Julian Thompson presents on risk and surveillance in mental health courts

Wednesday, January 31, 4:30-6:00pm. Haskell 101

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop presents: Julian Thompson (SSA):

‘People, Places, and Things:’ Judicial Imaginaries, Risk, and Surveillance of the Mentally Ill Addict in Mental Health Courts

with opening comments by Katie Schumacher (SSA)

Mental health courts (MHCs) operate at the nexus of legal, medical, and welfare borders, often articulating themselves as rehabilitative alternatives to incarceration by offering supervised treatment in the community. As such, they provide a unique window into the micro-processes and practices of contemporary rehabilitation efforts, especially after forty years of punitive approaches to crime control. While many empirical studies have examined their effectiveness, few studies have ethnographically investigated the courtroom dynamics that make possible their rehabilitative aims. In this paper, I attempt to highlight one aspect of MHCs’ rehabilitative logic—and by extension, its ideological work. This logic revolves around several practices that focus on both imagined and real constructions of ‘risk’ among people diagnosed with a serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use and the attendant social ecology of their categorical existence (i.e. addiction, illness, criminality). Rather than radically critiquing and deconstructing these legal and psychiatric categories, I examine how they are imagined and instantiated in the court context, assigned meaning, and become real targets in the judicial process—a process that is inextricably bound up in latent and manifest punishment.  Here, the often taken-for-granted saying “people, places, and things” within the addiction community holds significance. When MHC practitioners work within this folk understanding of addiction, gender and racial ideologies emerge and meld with a pre-configured addict type—an addict type that already at the core is a risk-prone subject. As a result, MHCs focus their efforts on restructuring defendants’ environments, social life, and routine activities in order to restructure the thinking and behavior of defendants. According to the rationale of MHC practitioners, the restructuring process is therapeutic and punishment is merely an instrument to achieve rehabilitation. While the causes, conditions, and consequences of this process vary, what remains consistent is the conception of the defendant as a risk subject whose prior drug use defines the totality of his or her life and justifies the hyper-surveillance of the court—often to the detriment of defendants’ material stability.

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

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This Week: Matt Hiller presents on identity narratives in obsessive-compulsive disorders

Wednesday, January 17, 4:30-6:00pm. Haskell 101

Matthew Hiller (SSA): “OCD – Self and Other”

with opening comments by Paula Martin (CHD)

This paper examines the emergence and discourse of online forums focused on sexuality-related  themes in OCD. The first section gives a history of these forums and examines how participants narratively differentiate OCD from “homosexuality” and “pedophilia.”  The second section explores interrelations between forum discourse and cultural understandings of sexuality and self-knowledge. In the last section, I draw on queer and disability theory to assess how OCD narratives both advance and contest dominant social logics. My contention is that both forum and psychiatric narratives voice cultural beliefs and anxieties concerning the “truth” of sexuality (Foucault 1990; Gross 2011), clinical typologies, and the nature of sexual threats. However, OCD forums also create a discursive space in which these conceptions are challenged and recast.

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

To subscribe to our mailing list, visit: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/subscribe/medicineanditsobjects 

MaIOW in Winter 2018

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop continues this winter, building on our ongoing theme of Vitality. See our schedule below!

We also welcome (back) Professor Judith Farquhar as one of our faculty sponsors!

NB: We will be changing venues for the quarter to Haskell 101. If you have any questions or concerns, or require any assistance to attend any of our events, please contact the workshop coordinator, Kieran Kelley: kierankelley@uchicago.edu

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Wednesday, Nov. 22: Natalja Czarnecki presents at the MaIOW

Wednesday, November 22, 4:30-6:00pm. Rosenwald 329

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop presents: Natalja Czarnecki (Anthropology)

Something in the Way He Says ‘Babushka Production’: Managerial Experts, Sincere Regulation, and Food Safety Reform in Post-Soviet Tbilisi, Georgia

 with opening comments by Eugene Raikhel (Comparative Human Development)

 In 2014, Georgia and the EU signed an Association Agreement, after which the Georgian National Food Agency, a department of the Ministry of Agriculture, began a process of “harmonizing” its legal food safety codes in accordance with those of the EU and of global organizations such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization.  In this context of regulatory reform, this chapter offers an ethnographic account of the making of sincere, regulatory authority – here embodied in the figure of the “managerial expert” positioned within a state bureaucracy, the National Food Agency.  By comparing different feminizations of the Georgian food-producing countryside as invoked and imagined at sites of my fieldwork in Tbilisi between 2013 and 2016, I hope to demonstrate the moralized politics involved in contemporary discourses around the objects and limits of transnational food safety regulatory regimes’ claims to trustworthiness.

I will examine the kind of feminization of the countryside emergent in a day-long conference on the “Future of Food Safety in Georgia,” wherein EU and global regulatory experts organized and moderated a discussion on regulatory policy and responsibility between Georgian state and private-sector interests.  In this idealization, the countryside (embodied by “small-scale family farmers”) is understood in variably gendered ways, depending on the position from which it is invoked.  According to EU and other transnational experts at the conference, in paternalistic terms: vulnerable and in need of care and reform; fertile but cheap, lacking in relative market value; and inexperienced.  To the Georgian experts and to other experts who attended the conference from former socialist Eastern Europe, this paternalistic characterization of the countryside is different in its terms of moral valuation; it is in need of “care” and perhaps archaic, but it is also deeply familiar, an object of masculinized affection.

The Georgian food safety manager-expert emerges as someone in a particular kind of “proximate distance” to its object of regulation, managing his/her position as oriented to both the authority of technocratic codes emanating from the EU, but also sincerely caring about his/her very familiar object of regulation, here the pastoral countryside. I will discuss what these processes of gendering might tell us about the kind of moral authorities that are claimed and emergent in the politics of transnational regulatory regimes at EU and global “peripheries.”

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

To subscribe to our mailing list, visit: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/subscribe/medicineanditsobjects 

Nov. 8: Anne-Sophie Reichert presents “Leben im Versuch”

Wednesday, November 8, 4:30-6:00pm, in Rosenwald 329

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop welcomes:

Anne-Sophie Reichert (Anthropology)

Leben im Versuch: Experimental Culture in Hellerau, Germany (1910-1914) 

This paper traces the formative period of Germany’s first garden city Hellerau, located in the vicinity of Dresden to house the famous Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau. It focuses on Hellerau’s peculiar experimental culture, examining the exploratory and innovative spirit that pervades the overall life and work ethos, architecture and pedagogy of the village. I begin by outlining the historical context of the project Hellerau. In the archives, Hellerau was repeatedly described as an experiment or a laboratory. I consequently address how this scientific language, one largely employed by scientists and doctors in the metropolis at the time, traveled to a furniture factory in the Saxonian countryside. Following, I offer a reading of Hellerau’s laboratory life that takes the arts and sciences into view from an integrated perspective. I argue that if we look at Hellerau from a standpoint that does not stop at the objects and practices conventionally analyzed and hence established by various and possibly antagonistic disciplinary standards, we can ascertain that what it meant to conduct an experiment was not solely defined within the confines of the scientific laboratory. On the contrary, in Hellerau experiments were carried out across the arts and sciences, in the private and in the public, in the factory and on stage. Therefore, the repertoire of experimental language and practice did not belong exclusively to the natural sciences but crossfertilized and developed between artistic, scientific and socio-political realms to the end of advancing modern social life. In this sense, Hellerau’s experiments embody a central aspect of the experience of modernity at the turn of the 20th century: that of life as always unfinished and perpetually evolving, as open-ended and instable, forever.

Please join us for a lively discussion and refreshments always unfinished!

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

To subscribe to our mailing list, visit: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/subscribe/medicineanditsobjects

Zoe H. Wool visits MaIOW

Please join the Medicine and Its Objects Workshop for a special presentation from…

Zoe H. Wool (Rice University, Anthropology and Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality) 

Straight Time, Base Technologies, and the Feeling of No Feeling: Queer Attachments and Disability in the Aftermath of War
Wednesday, October 25, 4:30-6:00pm, in Rosenwald 329
Professor Wool’s work examines questions of personhood and the body at times when the body—both its fleshy contours and its social entailments—becomes unsteady. These interests are rooted in her ethnographic field research with grievously injured American soldiers and their family members. They extend to broader questions about the social, cultural, ethical, intimate, carnal, and clinical situations within which such special categories of life, death, and personhood accrue value or are debrided of it in late liberal democracies. In addition to anthropology, Professor Wool’s work draws on queer and critical theory, critical disability studies, and studies of public culture to address questions of debility and intimacy; personhood and the body; war, trauma, and modern medicine; and the fleshy contours of worthy life in the contemporary United States.
NB: There will be no pre-circulated paper for this workshop. 
As part of her visit, we will have student coffee hours at 12:15 and 1:30 in Foster 108, and a dinner following the workshop. 
If you are interested in attending either of these events, or for any questions or concerns, please contact Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

Camille Roussel presents…

Wednesday, October 18, 4:30-6:00pm, in Rosenwald 329

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop presents the inimitable:

Camille Roussel (Comparative Human Development)

please join us to discuss:

“Protect Me from Pregnancy”: Rethinking (Bio)Politics in Guatemala

with opening comments by

Jenny Miao Hua (Anthropology and Medicine)

My project explores the emergence of a new Guatemalan public health campaign, called “Protect me from Pregnancy,” that seeks to prevent pregnancies in girls under the age of 14. While around 80% of child pregnancies result from abuse within the family, campaign organizers and health professionals are most concerned with the 20% of victims who, they believe, to be indigenous girls who become pregnant due to “backward indigenous tradition” of early marriage. On the one hand, the campaign appears to build upon a longstanding history of the state attempting to control and manage indigenous women’s reproduction. Yet campaign workers also see themselves as trying to break with this past by working to recognize the rights of indigenous women. My project uses the “Protect Me from Pregnancy” campaign to investigate the contemporary struggle to adopt a more multicultural form of governance in Guatemala as well as the role that biopolitics plays in shaping indigenous-state relations.

As always, discussion will be fruitful and refreshments bountiful!

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

To subscribe to our mailing list, visit: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/subscribe/medicineanditsobjects

This Week! David Ansari!

To open our workshop this year, Medicine and Its Objects presents:

Wednesday, October 4, 4:30-6:00pm, in Rosenwald 329

David Ansari (PhD candidate, Comparative Human Development)

please join us to discuss:

Activities of reading and writing: Navigating paperwork routines in culturally sensitive mental health services in Paris

with opening comments by

Talia Gordon (PhD Student, Comparative Human Development)

Graduate students in psychology and psychiatry embark upon training in culturally sensitive mental health services in France to learn to understand the cultural and migration histories of patients. While these students observe and participate in clinical consultations, they also spend a great deal of time engaged in seemingly mundane paperwork routines: taking notes, transcribing, reading patient files, and filling out forms. This chapter, part of a larger project that examines the learning experiences of these students, explores the functions of these routines. Students’ involvement in these routines supports the clinical work of these services by maintaining continuity between consultations and by assisting in admissions decisions; these routines guide students to understand the institutional frameworks of these services and focus students’ attention on specific details about patients. While they confer responsibility to students and present opportunities for student-to-student learning, these routines are also moments in which students question or critique institutional procedures. Their critiques suggest alternative ways to engage with patients’ histories.

Refreshments will be served, stimulating dialogue will be had!

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

To subscribe to our mailing list, visit: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/subscribe/medicineanditsobjects

Francis McKay @ Medicine and Its Objects

Medicine and Its Objects presents…

WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 4:30-6:00 PM




 (Earl S. Johnson Instructor in Anthropology for MAPSS)

to discuss



with opening comments by

Sanja Miklin
(PhD Student, Comparative Human Development)



Abstract: The anthropology of morality has, in recent years, highlighted a variety of sine quibus non (virtue, freedom, evil, etc.) that are conceptually needed if anthropologists are to better understand morality. I add to this list the concept of “telos” and offer a phenomenological theory for how it features in the affective life of the ethical subject. Though common in anthropology, “telos” tends to be defined primarily in terms of highly ranked cultural values that provide the normative content subjects aspire to in their ethical striving. This view, however, fails to capture the range of practices involved in making telic judgments. Specifically, it overlooks the fact that people aim not just at high-order cultural values, but also at “final ends,” and that in deliberating about final ends, criteria for evaluating the finality of values is necessary. Summarizing recent work on ethical reasoning in relation to ultimate values (e.g. Robbins and Lambek), and comparing that to my own research on American Buddhists, I argue that such criteria can be found in a range of biocultural emotional experiences I call “teleological affects,” the name I give to a subdomain of moral sentiments through which people appraise the means and ends of life.



Please email Camille (roussel@uchicago.edu) for a copy of the paper


For any questions and concerns about the workshop, or if you need assistance in order to attend, please contact Camille Roussel (roussel@uchicago.edu).


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We look forward to seeing you soon!