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

 

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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.

 

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