Bonnie Kaiser and I organized a set of two sessions on the intersection between anthropology and global mental health at the upcoming AAA meeting in Washington, DC. Both will take place Saturday, December 2. The first focuses on how engagement with global health can advance psychological anthropology theory. The second session addresses the converse: how can anthropology make applied contributions to global mental health? We have a fantastic group of speakers lined up, and Dr. Anne Becker (Harvard) and Dr. Peter Brown (Emory) will serve as our discussants.
Bonnie Kaiser and I will be giving a workshop at the upcoming American Anthropological Association meeting (Nov 29-Dec 3, Washington, DC) on using ethnographic methods to develop locally relevant measurement tools. The workshop, co-sponsored by the Society for Medical Anthropology and the Society for Psychological Anthropology, is geared toward those interested in developing novel tools to measure subjective experiences such as mental health/wellbeing, daily function, or satisfaction with a particular realm of life. The possibilities are endless, really, but we will be drawing on our own work developing mental health measurement tools in India and Haiti to provide examples.
Date: Friday, Dec 1
Location: Marriott, Park Tower 8210, Washington, DC
Doctoral student Nikki Henderson, our two unbeatable research assistants Rosely and Regina Pinto, and I completed a very successful season of field research on my food insecurity and mental health project in rural Pará, Brazil. This is the second year of the three-year project.
2017 AAA Leadership Fellows Offer Diverse Perspectives Across Anthropology
See UA's coverage of the program here.
Katie Kirakosian, Lesley Jo Weaver, and Diana Marsh have been named the 2017 American Anthropological Association (AAA) Leadership Fellows. The AAA’s Leadership Fellows program is designed to provide a unique opportunity for anthropologists beginning their careers to learn about leadership opportunities and to encourage future leadership in the Association. The wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds shared by this year’s Fellows promise to bring exciting new perspectives to Association leadership.
Trained archaeologist Katie Kirakosian is drawn to service opportunities that allow her to have a clear and lasting impact on the future of anthropology. Kirakosian is currently an adjunct lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she completed her PhD in 2014. Kirakosian sits on the board of the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island, co-founded the Society for American Archaeology’s (SAA) Teaching Archaeology Interest Group, and is a coordinating team member for the SAA video project “Archiving the Archaeologists.” Her background in administration and project management will make her a valuable addition to the Leadership Fellows team.
Lesley Jo Weaver is a third-year faculty member in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alabama. As a medical and biocultural anthropologist who graduated with a PhD and MPH from Emory University in 2014, Weaver is particularly interested in engaging with AAA leadership who are working to bring biological and applied anthropologists into the fold. Weaver is currently serving on the Society for Medical Anthropology’s membership committee as well as working on an NSF-funded three year collaborative project comparing the relationships between food security and mental health in Brazil, Ethiopia, and Haiti.
Diana Marsh is a museum anthropologist with a PhD from the University of British Columbia who hopes to apply her four-fields training to AAA leadership opportunities. Marsh recently completed a fellowship with the American Philosophical Society Museum and begins a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the National Anthropological Archives this summer. Her position as a Leadership Fellow will build on her service to the Association as a Council for Museum Anthropology board member.
Each year a group of three to five Leadership Fellows is paired with a mentor chosen from among AAA leadership. Mentors are available to Fellows throughout the year to answer questions related to AAA. Fellows also shadow their mentors at the AAA Annual Meeting. This year’s mentors are Cathy Costin, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge; Pamela Stone, Director, Culture, Brain and Development Program, Hampshire College; and Keri Brondo, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Memphis.
The Fellows will be honored in an award ceremony at the 116th AAA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
The Society for Applied Anthropology's Podcast Project recorded my conference session, co-organized with Bonnie Kaiser (Duke) and Steven Schensul (U of Connecticut)! The session is titled Culture-Bound Illness Syndromes and Idioms of Distress: A Basis for Devising Anthropological Interventions. Give it a listen by clicking on the image below!
For the last several years, I have been guest-editing a special mini-issue of the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly, our discipine's flagship academic journal. The collection of papers was meant to showcase the innovative work that medical anthropologists are doing around comorbidities--that is, the overlap of multiple disease conditions in a single body. I first became interested in this question when I was conducting doctoral research in India on type 2 diabetes among women. As I describe in the introduction to the special issue, it soon became apparent to me that I was not only going to be studying women with diabetes because the disease very rarely occurs alone. Instead, people with diabetes generally also have another condition(s), such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, depression, or others. Grappling with this complexity led me to seek out others' work on the common overlap of diseases. The special issue arose from there. It includes fantastic contributions from high-profile medical anthropologists who work on a range of chronic, infectious, and mental health conditions. I encourage you to check it out!
Accepting new graduate students interested in food insecurity, mental health, and international work
I am hard at work on a 3-site study of the relationships between food insecurity and mental health in Brazil, India, and Haiti. In the upcoming academic year, I am seeking a new Master's and/or Doctoral student for the University of Alabama's program in biocultural medical anthropology with interests in nutritional anthropology, mental health, global health, and chronic diseases who as part of their training will have the opportunity to assist with data collection on this project in Brazil. Some familiarity with Brazilian Portuguese is a must! Please visit our department's website to learn more about our graduate programs in anthropology and the application process.
My recent article Transactions in Suffering: Mothers, Daughters, and Chronic Disease Comorbidities in New Delhi, India, has been published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In brief, this article addresses how mothers with type 2 diabetes and associated comorbidities (in the two case studies presented in the article, these include depression, hypertension, sleep apnea, and obesity) negotiate everyday life with their teenaged or adult daughters. Drawing on Veena Das's work that explores the routinization of suffering in everyday life, this article pays particular attention to the contrasting ways in which the mothers and daughters understand, explain, and respond to diabetes suffering.
This article will be part of the special issue I am guest editing for Medical Anthropology Quarterly on the anthropology of comorbidity. The special issue should be published by the end of the calendar year and includes contributions from Lenore Manderson and Narelle Warren, Emily Mendenhall, Brandon Kohrt and Christine Bourey, Mark Nichter, and Merrill Singer.
My new publication with coauthor Dr. S.V Madhu in American Journal of Public Health looks at anxiety symptoms among women with type 2 diabetes in North India. This is important because a lot of attention has been given to mental health among people with chronic diseases, but "mental health" almost invariably means "depression." Very few researchers have looked at anxiety as a potential problem among people with chronic diseases. This paper is one of the first studies to do so. Here is the abstract:
Type 2 Diabetes and Anxiety Symptoms Among Women in New Delhi, India.Weaver LJ1, Madhu SV1.
AbstractOBJECTIVES: We explored the relationship between mental health and type 2 diabetes among women in New Delhi, India, in 2011.
METHODS: We recruited a convenience sample of 184 diabetic women from 10 public and private clinics. They completed a finger-stick blood test and a questionnaire assessing demographic characteristics, depression and anxiety symptoms, and diabetes-related disabilities restricting their performance of daily tasks. A subsample of 30 women participated in follow-up qualitative interviews at their homes.
RESULTS: More than one quarter of our sample of diabetic women reported high levels of anxiety symptoms, whereas 18% reported high levels of depression symptoms. Anxiety symptoms were patterned according to recency of diabetes diagnosis, with 40% of women diagnosed less than 2 years before their interview reporting high anxiety symptom levels, as opposed to 23% of women diagnosed more than 2 years in the past. Depression and anxiety scores differed with respect to their relationship to recency of diagnosis, number of children, blood glucose level, and functional disabilities restricting performance of daily tasks.
CONCLUSIONS: Screening for anxiety among people with diabetes has been overlooked in the past. Anxiety appears more prevalent than depression, especially during the first 2 years of the disease.
Dr. Jo Weaver is a medical anthropologist who specializes in the study of chronic diseases, mental health, and nutrition in India and Brazil.