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Medical Anthropology Quarterly

Jenna Murray de López
In this article, I discuss a case study from southeast Mexico that highlights conflicting ideas regarding what constitutes risk and illness in the context of breastfeeding and postpartum practices. On the one hand, doctors' indeterminate and conflicting diagnoses about mother's milk as a source of pollution is revealed as an act of moral pathology that frames young mothers as high risk. On the other hand, milk pollution is understood by women as an unwelcome yet temporary interruption that can be remedied through non-allopathic intervention...
March 1, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Jess Marie Newman
In Morocco, where extramarital sex and abortion are illegal, single mothers' ambiguous status before the law inflects medical decision-making. Leaky boundaries between the court and the hospital required doctors and administrators to work with multiple forms of documentation while anticipating external surveillance. Gaps between everyday experience and legalized forms of identity created confusion across multiple institutions. When discussing single mothers, hospital staff often spoke of "question marks" that flagged tensions between legibility and liability, disappearance and documentation...
February 28, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Carrie Friese, Joanna Latimer
Drawing on collaborative ethnographic fieldwork, this article explores how human health becomes entangled with that of model organisms in day-to-day biomedical science. Social science scholarship on modeling has explored either how specific models impact and shape our knowledge of human disease or how animal technicians and scientists affect laboratory animals. This article extends this relational approach by asking how embodied and institutional care practices for model organisms affect the health and well-being of animal technicians and scientists...
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Hannah Brown, Alex M Nading
This introductory article maps out the parameters of an emerging field of medical anthropology, human animal health, and its potential for reorienting the discipline. Ethnographic explorations of how animals are implicated in health, well-being, and pathogenicity allow us to revisit theorizations of central topics in medical anthropology, notably ecology, biopolitics, and care. Meanwhile, the conditions of the Anthropocene force us to develop new tools to think about human animal entanglement. Anthropogenic change reorients debates around health and disease, but it also requires us to move beyond what some consider the traditional boundaries of the discipline...
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Agustin Fuentes
Medical anthropology, given its diversity of practical and historical entanglements with (and outside of) numerous threads of anthropology, is a key site for productive theoretical and methodological confluences in the Anthropocene. Multispecies approaches, ethnographically, theoretically and methodologically, are developing as central locations for the hybridization and mingling of diverse and innovative research questions, particularly those engaging the processes, patterns, and constructs of health.
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Genese Marie Sodikoff
Zoonosis calls for a multispecies approach to medical semiotics, a method involving the decipherment of outward symptoms and the construction of narrative. In Madagascar, early detection of bubonic plague outbreaks relies on sightings of sick and dead rats. However, people most vulnerable to plague often do not perceive warning signs, and plague symptoms do not always present in rat and human bodies. In August 2015, a plague outbreak killed 10 residents of a rural hamlet in the central highlands. To reconstruct the transmission chain, scientists elicited survivors' memories of dead rats in the vicinity...
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Alex Blanchette
In the 1930s, erosion caused storms of dust to hurtle across the American Great Plains and Midwest. While agricultural conservation methods helped remediate this landscape, recent studies suggest the region is contending with a new type of particle cloud: desiccated fecal dust that renders the vitalities of factory farms airborne, potentially exposing those in their surrounds to various forms of illness while spreading antibiotic resistance genes. Thinking alongside these findings, and based on research within corporate hog farms, this article develops an ethnography of excrement by tracing the practices and knowledge of people who live and labor in proximity to late industrial lifeforms, such as confined pigs and resistance genes, and who are tasked with intimately shaping this unruly waste that has the potential to affect broader populations...
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Samantha Hurn, Alexander Badman-King
Palliative care is routinely offered to humans in the United Kingdom, while euthanasia remains illegal. The converse is true for nonhuman animals (henceforth animals). Indeed, euthanasia is widely accepted as the appropriate course of action for "suffering" animals, and for those whose behaviors or suspected ill health are thought to pose a threat to others. This article details examples of nonhuman death at a multi-faith ashram whose members vehemently oppose all forms of killing on religious grounds...
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Lesley A Sharp
Human-animal interdependencies define longstanding concerns for anthropologists. Within this vast terrain, medical anthropologists claim rights to a significant portion, marked most notably, perhaps, by our sustained attention to nonhuman species as pathogens, vectors, and reservoirs of disease. Our discipline, nevertheless, has been slow to engage with contemporary theorizing about interspecies entanglements, a deficit this volume's collection seeks to rectify. As I argue below, this collection opens up new domains of study, analysis, and understanding, where an especially important intervention involves enfolding interspecies sensibilities within praxes of care...
February 27, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Tomas Matza
Experimental design and metrics have become increasingly common in international assistance, as donor agencies have demanded rigorous forms of evaluation and monitoring. This article contributes to debates about the effects of an "evidence-based turn" on interventions and recipients by exploring two questions: What constitutes evidence when it comes to everyday practices of aid at global scales? How are the goals of assistance affected? The article draws on collaborative research with an NGO and a group of social scientists who seek to improve child well-being in El Salvador...
February 15, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Yael Hashiloni-Dolev, Ori Katz
This article examines Israeli discourse on posthumous reproduction (PR) and the related cultural construction of "(un)natural" grief. Based mainly on an analysis of in-depth interviews with family members who submitted a request for PR, we examine the regimes of justification used by supporters and opponents of this technology. With both sides using the notion of "nature" to support their claim, the dispute centers on whether PR constructs a new social expression of grief (and hence should be seen as unnatural) or is only a reflection of an age-old grieving process (and is thus natural)...
February 8, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Ian Whitmarsh
Modern techniques of caring for the self through staying healthy rely on an ethic of choice, often evoking critiques of the (neo)liberal subject. This sense of choice has carried frequently overlooked Protestant commitments from Luther to Kant and Locke to 19th-century American health reformers, premised on a refusal of ritual, mysticism, and the priest as the source of truth. This article explores how these implicit commitments shape the relation to other religious traditions in countries like Trinidad. Campaigns against chronic disease in Trinidad carried out in public health venues and churches echo multinational health projects in pronouncing, "We all want a healthy life...
January 23, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Julie Armin
Public programs such as Medicaid offer highly circumscribed access to health care for low-income patients in the United States. This article describes the work of a variety of health care staff who manage specialized cancer care for publicly insured patients who have difficulty gaining or maintaining program eligibility or for uninsured and undocumented patients who are excluded from state programs. I highlight the moral distress that occurs when clinic employees become individually responsible for reconciling policies that limit patients' access to care...
January 22, 2019: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Sarah Lamb
This article examines U.S. endeavors to eradicate old age. Drawing on research with older, mostly white, Americans across social classes, I probe how older people engage in "healthy," "successful" aging as a moral project, health identity, and way of approaching the life course. Moving beyond influential literature on biopolitics and biomedicine that tends to treat medicine, science, and biopolitical governance as overdetermined causal forces, I explore instead how a confluence of factors-including cultural ideologies of personhood and independence, medical interventions, social hierarchies, and individual experiences-together lead to the stigmatization of oldness...
December 21, 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Ugo Felicia Edu
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among black women, medical personnel, and activists in Brazil, this article highlights the implications of hierarchical medicalization. I show that the prioritization of particular forms of medicalized contraception for women located differentially in society enables different relations, political positions, and mobility. Denial of a tubal ligation in favor of modern reversible contraceptives, in a context of inequitable distribution, can perpetuate social stratification. This work contributes to literature exploring the complexity of medicalization and its relationship with society via reproduction...
December 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Mara Buchbinder
This article draws on ethnographic research on the implementation of Vermont's 2013 medical aid-in-dying (AID) law to explore a fundamental paradox: While public discourse characterizes AID as a mechanism for achieving an individually controlled autonomous death, the medico-legal framework that organizes it enlists social support and cultivates dependencies. Therefore, while patients pursuing AID may avoid certain types of dependency-such as those involved in bodily care-the process requires them to affirm and strengthen other bureaucratic, material, and affective forms...
December 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Eric Plemons
Since 2014, public and private insurance coverage for transgender Americans' surgical care has increased exponentially. Training clinicians and equipping institutions to meet the surge in demand has not been as rapid. Through ethnographic research at a surgical workshop focused on trans- genital reconstruction and in a U.S. hospital working to grow its transgender health program, this article shows that effects of the decades-long insurance exclusion of trans- surgery are not easily remedied through the recent event of its inclusion because patient access is not the only thing that has been restricted by coverage denial...
November 8, 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Mark D Fleming, Janet K Shim, Irene Yen, Meredith Van Natta, Christoph Hanssmann, Nancy J Burke
Hospitals throughout the United States are implementing new forms of care delivery meant to address social needs for structurally vulnerable patients as a strategy to prevent emergency department visits and hospitalizations and to thereby reduce costs. This article examines how the deployment of social assistance within a neoliberal institutional logic involves the negotiation and alignment of economistic values with ethics of care. We focus on care practices meant to stabilize the socioeconomic conditions of the most expensive patients in the health care system-the "super-utilizers"-through the provisioning of basic resources such as housing, food, transportation, and social support...
October 6, 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Susan L Erikson
Evidence from Sierra Leone reveals the significant limitations of big data in disease detection and containment efforts. Early in the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, media heralded HealthMap's ability to detect the outbreak from newsfeeds. Later, big data-specifically, call detail record data collected from millions of cell phones-was hyped as useful for stopping the disease by tracking contagious people. It did not work. In this article, I trace the causes of big data's containment failures. During epidemics, big data experiments can have opportunity costs: namely, forestalling urgent response...
September 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Natali Valdez
The rapidly shifting field of epigenetics has expanded scientific understanding of how environmental conditions affect gene expression and development. This article focuses on two ongoing clinical trials-one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom-that have used epigenetics as the conceptual basis for testing the relationship between nutrition and obesity during pregnancy. Drawing on ethnographic research, I highlight the different ways that clinical scientists interpret epigenetics to target particular domains of the environment for prenatal intervention...
September 2018: Medical Anthropology Quarterly
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