Blog has moved — Subscribe via email to the new site

The Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine website has undergone a redesign this summer and that means we have a new blog host.

If you subscribe to this blog, which will not be updated after this post, your email address is not automatically subscribed to the new blog.

Please take a moment and enter your email address in the right-hand panel at the new blog, found here, to continue receiving email updates for new blog posts and to stay up-to-date with events and research happening within DAHSM.

Thank you and see you at the new blog site!

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Conference Announcement: Boundary Work and Trading Zones in the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities

The 5th West Coast Symposium in the History of Medicine and Annual Conference of the Western Humanities Alliance will be held this September 5-6. This year’s symposium, entitled Boundary Work and Trading Zones in the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities, will take place in UC, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Room at 500 Parnassus Avenue.

A PDF of the event’s schedule of lectures and more details can be found here.

Please RSVP with Kathy Jackson if you plan to attend this year’s conference.

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Japan’s Metabolic Syndrome Screening Program: Japanese and U.S. Approaches to Obesity and Population Health

We are delighted to announce our newly added lecture on April 9th, 2014 from 3:30 – 5:00 pm at Laurel Heights in Conference Room 474.

Amy Borovoy, Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University, will talk about “Japan’s Metabolic Syndrome Screening Program: Japanese and U.S. Approaches to Obesity and Population Health”.

While the U.S. continues to target “obesity” in its public health battle

Amy Borovoy

Amy Borovoy

against population weight gain, the Japanese government has instead targeted “metabolic syndrome,” imposing a mandatory yearly screening for those between ages 40 and 74. The policy imposes no regulatory measures on the food industry and instead relies on screening, education, and individual decision-making to obtain better health outcomes. In her talk, Amy will argue that while such a strategy goes against the wisdom of recent public health advocates who urge environmental controls such as regulating advertising, taxing sugar sweetened beverages, and calorie labels on menus, it may succeed due to cohesive Japanese cultural values and historical links between culture and hygiene. Metabolic syndrome is defined by the Ministry of Health as a “disease of the lifestyle” (seikatsu shūkanbyō), and thus clearly links rising population weight to everyday values and habits. Amy will also present ethnographic data raises the question of whether less paternalistic measures called “nudges” by behavioural economists can be successful in the absence of such a pervasive value system.

You can read more about Amy’s publications here.

April 9th, 2014
3:30 – 5:00 pm
Laurel Heights Campus
Conference Room 474

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Filed under Bioethics, Public Health, Social Medicine

New Book: Treating AIDS-Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention

We are delighted to announce the publication of the new book by former DAHSM PhD student, Dr Thurka Sangaramoorthy, titled ‘Treating AIDS: Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention’ by Rutgers University Press.

Dr Thurka Sangaramoorthy is now Assistant Professor of Anthropology aat the
University of Maryland.

Treating AidsIn “Treating AIDS”, Thurka Sangaramoorthy examines the everyday practices of HIV/AIDS prevention in the United States from the perspective of AIDS experts and Haitian immigrants in south Florida. Using in-depth ethnographic data, she underscores the difference between the global response to this public health crisis—where everyone is implicated as a potential carrier of risk—and the uncontested existence of racial and ethnic disparities in HIV/AIDS rates, access to treatment and care, and, especially, the stigma borne by carriers of the disease. Everyone has an equal risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, Sangaramoorthy notes, but the ways in which people experience and manage that risk—and the disease itself—is highly dependent on race, ethnic identity, sexuality, gender, immigration status, and other notions of “difference.”

Sangaramoorthy documents in detail the work of AIDS prevention programs and their effect on the health and well-being of Haitians, a transnational community long plagued by the stigma of being associated in public discourse as disease carriers. By tracing the ways in which public knowledge of AIDS prevention science circulates from sites of surveillance and regulation, to various clinics and hospitals, to the social worlds embraced by this immigrant community, she ultimately demonstrates the ways in which AIDS prevention programs help to reinforce categories of individual and collective difference, and continue to sustain the persistent and pernicious idea of race and ethnicity as risk factors for the disease.

Reviews and Publisher’s Summary:
“As powerfully as Paul Farmer began the story of the stigmatization of Haitian Americans vis-à-vis HIV/AIDS, Sangaramoorthy reveals how the racialization of Haitians continues to be inscribed in a viral idiom. In this beautifully written account that will engage multiple audiences, constraints on how bodies can be voiced generate novel and unsettling insights that push the boundaries of medical anthropology and public health and reveal a frightening dimension of Miami’s status as a global city.”
Charles L. Briggs, University of California, Berkeley

“Sangaramoorthy’s precise and compelling book makes an excellent intervention into medical anthropology, particularly immigrant health, HIV/AIDS research, health disparities, and theories on the production and calculation of risk.”
Alyshia Gálvez, Lehman College

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DAHSM adopts Jacob Bigelow’s “American Medical Botany”

The following post was written by Sara Robertson, PhD student, History of Health Sciences, UCSF.

In honor of UCSF’s 150th anniversary and in an effort to restore 150 books in their archives and rare books collection, UCSF’s Library recently initiated an “adopt-a-book” program. It is with much excitement that the Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine, with support from the UC Medical Humanities Consortium, have adopted Jacob Bigelow’s “American Medical Botany” for preservation.

American Medical Botany

American Medical Botany

This book comprises all three volumes of the complete work which were printed separately in 1817, 1818, and 1820.

I had a chance recently to look at the book before its restoration, and carefully turning through its pages, the novelty and significance of American Medical Botany proliferated.
Bigelow organized his text by dedicating each section to a species of plant. Each section then contains an engraving, a thorough description of the plant’s morphology, any medical or other ethnobotanical uses, and a list of references. The three volumes collectively describe sixty different plant species and present fifty-eight color engravings (two of the engravings are missing from the copy).

Within each plant description, Bigelow offers a glimpse into nineteenth-century commercial interests with plants, but also plant remedies; both those derived from experiments and time-tested lay regimens. In his account of common hops (Humulus lupulus), for example, Bigelow discusses Dr. A.W. Ives’ efforts to refine hops for a better beer product.

Jacob Bigelow

Jacob Bigelow

But he then describes Dr. Smith’s efforts to pinpoint the plant’s medicinal quality and speculates on the lay practice of promoting sleep by resting one’s head on a pillow of hops. In presenting both knowledge acquired by experiment and knowledge promulgated as common sense, Bigelow’s text illustrates the plurality of sources that generated legitimate medical practices for early Americans.

Also of note in American Medical Botany, Bigelow cites botanists alongside both regular and alternative physicians. In a period of medical history marked by tension between orthodox and heterodox practitioners, this text bridges their differences through its exemplification of their commonalities. Moreover, by equating both types of medical epistemology to sources from a utilitarian discipline — botany — Bigelow’s text presents the precise sort of egalitarian, useful medicine that Jeffersonian Americans desired and sought.

In an age bent upon the digitization of information, today’s preservation of this sort of physical artifact becomes increasingly necessary; as it is a tangible reminder that history does not unfold in a series of ones and zeroes. This medical botany text serves as a historical representation of nineteenth-century American discourse regarding the medicinal value of plants. But flipping through its pages, one can uncover so much more concerning early-American ideals and values.
At present, the book’s binding requires attention, as the front cover is partially (and the back cover completely) detached, and the leather spine is deteriorating in the form of red rot. However, the pages of the book appear well-bound and the content therein well-kept. The archivists at Parnassus will send the book to a conservator in the Bay area who will then determine the best method of restoration. The restored text should be available at the UCSF Archives and Special Collections in the next couple of months.

This post was written by Sara Robertson, PhD student, History of Health Sciences, UCSF.

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Nervous Materialities: Love Robots, Pacified Bulls, Stimoceivers and Spinoza’s Brain

We are delighted to announce our next speaker for the Culpeper Seminar Series, Professor Matthew Wolf Meyer from the University of California, Santa Cruz, on Wednesday, February 19th 2014 from 3:30 – 5:00 pm at the Laurel Heights campus in Conference Room 474.

Matthew Wolf Meyer

Matthew Wolf Meyer

Abstract: Neuroscience has often entertained competing models of the human that have privileged Cartesian conceptions of the self and those which have been more materialist, or Spinozist, in their leanings. This is most apparent in the parallel trends of psychoanalytically-inspired models of neuroscience in the midcentury and those that embraced mechanistic models of the human nervous system, which reach their apotheosis in lobotomy, electro-convulstant therapy and stimoceivers. These materialist approaches to treating the brain’s pathologies have largely been discredited, disavowed or, at the least, fallen from prominence as panaceas. But they are returning to the neuroscientific mainstream, facilitated by a new materialism in neuroscience, which has intensified over the last 20 years and which takes as its therapeutic object parts of the brain which are seen as controlling behaviors, desires, and drives. Drawing on fieldwork with neuroscientists, educators, and activists, in this talk I examine the work of contemporary and historical neuroscientists through a set of experiments from the 20th and 21st centuries, their conceptions of the nervous system and its relationship to the individual and society, and the ethical implications of a new neuroscientific materialism, particularly in relation to discussions of neurotypicality, neurodiversity and the category of the human.

All are welcome and there is no need to register.

February 19, 2014
3:30 – 5:00 pm
Laurel Heights campus, Conference Room 474.

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Filed under Anthropology, History of Medicine, Neuroscience

Painful Medicine: Treating Addiction in a Time of War

The next Culpeper Seminar Series lecture is next Wednesday, January 22, 2014 from 3:30 – 5:00 pm in the Laurel Heights Conference Room 474.
Dr Angela Garcia,

Dr Angela Garcia

Dr Angela Garcia

Assistant Professor Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, will give a seminar titled “Painful Medicine: Treating Addiction in a Time of War”.
Over the last decade, there has been a sharp increase in drug addictions in Mexico, especially among the urban poor. During the same period, private, unregulated residential treatment centers for substance abuse, known as anexos, have proliferated throughout the country. These centers are utilized and run by Mexico’s poor and are widely known to engage in coercion and violence. Based on three years of ethnographic research, this talk provides an intimate look at anexos and their patients. It argues that pervasive conditions of violence and instability in Mexico has propelled anexos’ spread and has shaped its practices of therapeutic violence. By looking at the intersection of the drug war and the parallel growth of this informal therapeutic movement, this talk draws attention to the dynamic relationship between ‘violence’ and ‘recovery,’ ‘pain’ and ‘healing,’ and highlights how they are imagined and experienced together. This talk also addresses recent scholarship regarding the ethical dilemmas that are raised in working in such a setting.

January 22, 2014
3:30 – 5:00 pm
Laurel Heights Conference Room 474.
All are welcome to attend.

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