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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!