Summer Roundup: The Ethnographic Case, Part 1

In June, we debuted an extensive new series on Somatosphere, The Ethnographic Case. Edited by Emily Yates-Doerr and Christine Labuski, the series is organized on an expanding, virtual bookCASE, with each individual piece expanding our understanding of case studies — what they are, what they can teach us, and what work they do shaping both our objects of …


Annemarie Jutel’s Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society

31mSK7WRhXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society

by Annemarie Jutel

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. 175 pages.


When we treat diagnosis as simply a medical issue, we mask the tremendous social power involved in putting a name to human suffering. When we transform phenomenological experiences into discrete labels and then treat those labels as reality, we cram …


Diagnostics for Development

Having been left in the long grass for several years while donors, activists, governments and public health experts focused on the question of access to vital medicines, the issue of diagnosis is today at the very top of the global health agenda. The rise of diagnosis as a global health issue has tracked its reformulation into a question of access …



While training in psychiatry, I frequently heard mental-health practitioners refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as our profession’s “diagnostic bible.”  The DSM, of course, is the text produced by a cabal of psychiatric experts that defines the parameters of mental illness and, by extension, mental health.  It textually conveys the now commonplace assumption that psychiatry works through systems …


Making up “persons” in personalized medicine with metabolomics

Imagine a world where you can walk into a hospital, submit a urine and blood sample, and be told 20 minutes later that you not only have a particular type of ear infection, but also a 50% chance of developing diabetes in the next ten years.  Such is the promise of “personalized medicine,” in which the development of molecular diagnostics …