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Medical Anthropology

Siri Suh
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Senegal between 2010 and 2011, I demonstrate how health professionals have deployed indicators such as number of women and abortion type treated in government hospitals to demonstrate commitment to global mandates on reproductive rights. These indicators obscure discrimination against women suspected of illegal abortion as health workers negotiate obstetric treatment with the abortion law. By measuring hospitals' capacity to keep women with abortion complications alive, post-abortion care (PAC) indicators have normalized survival as a state of reproductive well-being...
August 13, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Amy Dao, Juliet McMullin
Unintentional injury prevention research focuses on parental supervision as critical to reducing toddler injury. We examine how the promotion of childproofing-as a mode of supervision-sells mothers "peace of mind" while also increasing "intensive mothering" and the "privatization of risk." Drawing on the childproofing literature and meaning centered interviews with mothers of toddlers and childproofing business owners, we argue that the connection made by these groups between childproofing and "good parenting" ultimately obscures how this form of harm reduction economically and socially individualizes responsibility for child care...
August 6, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Sabina Stan, Valentin-Veron Toma
Neoliberal reforms in health care are an accumulation by dispossession. In examining this in Romania, we show that neoliberal reforms led to an uneven landscape of public and private care. We document how patients variously situated in Romanian society respond to this situation, and demonstrate the instability of their strategies-restraining from formal care, lifting-off from public care and hooking-up to private care. Public-private biomedical pluralism proves to be detrimental to vulnerable and better-off patients alike...
August 6, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Junbin Tan
Based on research at a dementia day-care center in Singapore, I discuss how embodied care relations proceed amidst cultural expectations on aging, dementia, and care work. Engaging with approaches that conceptualize "care" as either empathy or control, I argue that care between older people with dementia, their families, and care workers can be understood as a reiterative, dialogic process whereby care participants strive to keep pace with each other, however briefly, due to cognitive decline, care workers' own limitations, and particular family difficulties...
August 1, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Cristina A Pop
Drawing from interviews and life histories, I consider the singular reproductive trajectories of women who fought infertility during the enforced pronatalist policies of the late communist era in Romania. I aim to explore the role of fine-grained ethnography in revealing both the localized mechanisms of reproductive governance and the diverse subjectivities produced by citizens' encounters with biopower. I argue that, through an analysis of these ethnographic cases, we can further conceptualize reproductive vulnerability as an intersubjective notion...
August 1, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Alice G Mitchell, Suzanne Belton, Vanessa Johnston, Wopurruwuy Gondarra, Anna P Ralph
High rates of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Australia predominate in young Aboriginal people highlighting underlying racial and equity issues.  This article focuses on the perceptions of the disease among young Aboriginal people living in remote Australia. Participant understanding was constrained by clinicians' use of language rooted in biomedicine and delivered through English, a second language for all participants. Clinicians' communicative competency is a social determinant of Aboriginal health...
August 1, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Meike Wolf, Kevin Hall
Biopreparedness exercises are commonly depicted as indispensable means to enable people to respond to outbreaks of highly pathogenic infectious diseases. In this article, based on a 4-year multisited ethnography conducted in Frankfurt and London, we argue that exercises mobilize past and present events in a continuous rehearsal for the implementation and stabilization of emergency infrastructures. While relying on the embodied knowledge and the body techniques of its participants, these infrastructures necessitate continuous attention, investment, and training...
July 20, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Amy Nichols-Belo
At the center of conflict between the state and traditional healers (waganga wa kienyeji) over the meanings of traditional healing in contemporary Tanzania are debates about what constitutes knowledge, the production of knowledge, and the legitimacy of "traditional" ways of knowing. Drawing on media analysis and ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2004 and 2016, I describe how healers locate their knowledge in experience, ancestors, and spirits, while the state imagines a future where traditional healers are formally educated and practice in white uniforms...
July 20, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Alex Nading, Lucy Lowe
In this article, we draw on two cases-one of the reproductive justice movements in the wake of the Latin American Zika epidemic, and one of an environmental justice movements spurred by an epidemic of chronic kidney disease among sugarcane workers-to argue for social justice as an "elastic" technology of epidemic control. In its compressed form, social justice simply refers to the fair distribution of medical goods. In its expanded form, it emphasizes the recognition and representation not just of medical problems, but of entangled histories of racial, gendered, and economic inequity...
July 13, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Bridget Bradley, Stefan Ecks
Trichotillomania (hair pulling) remains a relatively unknown form of body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB). Sufferers tend to conceal both the action and its effects from others because of stigmatization, which is strong in both public and domestic spheres. Negative responses from close family members can add significantly to the suffering. Based on fieldwork in the United Kingdom and United States, we explore how hair pulling troubles ties even among close family members. We show why ethnographic methods reveal impacts of hair pulling that structured assessments do not yet capture and argue for a more nuanced study of BFRBs through anthropologies of relatedness...
July 12, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Joanna Mishtal
Reproductive rights struggles have continued to dominate public debates in Poland since the political resurgence of the Catholic church in 1989. In 2015, the state passed a landmark "In Vitro Policy" to regulate assisted reproductive technologies. Its religiously based compromises may jeopardize other reproductive rights. I argue that the new policy negotiations demonstrate how versions of competing human rights claims are central to reproductive governance and struggles in the new Polish "ethical order...
July 11, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Elyse Ona Singer
I analyze the alternative tactics and logics of Las Fuertes, a feminist organization that has taken an "alegal" approach to realizing the human right to abortion in the conservative Mexican state of Guanajuato. Since a series of United Nations agreements throughout the 1990s enshrined reproductive rights as universal human rights, Mexican feminists have adopted the human rights platform as a lobbying tool to pressure the government to reform restrictive abortion laws. This strategy bore fruit in Mexico City, with passage of the historic 2007 abortion legalization...
June 20, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Jaroslav Klepal, Tereza Stöckelová
Drawing on fieldwork in the postsocialist Czech Republic, we explore the transformative processes of biomedicalization, both within and in relation to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). We argue that it would be simplistic to understand evidence of these processes in CAM as a sign that CAM has fallen prey to biomedicine. Instead, we show how particular CAM practices play a groundbreaking role in shaping developments in contemporary health care. In this respect, we question the utility of the concept of biomedicalization, arguing that it reduces the transformative processes to aspects of biomedicine...
June 20, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Hannah S Bell, Funmi Odumosu, Anna C Martinez-Hume, Heather A Howard, Linda M Hunt
Racial/ethnic identity is contingent and arbitrary, yet it is commonly used to evaluate disease risk and treatment response. Drawing on open-ended interviews with patients and clinicians in two US clinics, we explore how racialized risk is conceptualized and how it impacts patient care and experience. We found that racial/ethnic risk was a common but poorly defined construct for both patients and clinicians, who intermingled concepts of genetics, biology, behavior, and culture, while disregarding historical or structural context...
June 18, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Iben M Gjødsbøl, Mette N Svendsen
How do time and personhood become related when dementia sets in? This article brings together ethnographies from a memory clinic and a dementia nursing home in Copenhagen, Denmark, pursuing how personhood and time become intertwined across early and late-stage dementia. In the memory clinic, the dementia diagnosis is enacted and experienced simultaneously as an indispensable prophecy of discontinuity of personhood and life for the patients, and as a prognosis that renders the future indeterminate and open to intervention...
May 15, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Sebastian J Moser
The increase of dementia makes cognitive disorder a global challenge. Even if wandering is not a symptom of dementia in general, professionals and scientists dominate the definition of wandering as an aimless movement of people with cognitive impairment, mainly dementia. In consequence, professional types of wandering management were elaborated trying to avoid or replace it. However, this can cause negative effects. The article analyses an apparently common informal type of wandering management. It consists of slipping an address paper in the wallet of the ill person...
May 14, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Justin Dixon, Michèle Tameris
During ethnographic research at a tuberculosis vaccine trial site in South Africa, trial participants often evoked the idiom of "clean blood." In this article, we illustrate how the trials enacted a form of moral triage in which "objective" bioscientific knowledge and moral subjectivity were coproduced. Participation created possibilities to demonstrate healthiness, respectability, and godliness in a context where positive self-imaginings were hard won, but could also lead to dejection and shame...
May 10, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Lotte Buch Segal
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Denmark, primarily among Iraqi women and secondarily among Iraqi men who are either direct or indirect victims of torture, I explore how the memories of torture are distributed in the everyday lives of Danish families originating from Iraq. I argue that torture is folded into kin histories and the everyday work of bearing and resisting painful memories. Consequently, torture affects not only the mental and physical health of the singular survivor, but also the entire texture of kin relatedness around him or her, to the extent that kinship normativity may be disrupted...
May 10, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Ben Belek
Drawing on ethnographic evidence from several communities of autistic adults in the UK, I explore the crucial role of the body and the senses in the enactment of autistic subjectivities. Following their initiation into autism-related social groups, members begin using such concepts as triggers, overload, shutdown, and meltdown to refer to their bodily experiences of distress. They then face the task of investing these ambiguous concepts with meaning, through nurturing an increased awareness to their body's relationship with its material surrounding...
May 4, 2018: Medical Anthropology
Chris Lyttleton
Global health security is increasingly reliant on vigilance to provide early warning of transnational health threats. In theory, this approach requires that sentinels, based in communities most affected by new or reemerging infectious diseases, deliver timely alerts of incipient risk. Medicalizing global safety also implies there are particular forms of insecurity that must be remedied to preempt disease spread. I examine vigilance in the context of spreading drug-resistant malaria in Southeast Asian border zones and argue that to act as sentinels, marginal groups vulnerable to infection must be able to articulate what social and behavioral factors prompt proliferating disease risks...
May 2018: Medical Anthropology
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