Those of you looking for yet more summer reading material in medical anthropology are in luck: the Annual Review of Anthropology has just released a number of articles from the forthcoming 2009 issue online in advance of its print publication in October. These include several reviews focused on issues of medicine and health. In fact, it look like this issue will have a sizable cluster of medicine-related reviews.
Here are the titles of four which are already available in their entirety, along with their abstracts:
Symptom: Subjectivities, Social Ills, Technologies, João Biehl and Amy Moran-Thomas
In the domain of health, not only are the raw effects of economic, social, and medical inequalities continually devastating, but novel processes of reconfiguring illness experience, subjectivity, and control are also underway. Human relationships to medical technology are increasingly constituted outside the clinical encounter. In this article we explore how the domestic encroachment of medical commodities affects social bonds in both affluent and resource-poor contexts, as well as how these commodities become interwoven in the very fabric of symptoms and identities. Symptoms are more than contingent matters; they are, at times, a necessary condition for the afflicted to articulate a new relationship to the world and to others. In exploring how people conceptualize technological self-care, we are specifically concerned with disciplinary modes of evidence making and ask, what are the possibilities and limitations of theoretical frameworks (such as structural violence, biopower, social suffering, and psychoanalysis) through which these conceptions are being analyzed in contemporary anthropological scholarship? What can the unique capacities of ethnography add to the task of capturing the active embroilment of reason, life, and ethics as human conditions are shaped and lost? The intellectual survival of anthropological theory, we argue, might well be connected to people’s own resilience and bodily struggles for realities to come.
Anthropology and Global Health, Craig R. Janes and Kitty K. Corbett
This article addresses anthropology’s engagement with the emerging discipline of global health. We develop a definition for global health and then present four principal contributions of anthropology to global health: (a) ethnographic studies of health inequities in political and economic contexts; (b) analysis of the impact on local worlds of the assemblages of science and technology that circulate globally; (c) interrogation, analysis, and critique of international health programs and policies; and (d) analysis of the health consequences of the reconfiguration of the social relations of international health development.
This review focuses on several human population health research topics that exemplify interdisciplinary concepts and approaches from anthropology, nutrition, and public health with an emphasis on applied or translational global health implications. First, a recent study on neonatal survival in a resource-poor region emphasizes how health can be markedly improved with detailed translation and implementation of evidence from all three disciplines. Second, schistosomiasis, a parasitic worm infection, is reviewed with an emphasis on developing a consensus of its nutritional health burdens and the next translational research steps needed to improve control of both infection transmission and disease. Last, the author’s long-term Samoan nutrition and health studies are described with a focus on new translational research to improve diabetes. This selective review attempts to provide a rationale for the intersections of anthropology, nutrition, and public health to proceed with fundamental biological, cultural, and behavioral research to reduce health inequalities globally and domestically.
Medical Discourse, James M. Wilce
Discourse plays an important role in medicine, and medical discourse in the broadest sense (discourse in and about healing, curing, or therapy; expressions of suffering; and relevant language ideologies) has profound anthropological significance. As modes of social action, writing and speaking help constitute medical institutions, curative practices, and relations of authority in and beyond particular healing encounters. This review describes cultural variation in medical discourse and variation across genres and registers. It then surveys two approaches to analyzing medical discourse: conversation analysis (CA) and discourse studies echoing Foucault’s work, attempting to spur dialogue between them. Such dialogue could be fruitful because, despite hesitancy to invoke macrosocial variables, conversation analysts as well as Foucaultian discourse analysts have reflected on medical authority. Finally, the article reviews recent attempts to contextualize closely analyzed interactions—written exchanges as well as face-to-face clinical encounters—vis-a-vis the global circulation of linguistic forms and ideologies.
There are a number of additional medically-themed reviews which are not yet available, but will be part of the 2009 volume. These include a review on “Tobacco” by Matthew Kohrman and one on “Anthropology and HIV Prevention” by Janet W. McGrath.