Past Events

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Some of our events have been video-recorded; those event titles are blue hyperlinks below. To see the complete list, visit our video page.

Summer/Fall 2020

Wednesday-Friday, July 22-24

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine is pleased to co-sponsor:

Encuentro Internacional COVID-19: Salud colectiva y pandemia

Un esfuerzo conjunto de organizaciones sociales y universidades para generar un espacio de pensamiento colectivo que formule un programa de acción en red. Un proyecto transdisciplinario e intercultural que surge de la respuesta conjunta y creativa a las siguientes preguntas:

  • ¿Cómo explica el carácter y magnitud de la pandemia y su inequitativa distribución territorial, clasista, étnica y por género?
  • ¿Cómo describe las políticas, estrategias y acciones concretas del Estado -nacional y seccional-, del sector privado y de los organismos de cooperación técnica internacional frente a la pandemia y sus impactos epidemiológicos, sociales y laborales en sus países?
  • ¿Cuál es la visión estratégica, organizativa y de acción que su organización/universidad propone frente a la crisis y la lucha por una salida justa y equitativa?

Para descargar el programa de esta actividad, presione aquí.

For more information contact Doris Guilcamaigua,

Sponsored by: Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar, Ecuador

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Tuesday October 13 | 5:00pm - 6:30pm

Redefining Health Policy in 2020 and Beyond: Racism, Social Movements, and Well-Being

Jamila K. Taylor, PhD, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation. Dr. Taylor's slides from the event are available here.

Janene Yazzie, Co-founder and CEO of Sixth World Solutions

Mari Lopez, Organizer, National Nurses United / California Nurses Association

The Covid19 pandemic has revealed racism as the public health crisis facing the United States. Health disparities are also shaped by employment, immigration, housing, land use, and many other systemic issues and institutions. The United States government’s response has largely been reactive; this event is an opportunity to focus on redefining health policy in ways that go beyond debates about testing or restaurant re-opening. Drawing on their experience of working for change at the grassroots, three  visionary leaders will engage in a conversation about health policy that would encompass the social and structural changes we need to promote good health.

Sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and National Nurses United / California Nurses Association

Friday, November 6 | 12:00pm - 1:30pm PT

CA Latinxs, COVID-19 & Pandemics: Making Vulnerability of "Essential Workers" Visible

Kurt Organista

Hector Rodriguez

Alein Haro

Sponsored by Latinx Research Center

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Spring 2020

Monday, February 3 I 12:00-1:30 p.m.

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine is pleased to co-sponsor:

Intersections of Power: Sexual Assault, Public Health, and the Making of Sexual Citizens

Jennifer Hirsch, Professor, Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

Jennifer Hirsch's research spans five intertwined domains: the anthropology of love; gender, sexuality and migration; sexual, reproductive and HIV risk practices; social scientific research on sexual assault and undergraduate well-being, and the intersections between anthropology and public health. She has published articles in journals such as "American Journal of Public Health", "Studies in Family Planning, "AIDS", and "Culture Health and Sexuality". Her books include "A Courtship After Marriage: Sexuality and Love in Mexican Transnational Families" (University of California Press, 2003), which explores changing ideas and practices of love, sexuality and marriage among Mexicans in the U.S. and in Mexico, and the coauthored "The Secret: Love, Marriage and HIV" (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), which analyzes the social organization of extramarital sexual practices in Mexico, Nigeria, Uganda, Vietnam, and Papua-New Guinea and the implications of those practices for married women's HIV risk. Along with Dr. Claude Ann Mellins, Hirsch co-directed the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT), a study supported by Columbia University that examines sexual health and sexual assault among Columbia and Barnard undergraduates. She is the co-author, with sociologist Shamus Khan, of the forthcoming "Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus".

Barrows Hall, Room 820

Sponsored by: Department of Gender and Women's Studies,

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

April 15, 2020  | 4:30 - 6pm PST • 7:30 - 9pm EST

Structural Competency Innovations & Opportunities in the Era of Covid-19

Part 1 : Basic Needs and First Response

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Wednesday, April 22, 2020  | 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. PST • 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. EST

Structural Competency Innovations & Opportunities in the Era of Covid-19

Part 2 : Medically Marginalized Populations

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Friday, May 1 | 4-5pm 
Nancy Krieger, Professor of Social Epidemiology and American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor, Harvard School of Public Health 

Professor Nancy Krieger will engage in conversation with Professors Mahasin Muhajid and Corinne Ridell (UCB) about the impact of racial discrimination, social class and place on the excess disease and death rates from COVID19 among African American and other communities of color.  The session will focus on some of the thorny issues related to collecting and analyzing relevant social data on COVID19; and also on advancing a social justice agenda in addressing racial/ethnic disparities in disease rates.  The conversation will be moderated by Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch, UCB.

Sponsored by UC Berkeley School of Public Health
Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and Othering & Belonging Institute

Wednesday, May 6, 2020  | 8:00 - 9:30 a.m. PST

Structural Competency Innovations & Opportunities in the Era of Covid-19

Part 3 : Global Responses

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Fall 2019

Tuesday, September 17 I 4:00-6:00pm 

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine Colloquia Series:

Against Humanity: Why the Concept Does Violence to the Common Good

Sam Dubal, Visiting Scholar, Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

This talk is not about crimes against humanity. Rather, it is an indictment of ‘humanity’, the concept that lies at the heart of human rights and humanitarian missions. Based on fieldwork in northern Uganda with former rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an insurgent group accused of rape, forced conscription of children, and inhumane acts of violence, I examine how 'humanity' conceptualizes the LRA as a set of problems rather than a set of possibilities, as inhuman enemies needing reform. Humanity hegemonizes what counts as good in ways that are difficult to question or challenge. It relies on very specific notions of the good – shaped in ideals of modern violence, technology, modernity, and reason, among others – in ways that do violence to the common good. What emerges from this ethnography is an unorthodox question – what would it mean to be ‘against humanity’? And how can a particular form of anti-humanism foster alternative, more radical efforts at social change in the realms of humanitarianism, medicine, and politics?

223 Moses Hall, UC Berkeley

Co-sponsored by the Center for African Studies

Friday, October 4 I 12:30-2:00pm 

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine is cosponsoring:

Narkomania: Drugs, HIV, and Citizenship in Ukraine

Jennifer J. Carroll, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Elon University

In the last few years, Ukraine has born witness to the major geopolitical crises of our decade: revolution; state- sponsored killings; foreign invasion; forceful occupation by a major world power; and ongoing war. Ukraine is also experiencing an enormous opioid epidemic and is home to the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the world. Despite all of our differences, Ukraine’s ongoing struggles with substance use, border integrity, and Russian interference appear strikingly similar to our own. Based on more than a decade of fieldwork in cities and villages across Ukraine, Dr. Carroll’s ethnographic research on substance abuse and treatment in the context of these crises asks us to consider:

  • How are the social values of “addiction” and “treatment” in Ukraine entangled with broader discourses of power and sovereignty?
  • How are those values mobilized in efforts to construct Ukrainian and Russian national identities?
  • How do the elite subject people who use drugs to selective policing, human rights violations, and other delimited forms of citizenship in an effort to consolidate political power?
  • And shouldn’t we in the U.S. be asking ourselves the same questions?

Garron Reading Room, 346 Kroeber Hall, UC Berkeley

Sponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Medical Anthropology Program, UC Berkeley

Thursday, October 24 | 12-1:30

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine Article Manuscript Workshop

Ontological politics and its diseases in the womb of a Guarani midwife

Valéria Mendonça de Macedo, Professor of Anthropology at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil) and Visiting Scholar at Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

With respondents: Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Professor of the Graduate School and Professor Emerita of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, and Mariana Ferreira, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Associate Director of the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies, San Francisco State University

This special event will bring together the author, two respondents, and the audience, for a focused discussion of an article manuscript by Valéria Mendonça de Macedo. During the event, Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Mariana Ferreira will share their reflections on and suggestions for the manuscript, and then there will be open discussion. All attendees are asked to read the draft manuscript in advance (it will be emailed to you after registration).

Registration is required for this free event. Please register by 10/21.

Duster Room, 2420 Bowditch St, Berkeley

Spring 2019

Tuesday, February 19 | 12 - 1:30pm

Citizenship Health Inequalities Across the US: State-level Immigrant Policies and Health Care Access

Maria-Elena Young, PhD, Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Merced

In this talk Dr. Young presents findings from two studies that examine how citizenship status and immigrant policies influence inequities in access to health care. Immigrants who lack citizenship are less likely to have health insurance and access to health care compared to citizens. Citizenship status is a form of inequality that is shaped by the policies that determine immigrants’ rights and opportunities and the social environments in which they live.

1102 BWW, 2121 Berkeley Way

Sponsored by the School of Public Health 

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, the Department of Demography, the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative. 

Friday, February 22 | 9:30am - 5:00pm

Reimagining Health, Empowerment, and Sovereignty in Bangladesh

Blum Hall, B100, UC Berkeley

Please click HERE for conference agenda and speakers. 

This all-day event will be preceded by a pre-conference book talk and reception with novelist Arif Anwar, details here, with the opportunity to meet the Summit panelists. 

Sponsored by: The Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies at UC Berkeley and LSE The South Asia Centre 

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Saturday, March 9  | 8-5

How We Heal: Confronting Health Inequity with Structural Competency

UC Riverside

This conference on structural competency is for health professionals, scholars, students, community organizers, and anyone interested in health for all to gain perspectives and skills on advocacy at the bedside and beyond. Structural Competency is the capacity to recognize and respond to health outcomes as the downstream effect of social, political, and economic structures within and beyond the clinic walls. This framework prepares us to act at the level of neighborhoods, institutions, and policies in tandem with the social movements growing all around us. 

Complete program available here.

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Thursday, April 4 | 3:30-5

Book Manuscript Workshop: Side Effects: The Transnational Making and Unmaking of AIDS Politics in China

Yan Long, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

With respondents: Seth Holmes, Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Policy & Management and Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley, and Vincanne Adams, Professor of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, UC San Francisco.

Wildavsky Room*, 2538 Channing Way, Berkeley

Light refreshments will be served

Registration is required for this free event.

This special event will bring together three faculty affiliates of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, as well as the audience, for a focused discussion of one chapter, "Seeing Like a Project: Gay Men’s Success as Subcontractors," of a book manuscript by Yan Long, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. During the event, Vincanne Adams and Seth Holmes will share their reflections on and suggestions for the manuscript, and then there will be open discussion of the chapter. All attendees are asked to read the chapter in advance (it will be emailed to you after registration).

Side Effects: The Transnational Making and Unmaking of AIDS Politics in China (Oxford University Press) examines how transnational AIDS institutions expanded political participation while producing and exacerbating participatory inequality, which ironically strengthened the authoritarian apparatus of governance. The manuscript tackles this paradox through analyzing how transnational AIDS institutions set in motion both the surge and decline of China’s AIDS movement between 1989-2013. It is based on multi-sited longitudinal ethnography and historical archival research conducted over a course of six years. The book departs significantly from most scholarly models that cast external interventions as “cures” for all that ails struggling local communities and activists in repressive environments by providing political opportunities or resources. Instead, it highlights the process through which transnational effects entered and unfolded in the context of a strong authoritarian regime. I argue that transnational AIDS organizations promoted a technical model of AIDS prevention and treatment with formal scripts and modes of organizational action that informed the forms of local mobilization and state repression alike. On the one hand, the transnational model created openings in a repressive environment that enabled AIDS activism to grow. But this model unwittingly privileged the experiences of urban gay men, while marginalizing female sex workers and peasants infected via blood contamination, thus undermining such openings later. On the other hand, while the Chinese state initially dismissed AIDS as a morality issue, external interventions turned this formerly unnoticed domain into something important to political power, and then, ironically, into an arena where various Chinese bureaucrat units were fighting to expand their control. The shape of these two processes drove the formation of China’s AIDS governance that simultaneously increased the exercise of authoritarian rule and bolstered the authority of transnational institutions while demobilizing the population suffering from AIDS the most. 

Chapter 9, "Seeing Like a Project: Gay Men’s Success as Subcontractors," analyzes how transnational AIDS projects expanded the governance jurisdiction of health departments (the governor) to include gay men as a new member of the governed, delineating the former's role to allocate resources among and exert influence over the behavior of the latter as deserving subjects and qualified targets. Gay men’s organizations played a critical brokerage role in changing male homosexuality from being a moral anathema for the state to dismiss, to being a health problem for the state to acknowledge, measure and act on. 


Wednesday, April 10 I 3:30-5pm

Marijuana Legalization as Frontier Capitalism

Erica Lagallisse, Postdoctoral Fellow, Internatonal equalities Institute, London School of Economics

With Moderator: Michael Polson, Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow in Political Economy and Natural Resource Economics, UCB

Erica Lagalisse’s ongoing multi-sited ethnographic research of both medical(ized) and black-market marijuana production, distribution and consumption suggests that the legalization of marijuana functions as a form of frontier capitalism.  Traditional producers are not granted rights to the marijuana strains and products they have developed; their appropriation by elites constitutes a form of primitive accumulation.  This process is facilitated by traditional producers being cast as “violent” while new white, wealthy, corporate marijuana entrepreneurs are described as “safe” through constructed associations with medicine, purity, and “healing”—constructions of “health” are always political, class-making devices, brought to inaugurate class rights and the respectability of some at the expense of others. 

Social Science Matrix (820 Barrows Hall, 8th floor)

Sponsored by Cannabis Research Center 

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Thursday, April 11 I 11-2pm

Medicalization and Demedicalization of the Homeless Mentally Ill

Joel Braslow, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and History, UCLA  

With respondents: David Elkin, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF and Renee Mack, MSW, PhD Candidate in Social Welfare, UCB

This event will be a discussion of the case study "Medicalization and Demedicalization -- A Gravely Disabled Homeless Man with Psychiatric Illness," by Joel Braslow and Luke Messac, published in the New England Journal of Medicine as part of the Case Studies in Social Medicine series.

470 Stephens Hall, UCB

Sponsored by: the Program for the Medical Humanities

Co-sponsored by: Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and the UC Berkeley - UCSF Joint Medical Program

Fall 2018

Tuesday, September 25 I 12:00-1:30pm

The Invisible Reality of ‘Chinthat Roge’ (A Life of Chronic Worry): The Illness of Poverty in Dhaka's Urban Slum Settlements 

Sabina Rashid, Professor and Dean, BRAC University School of Public Health, Bangladesh

The biomedical ‘disease’ model that dominates much of public health theory and practice is missing the important connection people make between their bodies and their everyday life worlds. In many parts of the world, health is experienced and embodied in the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and social, and political-economic worlds people inhabit. Chinthar roge (“worry illness”) as expressed by the impoverished living in Dhaka slum settlements, humanises the medical domain by paying attention to people, not just disease specific worlds to which human beings peripherally belong. For residents, life is one of exhausting and relentless uncertainty, dealing with endemic poverty, erratic jobs, insecurity and crime, precarious living conditions, unstable relationships and networks. Basic services, such as water, education and electricity services remain limited or inaccessible, or they pay high costs for access. Housing is insecure and evictions are routine in the lives of informal settlers. Their very existence is one of continual stress and fragility. Chinthar roge clearly highlights the limits of medicine as most residents’ lives are situated between hope, fear, anxiety and chronic deprivations. Chinthar roge is not an illness borne per say, but to them akin to a ‘way of life’ illness, it is their core being which embodies this everyday pain, worry and suffering and the body then becomes a form of truth telling, and the medicalisation of this illness speaks of the unspeakable of their existence. We need to recognise that health is as much mental, emotional, spiritual as it is physical, and directly impacted by the social, economic and political conditions that people inhabit. Unless we own up to the fundamental reality of the illness of poverty, we will continue to produce short-term band-aid solutions, with little improvement in the lives of the most disadvantaged. 

Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)

Sponsored by The Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, Institute for South Asia Studies

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Friday, October 26 I 12:00-1:30pm

Family Separations: Beyond Violence Histories to Build Belonging

Heide Castañeda, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of South Florida; Ericka Huggins, Human Rights Activist, Poet, Educator; Former Black Panther Party Leader and Political Prisoner; Angie Junck, Supervising Attorney, Immigration Legal Resource Center

Moderator: Seth Holmes, Co-Chair, Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall

Sponsored by Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

A resource guide related to this event is available for download here.

Tuesday, December 4 I 5:30-7:00pm

Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for Our Health

Howard Waitzkin, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of New Mexico

These days, our health and well-being are sorted through a profit-seeking financial complex that monitors and commodifies our lives. Our access to competent, affordable health care grows more precarious every day. We need a deeper understanding of the changing structural conditions that link capitalism, health care, and health. From a recognition that such linkages deserve closer study and that this analytic work will assist in real-world struggles for change, Howard Waitzkin, in collaboration with the medical professionals, scholars, and activists who comprise the Working Group on Health Beyond Capitalism, wrote Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for Our Health. Waitzkin will discuss just what's wrong with our medical system, how it got this way, and how this book contributes to a winning strategy in moving toward a post-capitalist health-care system.

Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hall

Co-sponsored by National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association


hurricane satellite image

Wednesday, January 24 | 6:30-8:30pm

The Business of Disaster: Colonial Shock Doctrine & the Fight for Health Justice in Post-Maria Puerto Rico

Panel Discussion with Vincanne Adams, Professor in the Joint UCSF/UC Berkeley Program in Medical Anthropology; Cathy Kennedy, Registered Nurse and a Vice President of National Nurses United, and Javier Arbona, Professor of American Studies and Design at UC Davis. 

The ongoing catastrophe following Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico in September has provided a stark reminder that disasters are never merely natural. As with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, historical inequalities have played a clear role in shaping the government’s response. The enduring colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico and the market-driven nature of governmental relief efforts are both critical to understanding the current crisis. 

Sponsored by The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley

Gifford Room (Kroeber Hall 221)  Free and open to the public. RSVP here

graphic reading :No Ban No Wall: sanctuary for allTuesday, February 13 | 6:00pm - 8:00pm

No Ban, No Wall: Confronting the Militarization of Our Borders and Communities

Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)
Ofelia Ortiz Cuevas, Assistant Professor of Department of Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis
Pierre Labossiere, Co-Founder of the Haiti Action Committee
Abraham Vela M.D., Volunteer, Clínica Martín-Baró 
with Seth Holmes, Co-Chair of ISSI’s Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Policy & Management and Medical Anthropology as respondent

The Trump presidency has increased attacks on immigrant and marginalized communities through targeting sanctuary cities, instituting the Muslim ban, and revoking temporary protected status for thousands. But, these actions are based on a long-standing foundation of xenophobia and criminalization. Such repression manifests not only at borders, but also in our backyards in the form of militarized policing, state surveillance, and collusion between local and federal law enforcement. Please join us for a panel discussion to analyze these intersections with some of the individuals working to defend the health and rights of immigrant communities. 

Sponsored by California Nurses Association & Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley

Gifford Room (Kroeber Hall 221)

Thursday, March 22 | 6-7:30 p.m. 

Beyond Identity: Building Collective Struggles for Racial and Health Justice

George Lipsitz, Professor of Black Studies, UC Santa Barbara 

Rupa Marya, Associate Professor of Medicine and Faculty Director of the Do No Harm Coalition, UC San Francisco 

Carlos Martinez, PhD student, UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco Joint Program in Medical Anthropology

Since the 2016 presidential elections, “identity politics” have come under acute fire by a number of liberal and left commentators who fault its proponents with dividing civil society and social movements, while creating a backlash that brought Trump to power. Yet, extensive scholarship in social science and public health has made it clear that race has been and continues to be a foundational force in structuring dramatically unequal social conditions and health outcomes. How should we interpret current critiques of identity politics in light of such racial inequalities? How can race-based politics be reconciled with broad demands for social transformation? What role should health practitioners play in challenging racial inequalities in our current moment? 

Gifford Room (Kroeber 221)

Sponsored by The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 | 6 - 8 p.m.

Latin American Social Medicine, Then and Now

Jaime Breilh, Rector of the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador
Dorothy Porter, Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine, UC San Francisco
Clara Mantini-Briggs, Department of Anthropology, UC Berkeley
Fernando Losada, NNU and Global Nurses United
Luther Castillo, Founder, First Popular Garifuna Hospital in Honduras

Seth Holmes, Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Policy & Management and of Medical Anthropology, as Moderator

2251 College Avenue, Room 101, Archaeological Research Facility

Thursday, April 19, 2018 | 6 - 8 p.m.

Toward Health and Environmental Liberation: Insights from Latin American Critical Epidemiology

Lecture by Jaime Breilh, Rector of the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador
with Amani Nuru-Jeter, Associate Professor, Public Health, as respondent

and Charles Briggs, Professor, Department of Anthropology, as moderator

Sponsored by The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) and the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley

Gifford Room, Kroeber Hall

FALL 2017

Thursday, September 7 | 6:30-8:30pm and Friday, September 8 | 8:30am-5:30pm

UC Berkeley Program for the Medical Humanities presents:

Medicine and Violence

Join an interdisciplinary gathering of medical professionals and humanities and legal scholars to explore the various ways in which health care and violence interrelate. 

Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley. For room numbers, complete program, and free registration link, please visit the website. 

Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Tuesday, October 24 I 4:00-5:30pm

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine presents:

Ways of Knowing the Ordinary in Climate Adaptation

Sarah Vaughn, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley

I track the development of a Red Cross participatory climate adaptation project in a flood-prone and former urban squatter-town in Guyana in  this talk.  Based on fieldwork between 2009 and 2010, the talk focuses on one technology specific to Red Cross urban climate adaptation called the Vulnerability Capacity Assessment (VCA).  The goal of the talk is to examine the VCA as a provocation for the ethnography of climate change.  Specifically, I ask: how should we understand the work of participatory climate adaptation, which seeks to train people not to avoid but become sensitive to the ordinariness of vulnerability? I answer this question by engaging recent debates on new materialism in the social studies of science and affect theory to consider how knowledge about vulnerability is understood as an ‘ordinary’ dimension of everyday encounters with climate change. 

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, UC Berkeley and Joint UCSF/UCB PhD Program in Medical Anthropology

Wednesday, November 8 I 4:00-5:30pm

Institute for the Study of Societal Issues presents: 

Chronic Cultural Impossibility: Ideologies that Undermine Health as a Fundamental Social Right

Clara Mantini-Briggs, Departments of Anthropology and Demography, UC Berkeley

Even when health professionals embrace conceptions of health as a fundamental social right, health practitioners can embrace a framework that, in critical race scholar Denise Silva's terms, “produces and regulates human condition and establishes (morally and intellectually) a distinct kind of human being.” How can a professional commitment to prioritize the health of low-income racialized minority populations go hand-in-hand with efforts to justify the denial of effective and comprehensive health services? Wakahara de la Orqueta lies in the Delta Amacuro rainforest of eastern Venezuela, where indigenous Warao communities were affected by a cholera epidemic that started in August of 1992. Working there as a physician during the epidemic, I saw residents use their own hands, knowledge, and belief in new and better futures to face a preventable and treatable bacterial infection that can nonetheless kill in as little as eight hours, only to have health professionals literally crush their creative efforts. What was their logic? Paul Farmer has referred to appropriations of anthropological explanation by health professionals as "immodest claims of causality." Here I look more closely at such invocations of cultural reasoning by exploring how they emerge from what I refer to as an eternal recurrence of the syndrome of "chronic cultural impossibility."

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley

Spring 2017

Thursday - Friday, February 9-10 

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine presents:

Circulating Health: Mediatization and the (Im)Mobilization of Medical Subjects and Objects

This interdisciplinary, international conference features scholars from Belgium, Canada, Germany, Singapore, the UK, and the USA. The conference explores intersections between health and media, including how health news shapes conceptions of the body, life, death, race, health, disease, and health care and ideas about what constitutes knowledge about health, who has it, who needs it, and what sorts of rights and obligations it engenders. 

To read more information regrding this conference, click here

Location: Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley

Sponsored by: Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and Institute of International Studies

Co-sponsored by: Department of Anthropology, Graduate School of Journalism, Townsend Center for the Humanities, and School of Public Health, Berkeley Media Studies Group of the Public Health Institute, and the Folklore Graduate Program

Tuesday, February 14 I 3:30-5:00pm

Center for Ethnographic Research Colloquia Series:

Ambivalent Kinship and the Production of Wellbeing: the Social Dynamics of Health Among Women in Indian Slums

Claire Snell-Rood,  Assistant Professor, Health and Social Behavior, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley

Contemporary advocates for health have endorsed widespread change through attention to the social conditions of health. Yet the large scale and policy orientation of this approach are unconcerned with how women negotiate their social relationships every day. Guided by new anthropological approaches to kinship, I examine women's relationships with family, community, state, and the environment through ethnography in a North Indian slum. While relationships were necessary channels to obtain the stuff of survival, women remarked on their hidden consequences. Haphazardly played, relationships yielded disastrous effects on social reputation, piled on long-term obligation, and whittled away one’s self-respect. Women could be left with no one to depend on and no moral reserve to sustain themselves. What was in their hands, they explained, were the boundaries they drew within relationships to maintain their independence and their capacity to define their meaning. This ethnographic approach re-appraises the social scientific and health literature on patron-client relationships, social support, and family exchange, while introducing a new social lens to approach wellness.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Gender & Women's Studies, and Institute for South Asia Studies​, UC Berkeley

Monday, March 13 I 4:00-5:00pm

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine Structural Competency Event Series:

Fighting for Health Equity in 2017 and Beyond

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

with welcoming remarks by Nicholas B. Dirks, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley

Affordable, accessible, high-quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. Congresswoman Lee served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus during the drafting of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and worked to ensure strong provisions that expand health care access, address health disparities and create incentives for people to live healthy lives. As a psychiatric social worker, Congresswoman Lee is dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to affordable and high-quality healthcare, especially the most vulnerable. Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s main healthcare focus is always on health disparities and health equity, especially for racial and ethnic minorities. Congresswoman Lee is strongly opposed to any efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and will continue to fight to ensure that we all have access to affordable, quality healthcare.

Chan Shun Auditorium, 2050 Valley Life Sciences Building. Enter from the east side (towards the Campanile).

Co-sponsored by the Schools of Public Health and Social Welfare, UC Berkeley, and Samuel Merritt University

Tuesday, March 14  I 4:30-6:00pm

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine Structural Competency Event Series:

Violence, Stigma, and Health Disparities of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth

A symposium featuring Paul Sterzing (UC Berkeley), Dorothy Espelage (University of Florida) and Mark Hatzenbeuhler (Columbia University). 

150 University Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. 

Sponsored by: The Center for Child and Youth Policy, School of Social Welfare, School of Public Health, Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Institute of Human Development

Contact with any questions

Wednesday, March 22 I CANCELLED

Institute for the Study of Societal Issues Colloquia Series:

Chronic Cultural Impossibility: Ideologies that Undermine Health as a Fundamental Social Right

Clara Mantini-Briggs, Departments of Anthropology and Demography, UC Berkeley


Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Tuesday, April 4 I 4:00-5:30pm

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine Colloquia Series:

What Gets Inside: Violent Entanglements and Toxic Boundaries in Mexico City 

Elizabeth Roberts, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Michigan

Entanglement is a key concept in contemporary science and technology studies (STS).  By tracing all the contingent and uncertain relations that endow objects with seemingly stable boundaries, entanglement allows us to see how such boundaries restrict our ability to know the world better.  This talk deploys the concept of entanglement in an examination of contemporary life in a working-class Mexico City neighborhood, Colonia Periferico, and a longitudinal environmental health project that studies the neighborhood’s residents.  While entanglement is useful for analyzing the study (e.g., for reconnecting variables that the scientists have isolated), my examination of the entanglement of working-class bodies with NAFTA and the ongoing War on Drugs shows that the concept has its limits.  For working-class residents of Mexico City life is already deeply entangled with chronic economic and political instability shaped through the violent ravages of transnational capital.  To explore the utility and limits of entanglement I trace how residents in Col. Periferico seek stability by making boundaries to keep out the disruptive effects of police and public health surveillance. Col. Periferico’s toxic boundaries, which include a sewage-filled dam, cement dust, and freeway exhaust, are clearly entangled with residents’ health.  They get inside. These entanglements are the price paid for a remarkable stability within Col. Periferico’s boundaries, where children can play on the streets and attentive care for drug-addicted and disabled residents is part of everyday life. Additionally, residents would like to share in the privilege of inhabiting a world where objects can be experienced separate from the relations that make them; a world with reliable drinking water and accurate blood lead measurements. With the goal of knowing the world better, then, STS might complicate celebratory calls for the uncertainty of entanglement by taking into account both the practices that make boundaries, and what boundaries have to offer.   

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

May 1 - 2 

Anthropology on the Frontlines: Honoring the Work of Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Monday May 1, 1:00-7:00pm

Tuesday May 2, 11:00am-8:00pm 

For program, locations, and free registration, please visit:

The complete program is available here.

For any questions, please contact:

Co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Fall 2016

Wednesday, October 26 | 12:00 - 1:30pm

Birth Matters: Black Women and Research Justice as Transformative Praxis

Julia Chinyere Oparah, Associate Provost and Professor and Co-Chair of Ethnic Studies, Mills College

Research justice is a strategic framework within which those directly affected by structural violence and discrimination use research tools in order to achieve self determination and lasting social change. Based on a term coined by DataCenter, an Oakland-based research collective, this movement toward community-driven research demands that academic researchers interrogate questions of power, privilege and accountability in our research praxis. Using a research justice approach, Oparah worked alongside members of Black Women Birthing Justice to document black women's experiences of childbirth, and to publish an anthology of critical essays and testimonies on black bodies and birth justice. Their research uncovered birthing as a site of disabling, trauma or even death for black women and gender non-conforming people. In this talk, Oparah explores her experience as an activist scholar in the movement to #LiberateBlackBirth and shares both the transformative power and the dilemmas of research justice.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way 

Sponsored by Center for Research on Social Change

Co-sponsored by Center for Race & Gender Social Movements Working Group and Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Friday, November 4 | 12:00 - 6:00pm

Structural Competency Series

Structural Competency: New Responses to Inequity and Discrimination in Health and Welfare

Structural competency is a new framework for understanding and addressing the inequalities that make us sick. This framework analyzes institutional and structural hierarchies and discrimination in order to respond to the ways these lead to sickness and disease. This conference, the first focused on public health and structural competency, will bring together national and local experts and community organizations to imagine paths towards a more equal and healthy future.

Keynote: Helena Hansen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Anthropology, New York University. “Structural Competency for Public Health.” 

For a complete program, location, and registration, please visit the conference website.

Wednesday, November 9 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

ISSI Colloquia Series:

The Emotional Lives of Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS

Samuel Cohn, Professor, Medieval History, University of Glasgow, UK

From an interdisciplinary array of scholars, a consensus has emerged: invariably, epidemics in past times provoked class hatred, blamed the ‘other’, and victimized the victims of epidemic diseases. Such hate and violence, moreover, more readily erupted when diseases were mysterious without known cures or preventive measures. The evidence for these proclamations, however, rests on a handful of examples--the Black Death, the Great Pox at the end of the sixteenth century, cholera riots of the 1830s, and AIDS, centred almost exclusively on the U.S. experience. From investigating thousands of descriptions of epidemics reaching back to one during Pharaoh Mempses’s First Dynasty (c. 2920 BCE) to the distrust and violence that erupted with Ebola in 2014-15, I argue that the trajectory and essence of epidemics' socio-psychological consequences across time differ radically from present notions. First, historians post-AIDS have missed a fundamental ingredient of the history of Epidemics. Instead of sparking hate and blame across time, epidemics have shown a remarkable power to unify societies across class, race, ethnicity, and religion and to spur self-sacrifice and compassion. Second, instead of spurring hate and violence when diseases were mysterious, that is, almost without exception before the ‘Laboratory Revolution’ of the late nineteenth century, modernity was the great incubator of a disease-hate nexus. Third, even with those diseases that have provoked hate as with smallpox, poliomyelitis, plague, and cholera, blaming ‘the other’ or victimizing diseased victims was rare. Instead, the history of epidemics and their socio-psychological consequences is more varied and richer than historians and pundits have heretofore allowed.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine  

Spring 2016

Tuesday, March 1 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

ISSI Colloquia Series:

Unintended Pregnancy Prevention: Public Health Imperative, Clinical Outcome, or Reproductive Justice?

Anu Gomez, Assistant Professor, School of Social Welfare, UC Berkeley

Unintended pregnancy is considered a social problem in the United States, frequently described as burdensome, costly, staggering, and/or devastating. For decades, researchers have called for the improvement of measures of unintended pregnancy, as standard survey measures fail to capture the complex constellation of factors that impact whether a woman describes her pregnancy as intended or unintended. Despite its poor measurement, the concept of unintended pregnancy continues to drive public health imperatives and clinical practices. In the present study, we analyze in-depth individual interview and survey data from approximately 50 couples including young (ages 18-24) women and their male partners to examine pregnancy intentions. We find great variations in how participants’ with access to educational and economic opportunities describe their pregnancy intentions, desires and motivations compared to those that are more disadvantaged. In particular, we have focused on the idea of ambivalent intentions. These data suggest that individuals who appear ambivalent by traditional survey measures are usually not ambivalent at all; rather, their survey responses reflect a superficial mechanism for self-protection or a way to give voice to far more complex internal processes. Given the opportunity for deeper reflection and analysis, most participants were clear about their pregnancy intentions and described competing individual, relational and structural factors that impact their ability to plan and envision families. We argue that current conceptualizations of unintended pregnancy promote heteronormativity and locate the cause of social problems in reproduction, leading to policies and interventions that can paradoxically undermine reproductive justice.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Monday, March 7 | 5:00 - 7:00pm

"Envisioning Radical Collective Medicine." 

Prof. Adrienne Pine (American University) and Prof. Helena Hansen (NYU).  

Professor Pine will present clips from Beth Geglia and Jesse Freeston's film Revolutionary Medicine and discuss the film's social life as an organizing tool toward a vision and practice of healthcare as a human right, drawing on examples from Honduras, Cuba and the United States.

Professor Hansen will screen footage from Managing the Fix, her film about the art and exclusions of treating addiction in the age of pills. Following three heroin dependent people through their attempts at treatment, the film illustrates how a two-tiered system developed that excludes many. For those access addiction pharmaceuticals, it asks whether medication is enough, and whether the goal of treatment should be to reduce harm or become "drug free."

New Location: 
Berkeley Free Clinic - the Fireside Room
2339 Durant Ave., Berkeley

This event is sponsored by the Critical Social Medicine Working Group (RadMed), a project of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Thursday, April 7 | 12:00 - 1:30pm

Chasing the Dragon: The Malleable Addict and Shaming in a Chinese Therapeutic Community 

Sandra Teresa Hyde, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, McGill University, and Visiting Scholar, ISSI

Until the late 1990s, convicted Chinese illegal drug users were considered criminals and placed in either the justice system’s drug prisons or in labor camps. Today, while the drug prison and the labor camp still exist, a small group of psychiatrists and AIDS activists who want to embrace what Foucault labeled the humanism of the asylum provides clinical residential care at "Sunlight." As such there are two competing ideologies on controlling drug epidemics in China: the dominant one is punitive and the other therapeutic; however, within these two ideological positions, there remains a massive disjuncture between the reality of everyday life and official policy. In this paper I focus on the intersection of subjectivity and the social-psychological dimensions of individual and collective lives in the onslaught of globalization and illegal drug consumption. I ask: 1) how do Chinese users of illegal street drugs learn to reform their emotions in an effort to rethink the modern Chinese healthy citizen? And 2) how does one write a clinical ethnography of the emotions in a therapeutic community in contemporary China?  Sunlight is a clinical space that rises and falls within a particular set of institutions and ideas that travel across the globe -- behavior modification, AA/Narcotics Anonymous, Mind/Body treatments, abstinence -- what do these modalities say about how ‘a complicated kindness’ travels?  I end by problematizing the conditions and practices within Sunlight therapeutic community, where we find new kinds of post-millennial citizens performing therapeutic rituals that lead to a complicated kind of care and healing.  

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies

Fall 2015

Thursday, September 17 | 12:00 - 1:30pm

BCSM Co-sponsored Event:

Wheelchair Politics: Disability and Violent Masculinities within a Gang

Laurence Ralph, Associate Professor of Anthropology and African and African American Studies, Harvard University

My paper argues that, while admirable, the focus on assuaging social difference within the disability right’s movement has served to obscure key distinctions within disabled communities along the axes of race, socioeconomic status, and gender. While the larger community of disabled activists tends to use the social model of disability, in which there is multiple ways to view ability and physical capacities are not devalued, disabled ex-gang members rely on a medical model of disability that highlights physical differences rather than diminishing them. Here we see what happens when several wheelchair-bound ex-gang members use their life stories to try and steer other young gang members away from a gang’s reliance on sacrifice and vengeance. The fact that they are willing to insist on the defectiveness of their own bodies as a way to deter gun violence is an example of the sheer magnitude of problems with which poor African Americans must contend, and the sheer burden that violence creates in urban Chicago.

Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hall

Sponsored by Center for Ethnographic Research and Department of Anthropology

Tuesday, October 20 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

BCSM Co-sponsored Event: 

Biotechnologies and Immigration: Biological Citizenship and the Use of DNA Testing for Family Reunification

Torsten Heinemann, Professor of Sociology, Institute of Sociology, Universität Hamburg

Since the 1990s, many countries around the world have begun to use DNA analysis to establish biological relatedness in family reunification cases. Family reunification refers to the right of family members living abroad to join relatives who hold long-term residence permits in a given country. While this right has been an integral part of many countries’ immigration policies, the current trend among host countries seems to favor more restrictive family reunification policies. To be reunited, family members have to prove their family status by official documents. Even if applicants possess the required documents, immigration authorities often reject the information as they question the authenticity of the documents. In this context, many countries resort to DNA tests to resolve cases in which they consider the information presented on family relations to be incomplete or unsatisfactory. Today, at least 21 nation states have incorporated the use of DNA testing into decision-making on immigration.

In this talk, I will present the results of an international research project on the use of DNA testing for family reunification in Europe and will compare them with the situation in the USA. I outline general trends of DNA analysis for family reunification and analyze the societal and political implications of parental testing in this context. I argue that DNA analyses for family reunification establish and strengthen a biological family model which is in contrast to the more pluralistic and social concepts of family in many societies in Europe and North America. I will then relate my findings to the ongoing debate on biological citizenship and show that biological criteria play an important role in decision-making on citizenship rights in nation-states. I argue that the use of parental testing for immigration endorses a biological concept of the family that is mobilized to diminish citizenship rights.

The argument is based on an extensive document analysis as well as interviews with representatives of international governmental organizations, international and national NGOs and immigration authorities, lawyers specializing in immigration law, geneticists and those applying for family reunification.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Sponsored by Center for Research on Social Change

Friday, October 23 | 12:00 - 1:30pm

BCSM Brown Bag Colloquium:

Theory in Action: Violence in the Margins

Javier Auyero, Professor of Latin American Sociology, University of Texas, Austin

Philippe Bourgois, Professor of Anthropology and Family and Community Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Professor of Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley

James Quesada, Professor of Anthropology, San Francisco State University, as moderator and discussant

Violence at the Urban Margins (Oxford University Press, 2015) brings together scholars across disciplines working on a perplexing question. How did Latin America emerge from decades of extreme violence — revolutionary, counter-insurgency, and military state  — at the end of the 20th century only to plunge into a cauldron of delinquent, criminal, interpersonal, and political state/para-state violence under democratic regimes? Violence in the inner-cities of North America is another matter, though linked through the drug trade and forced migrations, as well as to US militancy and wars abroad that have come home to roost. Our purpose is to ignite a North-South hemispheric dialogue and debate on “theory in action” — the creative uses of diverse theoretical, analytical and ethnographic/methodological tools applied to the study of the networks of trans-national, state, paramilitary, criminal, global and local perpetrators, collaborators, victims, and bystanders of urban terror in the Americas. 

New location: 170 Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley

Sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley-UCSF Critical Social Medicine Working Group, Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, and Center for Latin American Studies

Thursday, October 27 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

BCSM Co-sponsored Event:

The Molecular Reinscription of Race in Science, Law, and Medicine

Troy Duster, Chancellor's Professor of Sociology, UC Berkeley

In the first decade after the completion of the Human Genome Project, there has been a world-wide development that few predicted – the resurgence of the idea that racial taxonomies which have been deployed to explain complex social behaviors (such as crime, academic performance, and massive health disparities) have a biological and genetic basis.  This presentation will attempt to briefly chronicle, analyze, and attempt to account for this development – and address some of the important implications for the social sciences.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Sponsored by Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Wednesday, November 4 | 12:00 - 1:30pm

BCSM Co-sponsored Event:

Tuskegee Then and Now: An Exploration of Historical Trauma in the Life of a Direct Descendant

Tina Sacks, Assistant Professor, School of Social Welfare, UC Berkeley

The specter of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study looms large in the research literature, particularly related to African-American’s distrust of medical research. Less is known about how direct descendants of study victims perceive health care institutions and providers. The purpose of this study is to explore the long-term implications of the Tuskegee Study on a woman whose great-grandfather died of untreated syphilis as a result. The study explores the 1) role of historical trauma on Black populations; 2) inter-generational impact of trauma in a Black family; and 3) implications of these events on engagement with healthcare providers. This study used the case study method to explore the experience of one woman who is a direct descendant. The respondent, a 37-year old married woman with children, was recruited as part of a larger study on healthcare disparities among the Black middle class. Data are based on a focus group and a 2-hour in-depth interview. The Tuskegee Study continues to affect the behavior of direct descendants. Members of the respondent’s family strictly prohibited her from seeking medical care from any non-Black healthcare provider. As an adult, the respondent refused to allow her children to be treated by a non-Black healthcare provider. The respondent and her family developed these strategies to counteract the particular trauma of Tuskegee and the general trauma of being treated negatively in majority White institutions. This study provides historically situated insights into how Black people interpret racial discrimination, and strategies they use to counteract it, including seeking race-concordant healthcare providers.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Sponsored by Center for Research on Social Change

Spring 2015

Saturday, January 3 | 3:00 - 4:30pm

“All I Eat is ARVs” and “All They Do Is Pray”: The Narrowing of Care in Mozambique’s AIDS Economy

Ippolytos Kalofonos MDPhD, University of California Los Angeles, Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Tuesday, February 10 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Is Housing a Structural Intervention for Health in Homeless Youth? 

Colette Auerswald MDMS, Associate Professor of Community Health and Human Development, UC Berkeley School of Public Health; Director of Research Training, Joint Medical Program

Transitional aged homeless youth (TAHY,18-24) suffer health disparities, largely related to drug and sexual risk behaviors. Research indicates that providing permanent supportive housing (PSH) to homeless adults reduces their drug and sexual risk behaviors. However, the effects of PSH on the health behaviors of TAHY have not been studied. Research further suggests that changes in the social networks of homeless youth may reduce such risk behaviors. PSH may therefore have an impact on survival behaviors, social networks, HIV risk, and substance abuse. In January of 2014, the first San Francisco city-funded PSH building exclusively designated TAHY opened its doors. We are conducting an ongoing mixed ethnographic and epidemiological assessment of the effect of PSH on TAHY’s health and health behaviors.

Anna Head Alumnae Hall, 2537 Haste Street

Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues; co-sponsored by BCSM

Wednesday, April 1 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

CRSC Colloquia Series:

Ecologies of Dissent: Neighborhood Health and the Art of Relational Politics

Michael Montoya, Associate Professor of Chicano/Latino Studies and Anthropology, UC Irvine

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine

Fall 2014

Tuesday, September 30 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Political Therapeutics in Italy

Cristiana Giordano, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UC Davis

In this paper, I discuss the experience of Italian clinical ethno-psychiatry as an emerging technique that provides culturally appropriate therapeutic services exclusively to foreigners, political refugees, and victims of torture and trafficking. This clinical practice has a political impact on other Italian institutions (such as the Catholic Church, the police, and social services) involved in aid programs for foreigners that increasingly turn to ethno-psychiatrists to consult on how to shape culturally and psychologically appropriate interventions for foreigners. The specificity of Italian ethno-psychiatry, though, can only be understood against the backdrop of the debates around the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill and the radical critique of public institutions initiated by Franco Basaglia and the de-institutionalization movement in the early 1970s. Crucial to the Italian context is also the work of Antonio Gramsci and his reflections on the relationships between hegemony and subaltern cultures, in addition to the role of the organic intellectual in creating a field of political action that could involve subalterns in defining what counts as politics. Through an ethnography of clinical cases and interactions between ethno-psychiatrists and local communities, I show how these legacies intersect in the practice of Italian ethno-psychiatry in ways that are broadly relevant not only for the politics of alterity within clinical settings, but also for critiquing psychiatric, legal, and moral categories of inclusion. This clinical practice allows for a re-thinking of the political and phenomenological grounds of existence, while also offering a critical frame to issues of "global mental health."

Anna Head Alumnae Hall, 2537 Haste Street

Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues; co-sponsored by BCSM

Tuesday, October 28 | 4:00 - 5:30

Protestant Techniques of Caring for the Self

Ian Whitmarsh, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine

In Trinidad, as in other countries, the state increasingly works with Protestant churches to disseminate biomedical techniques of maintaining health, conducting blood tests and teaching proper diet and body size.  I draw on recent rethinking of "the secular" to argue that ties between Presbyterianism and biomedical practices in Trinidad reveal a Protestantism latent in international techniques of care for the chronic disease subject.  Protestant endeavors have long focused on, the "involuntary poor" as a figure unable to enact proper choice, suggesting not a contradiction but rather a deep kinship between the liberal individual and the subject founded in economic, social, political structures. As international medical techniques implicitly carry out a Protestant care for the involuntary poor, new tensions are produced with traditions such as Hinduism and obeah that run counter to Christian logics.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues; co-sponsored by BCSM

Thursday, November 6 | 12:00 - 1:30pm

Homosexual Mutants! Biases in the Neurobiological Study of Sexual Orientation

Erik Eckhert, MD/MS Student, UC Berkeley/UCSF Joint Medical Program 

Lawrence Cohen, Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, as respondent

This work examines the space between biology and biological discourse by reflecting on the reemergence of antiquated sexological discourses in the contemporary basic science literature behind sex and sexual orientation, and attempts to disentangle the socio-scientific conditions that enable their persistence. It employs modified grounded theory to explore published works on the fruitless (fru) gene in Drosophila neurobiology, which is notable for being implicated in determining sex and sexual orientation in the flies and is the clearest example to date of a genetically programed biochemical signaling cascade controlling a specific set of (courtship) behaviors. With an emphasis on experimental design, data inclusion, and the interpretation of results, my analysis follows three interrelated thematic clusters: “Homosexual Mutants” problematizes claims about the fru male’s sexual orientation by calling into question the “heterosexuality” of wildtype males, the assumptions behind behavioral assays used to determine sexual orientation, and the tenets of Sexual Selection used to discursively disable or inferiorize queer organisms. “Sexing the Body” examines the techniques used to assign sex on sub-organismal scales, considers the effect this has on reifying the groundedness of sex as a biological concept, and traces the practice and effects of reducing sex to a male/female dichotomy in the fru field. “Making the Model Work– Disabling, Inverting, Passivizing” refuses and confuses the fru field’s ‘homosexual by broken sex detector model’ by looking at what’s really being detected by male flies and considering the interplay between discourses about sexuality and disability, sexual inversion and femininity. 

Room C108, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and the Center for Science Technology Medicine and Society

Thursday, November 13 | 12:00 - 1:00pm

Children at the Border, Children at the Margins: Health, Responsibility, and Immigration

Video of this event is available here.

Stefano M. Bertozzi, Dean and Professor of Health Policy & Management, Public Health, UC Berkeley

Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, Executive Director, CARECEN Central American Resource Center

Seth Holmes, Assistant Professor, Public Health and Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley

Rubén Martínez, Journalist and Author of Desert America, Crossing Over, and The New Americans

Casey Peek, Producer of “New World Border”

Adrienne Pine, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, American University

Patricia Baquedano-López, Chair, Center for Latino Policy Research, and Associate Professor, Education, UC Berkeley, as moderator

While unaccompanied migrant children have been at the center of a media firestorm, journalists and politicians generally ignore the context, experiences, and health of these children. The children are portrayed as criminals or as victims of drug lords and gang members; both representations minimize the effects of historical and contemporary United States policies and interventions in Latin America. This panel discussion includes scholars and organizers who provide nuanced perspectives on the crisis, challenging the logics of detention and deportation. The panelists bring together anthropological, historical, public health, and policy analyses to put the health, well-being, and rights of migrant children at the center.

245 Li Ka Shing Center, UC Berkeley

Sponsored by Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. Co-sponsored by Center for Latino Policy Research, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and School of Public Health

Spring 2014

Tuesday, March 11 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Inconceivable:  Where IVF Goes Bad

S. Lochlann Jain, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University

Nearly half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an invasive cancer—an all-too ordinary aspect of daily life. Through a powerful combination of cultural analysis and memoir, this stunningly original book explores why cancer remains so confounding, despite the billions of dollars spent in the search for a cure. Amidst furious debates over its causes and treatments, scientists generate reams of data—information that ultimately obscures as much as it clarifies. Award-winning anthropologist S. Lochlann Jain deftly unscrambles the high stakes of the resulting confusion. Expertly reading across a range of material that includes history, oncology, law, economics, and literature, Jain explains how a national culture that simultaneously aims to deny, profit from, and cure cancer entraps us in a state of paradox—one that makes the world of cancer virtually impossible to navigate for doctors, patients, caretakers, and policy makers alike. This chronicle, burning with urgency and substance leavened with brio and wit, offers a lucid guide to understanding and navigating the quicksand of uncertainty at the heart of cancer. Malignant vitally shifts the terms of an epic battle we have been losing for decades: the war on cancer.

ISSI Wildavsky Conference Room, 2538 Channing Way,

Co-sponsored by The Program in Medical Anthropology

Tuesday, March 18 | 12:00 - 1:00pm

The Press and the Press Release: Inventing the Crystal Meth-HIV Connection

Cindy Patton, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Cindy Patton is a longtime commentator on social aspects of the AIDS epidemic. An early member of the AIDS Action Committee of Boston and an advisor to community organizations in Vancouver, BC, she has been involved in community organizing around gay men's sexuality, research ethics, and media criticism. She is currently Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University (Canada), where from 2003-2013 she held the Canada Research Chair in Community, Culture and Health.

Abstract: From 1960s medical reports to the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis trials, Gay men have been persistently described as intransigent to sexual health advice. However, it is not at all clear that there has even been a sustained effort to provide basic sex education for gay men. In the late 1970s, the Carter Administration reversed its policy related to gay health research and training as a result of the Anita Bryant activism, a change of course repeated in 1987, when efforts to promote safe sex among gay men was defunded by the Helms Amendment. This paper is part of a longer project that traces the parallel history of the gay health movement and socio-medical claims about the sources of gay men's risk.

ISSI Wildavsky Conference Room, 2538 Channing Way, Berkeley

Co-sponsored by The Program in Medical Anthropology

Wednesday, March 19 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

Seth Holmes, Martin Sisters Endowed Chair, Assistant Professor of Health and Social Behavior, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley; Faculty Director of the Center for Social Medicine at ISSI

Based on five years of research in the field (including berry-picking and traveling with migrants back and forth from Oaxaca up the West Coast), this paper (and new book by the same name) explores how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care.  The paper examines structural and symbolic violence, medicalization, and the clinical gaze as they affect the experiences and perceptions of a vertical slice of indigenous Mexican migrant farmworkers, farm owners, doctors, and nurses. This work analyzes the ways in which socially structured suffering comes to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care, especially through imputations of ethnic body difference.

ISSI Wildavsky Conference Room, 2538 Channing Way, Berkeley

Co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Wednesday, April 9 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

From Plants to Pills:  Take Bitter Roots for Malaria

Abena Osseo-Asare, Assistant Professor of History, UC Berkeley

How do plants become pharmaceuticals? In this talk, I examine the history of efforts to patent a treatment for malaria made from the bitter roots of fever vine (Cryptolepis sanguinolenta). Malaria is a serious health risk in tropical West Africa. In Ghana, where these bitter roots became known as "Ghana Quinine," a group of African scientists devoted their lives to creating a patented pharmaceutical from the plant. I consider their interactions with traditional healers from the 1940s, their struggles to establish a fledgling pharmaceutical industry, and the conflicts that complicated the success of the new drug in this postcolonial nation.  This little known historical case provides a window into recent controversies surrounding biodiversity prospecting in tropical environments, the rights of indigenous peoples to shared benefits, and the quest for pharmaceutical patents. It is drawn from my recently published book, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa.

Wildavsky Conference Room, ISSI, 2538 Channing Way

Co-Sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Fall 2013

Wednesday, November 6 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Metrics of the Global Sovereign: Numbers and Stories in Global Health

Vincanne Adams, Professor, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine

The recent shift from International Health Development to Global Health Sciences in the now fifty-year-old post-colonial infrastructure of transnational health aid is not a simple substitution of new bottles for old wine.  Emergent trends in Global Health reveal more complex transformations in the practices of audit, funding, and intervention in the effort to improve health outcomes on a global scale.  One of the most important features of this shift has been the growing reliance on specific kinds of quantitative metrics that make use of evidence-based measures, experimental research platforms, and cost-effectiveness rubrics for even the most intractable problems and most promising interventions. Collectively these trends pose a problem of knowledge in relation to how we understand efficacy but also how we come to terms with the new “global sovereign” – a flexible assemblage of data production, number crunching and profit-sourcing that asks all exercises of intervention to work within its terms and limits.  At the same time, ethnography pushes us to see the remainder, or residuals, of these trends that appear as stories of single lives saved, struggles won and relationships emergent.  Stories carry an emotional surfeit that might be read as both antidote and engine in the markets of global health today, and this lecture offers preliminary insights about the study of such global health trends.

Anna Head Alumnae Hall, 2537 Haste Street

Co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Wednesday, October 6 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Neurocratic Futures in the Disability Economy: Pregnancy, Addiction and Mental Illness in the US Welfare State

Kelly Knight, Assistant Professor, Kocaeli University

Drawing on four years of ethnographic research, I will address a collision of politics, science, and social policy with historic roots in 1990s neoliberal welfare reform and current consequences in the everyday lives of addicted pregnant women. In 1997, the disallowance of substance use dependence as a qualifying, disabling health condition for Social Security Income (SSI) benefits spurned the development of a new disability economy. Despite widely accepted scientific evidence demonstrating the high frequency of mental illness and substance use disorder comorbidity, a new social actor, “the neurocrat,” was constructed to document mental health disorders in exception of substance use disorder for SSI applicants. Today, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar Disorder are diagnosed at very high frequency and the prescription of broad spectrum atypical antipsychotic medications is routine among homeless women. Clinically speaking, PTSD and Bipolar Disorder are difficult conditions to diagnose and treat in the presence of active substance use.  Yet the symptoms of these conditions - trauma, despair, rage and mania – are viewed as appropriate responses on the part of pregnant addicts to experiences of structural violence, social suffering, and housing instability. It is also well understood that accessing SSI welfare benefits through successful neurocratic disability claims enables the safety-net health care system while also ensuring access to subsidized housing, case management, and other social benefits. In this way, neurocrats make the madness of poverty socially legible. Neurocratic futures for pregnant addicts are now necessary and entrenched on both institutional and personal levels. They can ensure social recognition and material viability for pregnant addicts, as long as women can agree to be mentally disabled, rather than merely addicted and just poor.

Alumnae Hall, Anna Head Building A, 2537 Haste Street

Co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues

Wednesday, September 18 | 4:00 - 5:30pm

Narrative Without Language: Mental Health and the Invisibility of Care in South Africa

Leslie Swartz, Professor of Psychology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

At the heart of much of health care is the assumption, expectation, or hope, that at some level patients and clinicians understand one another, however incompletely. The fact is, however, that in many contexts, clinicians and patients speak different languages and there are no interpreters employed to help bridge the communication gap. South Africa has 11 official languages and is also committed to the development of South African Sign Language. Despite this, patients in many mental health settings have the same (or worse) linguistic access to care as was the case in the apartheid era. I sketch answers to the question of how it can be that this crucial aspect of care access can continue to be overlooked in a democratic country, especially as South Africa has a constitutional commitment to equal access and non-discrimination. There is a legacy of service provision from the apartheid era, and interpreting is currently undertaken by nurses, cleaners, security guards, and family members of patients, amongst others. I suggest that changing understandings of the nature of careers in the health field, international trends in mental health theory and practice towards crude biologism, and ongoing patterns of social exclusion and stigma, all contribute not only to a continuing state of compromised linguistic access to mental health care but also to processes of rendering invisible the actual work of care in the mental health field. In this context, institutions construct stories about patients without being able to speak to them directly. There are also stories constructed about the language access issue. These stories have changed and developed against the backdrop of institutional continuity embedded in dramatically changing political circumstances in South Africa. Preliminary data from a pilot interpreting project suggest that to expose the care issues at stake in informal interpreting is tantamount to shining a light on broader and more pervasive issues of exclusion and inequality in the health care system, and in South Africa as a whole. In this regard, I explore some of the discursive strategies my research group and I have used and are using in developing new initiatives to improve language access for patients.

221 Kroeber Hall Anthropology Department, UC Berkeley

Co-sponsored by the Program in Medical Anthropology and Disability Studies

Berkeley Center for Social Medicine
2420 Bowditch Street #5670
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-5670
TEL: 510.642.0813
FAX: 510.642.8674
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