) about ongoing projects or newly published research. If you want to share your findings, introduce new theories or issues, or present new topics in the field, contact us to be interviewed. For both initiatives, please send requests and queries to our social media editor (Julia Knopes) at jcb193@case.edu. As always, books for review and academic articles can also be submitted to the journal proper. Please direct questions about journal submissions to managing editor Brandy Schillace at bls10@case.edu.

Lastly, we continue to accept guest blog submissions between 500-700 words in length on topics in medical anthropology, medical humanities, bioethics, and social medicine. Guest blog submissions may be submitted for review to our social media editor at the above listed address.

We look forward to sharing with you all of the changes and additions at CMP social media in the coming year.

Our best,

The Editorial Staff of Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry

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AAA 2015 Sessions: Medical and Patient Bodies

This entry is our last in a three-part blog series on the upcoming American Anthropological Association (2015) meeting, to be held in Denver, CO from November 18th-22nd. Here we feature paper sessions on contemporary themes in medical anthropology and social medicine. This year, we showcased sessions on the anthropology of mental health care (read here) and on cultural approaches to food sovereignty and economies, featured last week. In this installment, we highlight three sessions on the theme of the medical and patient body. All sessions are listed chronologically by date and time.

Image via AAA Website

Image via AAA Website

The Politics of Health and Ritual Practices: Ethnographic Perspectives

Wednesday, November 18th from 2:00pm-3:45pm (details here.)

In this session, topics will include: health and religion in Putin’s Russia; rhetoric and biopolitics in local medicines of North India; hypochondria, somatic experience, and psychiatry in Soviet-era Bulgaria; and the implications of mortuary rituals in neoliberal Romania. These papers will particularly interest scholars who study the relationship between body and state, as well as those who examine the intersection of religion, health, and healing practice.

The Biosociocultural Trajectory of Stigma

Sunday, November 22nd from 10:15am-12:00pm (details here.)

Papers in the session will address stigma in the following contexts: methadone treatment in a Moldovan prison; HIV+ identities in intergenerational perspective; changes in HIV/AIDS stigma in Western Kenya; stigma and HIV/AIDS as chronic versus curable; obesity and depression in Puerto Rico; and de-stigmatization in massive weight loss. Through these presentations, the session will posit the medical body at the center of social discourses on stigma, illness, and treatment across cultures.

Micropolitics of Medical Life

Sunday, November 22nd from 10:15am-12:00pm (details here.)

This session spans topics such as: organ donation and the family in Japan; patient-centered approaches to biomedical readmission; infant health in El Salvador; translation and language in medical encounters; ethnographic research on contaminated water exposure and local treatments for infant diarrhea; dialysis and the family unit; and the connections between cells, culture, and knowledge-making. These papers will underscore the cross-cultural ties between body, biology, illness, culture, and daily life.

News: UN Releases New Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

On Friday, September 25th, the UN released its new plan for global development through 2030: the sustainable development goals (SDGs).[i] This plan replaces the millennium development goal (MDG) plan that expires at the end of 2015, and offers a new 17-point agenda focused on social equality, infrastructure, technology, and environmental conservation.[ii] Of note to medical anthropologists, global health workers, and other scholars in social medicine is the continued focus on health and well being as the third item amidst the seventeen goals. The SDG plan champions health “for all at all ages,” although it proposes no specific goals for improving elder care despite the language stressing health across ages. Maternal and reproductive health, substance abuse, traffic deaths, and universal health care coverage are key issues addressed in the SDGs.

Emblem of the UN via Wikimedia Commons

Emblem of the UN via Wikimedia Commons

Proponents of the new SDGs, like the World Bank, argue that the plan’s emphasis on both developed and developing countries creates a shared impetus for bolstering food security, education, and access to quality health care; likewise, it suggests that these issues are global ones that cross national borders, and do not exist at the state level alone.[iii] Others criticize the SDGs as too ambitious, arguing that global authorities already struggle to aid migrants and peoples in crisis[iv], stating that the goals are too broad and thus not focused enough to produce observable change[v], and highlighting the irony of combating climate change while promising electricity for all by 2030.[vi]

Anthropologists have long held an interest in international development as a site of cross-cultural exchange, a relic of colonialism, and as a paternalistic model of societal shepherding of developing nations by the wealthy West and Global North.[vii] Amongst development anthropologists, the sustainable development goals will certainly generate new questions about the connectedness of social inequities with health, autonomy, and human rights in the contemporary age. The goals will similarly continue to attract the interest of scholars studying biomedicine and global health in diverse cultural settings.

In addition, the SDGs will no doubt capture the attention of anthropologists in science and technology studies (STS) with the plan’s robust emphasis on technologies, energy, infrastructure, and the environment. This sharpened focus on the connection between social order, science, and technology attests to the applicability of STS approaches to the study of development.

The SDGs arrive at a time of increased concern over social justice and equity on the transnational scale, particularly in the face of the Syrian refugee crisis[viii] and given wide income gaps that impact people in the United States, Chile, Greece, Mexico, and Turkey alike.[ix] Anthropologists are ideally situated to explore the impact of development goals across cultures, and to question how and why these goals may face considerable challenges as they are translated into action, law, and practice at the local level.


[i] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/sep/25/global-goals-summit-2015-new-york-un-pope-shakira-malala-yousafzai

[ii] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics

[iii] https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/global-goals-economic-transformation-in-an-interconnected-world

[iv] http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/09/28/444188463/are-the-new-u-n-global-goals-too-ambitious

[v] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sustainable-development-goals-offer-something-for-everyone-and-will-not-work/

[vi] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/energy-access-sdgs-un-climate-change/407734/

[vii] http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0631228802.html

[viii] http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/28/world/united-nations-main/

[ix] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/27/us-development-goals-challenges-analysis-idUSKCN0RR0TV20150927

Vol. 39 Issue 1 March 2015: Medicalizing Heroin

In addition to our From the Archive series, where we highlight past articles in the journal’s history, the CMP blog features selected previews of our latest issue. This week, we again take a sneak peek into an article from the March issue: the first installment of 2015’s Volume 39 of Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry.


Heroin: From Drug to Ambivalent Medicine

On the Introduction of Medically Prescribed Heroin and the Emergence of a New Space for Treatment

Birgitte Schepelern Johansen • Katrine Schepelern Johansen. Pages 75-91. Link to article: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11013-014-9406-7

This article examines the reintroduction of heroin as a medicine, as opposed to illicit drug, in the treatment of substance abuse patients. Unlike existing research on this topic, the authors here emphasize the exchanges between the users, the staff, and the material space of the implementation of heroin: the built and organizational environments of the clinic, rather than just the actors in this space alone.

Heroin exists in a complicated place in these clinics: it is (paradoxically) utilized to minimize addiction to it. Rather than marginalizing the drug, this process of managed heroin prescription lends the drug a central place in the lives of users and staff, albeit a place that ambivalently lies between drug use as pleasure and drug injection as a form of medicalized control.

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When considering the rooms in the clinic where the staff injects heroin into clients, the authors note that the space is strictly regulated. Staff observe incoming clients, while those who carry out injections do not permit the patients from selecting where the drug is administered. Likewise, this clinical space is not used for socializing: clients don’t casually talk while waiting, and typically depart this area and linger in the facility’s more casual cafe after receiving their injection. The clinical space removes the use of heroin from the context of pleasure-seeking, and assumes control for the drug’s use. Although the substance is the same, heroin users’ experiences of the drug in recreational settings is deliberately set apart from its use in the clinic.

Yet distinguishing the clinical space where heroin is injected, while no doubt increasing medicalized control over the substance, also complicates the notion of the drug as unquestionably destructive. Clients move into a social, casual environment in the cafe after initial injection. Even the clinical space itself underscores the intimacy of intravenous drug use, as staff and clients engage one-on-one during the injections. The staff similarly struggle with the complex nature of heroin as an illegal drug, made most evident by the strict safeguarding of the location where heroin is stored.

Although the medicalization of heroin abuse may serve to diminish the criminal stigma surrounding use of the drug, medical models of treatment remain entangled in older ideas of substance illegality, criminality, and the stringent enforcement of substance abuse policies. Conversely, the clinical treatment space and its organization is arranged in such a way that muddies the boundary between pleasure and treatment. The authors thereby illustrate the complexity of moving towards a medical model of heroin treatment, and how notions of control evolve with the changing landscape of substance abuse policy.

Vol. 39 Issue 1 March 2015: Ethnography & Clinical Practice

In addition to our From the Archive series, where we highlight past articles in the journal’s history, the CMP blog features selected previews and sneak peeks into our latest issue. This week, we gain a glimpse into an article from the March issue: the first installment of 2015’s Volume 39 of Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry.


A Model for Translating Ethnography and Theory into Culturally Constructed Clinical Practices

Bonnie Kaul Nastasi, et al. Pages 92-120. Link to article: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11013-014-9404-9

In this article, Nastasi and colleagues have developed a new model for preventative care of HIV and STIs over the course of a 6-year research project in Mumbai, India. This clinical approach, called the Narrative Intervention Model (NIM), implores married men in Mumbai to construct narratives around their sexual health and related problems. With the clinician, patients then deconstruct the narrative to locate discrepancies between their accounts of sexual health and their desired health status. The last stage of the preventative approach entails clinicians coaching patients on how to minimize risk while meeting patient expectations surrounding sexual health. In this way, health counseling becomes a more dynamic process than medical history taking alone.

cropped-cards.jpgThe NIM model in this initial study was employed by both allopathic physicians and traditional Indian medical practitioners. By analyzing patients’ accounts and creating models for health behavior that minimized risks of HIV or STIs, caregivers were able to blend an anthropological and public health approach to preventative medicine. Likewise, the model drew on principles of cognitive behavioral psychology: inquiring about patients’ logic in rationalizing health choices, and intervening in this narrative to display where risks might be prevalent.

In the NIM model, the clinician’s interview with the patient takes on a semi-structured form (which the authors assert is “ethnographic” in nature.) Rather than traditional history-taking, which is an elicitation of information from the patient rather than a more fluid conversation, the NIM encourages patients to make connections between their cultural beliefs, behaviors, and their health.

Given the widespread interest in both medicine and anthropology on patient-clinician communication, this case presents an informative glance into how caregivers might draw on ethnographic practices to improve patient health. NIM offers one methodology for meaningful exchanges between clinicians and patients, and unites the aims of medicine and anthropology in illuminating culturally specific health behaviors, beliefs, and practices for the direct benefit of patients.

Upcoming Conferences in Social Studies of Science/Medicine: Fall 2015

If you have an event to add to this list, please contact Julia Balacko at jcb193@case.edu with the name of the event/conference, date(s), location, and a link to the event page or a brief description. This list is for conference in the Fall of 2015 (August-December.) All conferences/events are organized chronologically by date.


 Seventh International Conference on Science in Society: “Educating Science”

October 1-2 2015 – Chicago, Illinois

http://science-society.com/the-conference/call-for-papers

A Critical Moment: Sex/Gender Research at the Intersection of Culture, Brain, & Behavior Conference

October 23-24 2015 – Los Angeles, California

http://www.thefprconference2015.org/

Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting

November 11-14 2015 – Denver, Colorado

http://www.4sonline.org/meeting

American Anthropological Association 2015 Annual Meeting: “Familiar/Strange”

November 18-22 2015 – Denver, Colorado

http://www.aaanet.org/meetings/

Logo via AAA website

Logo via AAA website

History of Science Society Annual Meeting

November 19-22 – San Francisco, California

http://hssonline.org/meetings/annual-meeting-archive/

News: 2015 Conferences in Cultural Studies of Medicine and Medical Humanities

The following is a list of conferences in 2015 with upcoming submission deadlines in the fall. If you are a conference organizer or have a conference you’d like to share in the fields of medical anthropology, medical humanities, or the social science of medicine, please email blog editor Julia Balacko at jcb193@case.edu with the location and date(s) of the conference, as well as submission deadlines. Conferences are listed by the date they will be held.

Medical Humanities for Drew University Transatlantic Connections Conference

January 14-18 2015 Donegal, Ireland

Deadline for submissions: Nov 1st 2014

Ageing Histories, Mythologies and Taboos: CFP Interdisciplinary Conference

University of Bergen, January 30th-31st 2015

Deadline for submissions: Sept 1st 2014

Vesalius and the Invention of the Modern Body

February 26-28th 2015

Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University

(No submissions – invited speakers)

Playing Age (Anthropology and Gerontology)

University of Toronto, Feb. 27-28, 2015

Deadline for submissions: Sept 5th 2014

Medicine and Poetry: From the Greeks to the Enlightenment

March 20th, 2015 University of Miami Coral Gables, Florida

Deadline for abstracts: October 3rd, 2014

The Examined Life Conference: Writing, Humanities, and the Arts of Medicine

The University of Iowa, April 16th-18th 2015

(No submissions- workshop-based conference)

The American Association for the History of Medicine Conference

New Haven, CT, April 30th-May 3rd

Deadline for abstracts: Sept 26th 2014