Archive for Medical Anthropology

Episode 23 Psychiatric Culture Clashes with Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster

Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster (photo courtesy of Dr. Reyes-Foster)

Medical Anthropologist Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster returns, this time to discuss her experiences researching a psychiatric hospital in Mexico, looking at how culture shapes the diagnoses, care, and outcomes of mental illness.

How is mental illness cultural? Medical Anthropologists have long demonstrated how a phenomenon categorized as a disorder, like schizophrenia, is understood and experienced very differently from culture to culture. How the illness is viewed in society, what support structures are available, and which ideologies dominate, such as individuality or the importance of family, all play roles in how a person with illness is treated. When these circumstances are situated in a location where the history of colonialism continues to dominate the lives and identities of indigenous patients, what is often narrowly defined as mental health becomes an issue of national economic, race, and identity systems.

Dr. Reyes-Foster documents how staff at a mental hospital in the Yucatan in Mexico struggle to be human in inhumane conditions, which are set from on high at a governmental level, the results of contemporary politics and the long-standing impacts of colonialism.

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Episode 12 Friendship Beyond Dementia – the Anthropology of Aging with Dr. Janelle Taylor

Dr. Janelle Taylor (Photo courtesy of Dr. Taylor)

Dementia changes not only memory but identity and social roles, as well. As the fabric of who we are changes shape, our culturally-inscribed ideas about aging, personhood, and health can influence whether we experience aging as crisis or whether we develop new aspects of ourselves.

Medical Anthropologist Dr. Janelle Taylor, a professor of anthropology at University of Washington, explores aging as a cultural phenomenon, made easier or harder depending on our expectations of friends and families and our beliefs about what makes us a person. In particular, Dr. Taylor researches how successful friendships adapt in the face of dementia and why those relationships are crucial to patients and their family caregivers.
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Episode 2 Breast Milk Sharing and “Good” Mommies with Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster

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Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster Assistant Professor, Socio-Cultural Anthropology University of Central Florida

Human breast milk has become a hot commodity in the U.S., and parents have become creative in networking among moms who have milk to spare. Yet health officials, who continue to promote the standard that “breast is best”, are characterizing informal milk sharing as dangerous and risky; a depiction based not in fact but in assumption and a desire to control the circulation of this “liquid gold”.

In this episode, I talk to medical anthropologist Beatriz Reyes-Foster, a professor at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Reyes-Foster explains the new forms milk sharing is taking today, how “peer breast milk sharing” is rooted in a lack of support for new parents, and why we need to pay careful attention to the moralities hidden in how milk, moms, donors, and sharing practices are being discussed by health professionals.
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Episode 1 Anthropology Beyond Indiana Jones with Dr. Angela Jenks

Dr. Angela Jenks, Asst. Teaching Professor at UC Irvine (photo courtesy of Angela Jenks)

From Indiana Jones to Bones to that graduate student kidnapped by pirates on Archer, there are many different representations of anthropology in pop culture, but what do real anthropologists do?

Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. Which means that anthropologists study pretty much everything, including politics, art, medicine, religion, and our relationship with the environment. Some anthropologists take us into communities that are intensely different—ones we may not even know exist—and help us understand them from the inside. Other anthropologists use those same methods to get us to question the familiar—what feels normal to us, and why doesn’t it feel the same way to others?

In this first episode of The Anthropologist on the Street podcast, I have invited Dr. Angela Jenks to explain what anthropology is and why it is important. Dr. Jenks is an anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, a recipient of an award for excellence in teaching, and the first Teaching “Scholar-in-Residence” for the prestigious journal Cultural Anthropology. She talks to us about humanity, culture, and the paradox of being an American and an anthropologist, where we collectively share a culture of individuality.
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