CAM/IM-related AAA 2018 panels and presentations

Emery has pulled together a list of panels and presentations at this year’s AAAs in San Jose that may be of interest to our SIG members. Hope to see you there!

From Emery:

Below is a list of panels and presentations of potential interest at the AAA annual meeting this year in San Jose. If you are attending, please join us for our open business meeting. We will be introducing candidates to take over leadership of the group and would like you to come, share your thoughts, and welcome the new chair.

Thursday 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM (3-0660) Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Integrative Medicine (IM) Group (CAM/IM) Open Business (Community) Meeting: Society for Medical Anthropology

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2:15 PM – 4:00 PM (2-0280) Agency, Consciousness, and Medicine Part I

2:15 PM – 2:30 PM Conscious Grieving: Agency Constrained, Agency Transformed.

Greg Wright – University of Central Arkansas

2:30 PM – 2:45 PM Participation, Agency and Traditional Medicine.

el-Sayed el-Aswad – Independent Scholar

2:45 PM – 3:00 PM ‘I can’t say I am a recovering addict. I am recovered’: One Latina’s Testimony of Pentecostal Healing.

Michelle L. Ramirez – University of the Sciences

3:00 PM – 3:15 PM Agency and Consciousness in Eating-Disorders and Negative Body Image. Ruthie Flynn – Catholic University of America

3:15 PM – 3:30 PM Discussion.

Sydney Leigh Yeager – Southern Methodist University


4:30 PM – 6:15 PM (2-0515) Agency, Consciousness, and Medicine Part II

4:30 PM – 4:45 PM Reclaiming Agency through Acudetox: A Study of Auricular Acupuncture Treatments for Substance Abuse Disorders in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sascha Goluboff – Washington & Lee University

4:45 PM – 5:00 PM Heroic Habit(u)s: Practices of Critical Consciousness in Emergency Medical Technicians.

Chuan Hao Chen – University of Pennsylvania

5:00 PM – 5:15 PM Big Pharma, Health Insurers and the Reconstruction of Clinical Autonomy.

Linda M. Hunt – Michigan State University

5:15 PM – 5:30 PM Childbirth and Conscious Decisions: Tuscany and the Rise of Agency as Non-Resistance.

Michaela Wallerstedt – Southern Methodist University


Thursday, November 15, 2018

8:00 AM – 9:45 AM        (3-0055) Changing Landscapes in Veterans’ Chronic Pain Management: Imagining and Implementing Integrative, Multi-modal, and Patient-Centered Care Approaches for Pain

8:00 AM – 8:15 AM    Integrated Pain Care at the San Francisco VA: Lessons From the Expansion of Interdisciplinary Biopsychosocial Care Approaches for Chronic Pain.

Kara A. Zamora – Veterans Health Administration

8:15 AM – 8:30 AM    Whole Health Chronic Pain Coaching in the VA: Successes and Challenges in What Comes Next.

Lauren S. Penney – South TX Veterans Health Care System / Univ of Texas Health San Antonio

8:30 AM – 8:45 AM    Novel Approaches to Pain Management in Veterans Using Agriculture.

Karen Besterman-Dahan – Department of Veterans Affairs

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM    Contextualizing chronic illness: A conceptual model synthesizing illness experience, organizational context, and therapeutic alliance.

Christopher J. Koenig – San Francisco State University

9:00 AM – 9:15 AM    “Changing the Conversation” About Health: Leveraging a Crisis to Reimagine the Role of Healthcare in the United States.

Justeen Kay Hyde – U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs


8:00 AM – 9:45 AM (3-0225) The New Age, Reconsidered: Science, Ontology, Healing, Epistemology


8:00 AM – 8:15 AM “Think like a mushroom”: the animistic play of amateur applied mycologists

Joanna Steinhardt – University of California, Santa Barbara

8:15 AM – 8:30 AM The New Age of Psychedelics: How might Carlos Castaneda’s ‘The Teachings of Don Juan’ be Received Today?

Patricia Kubala – UC Berkeley

8:30 AM – 8:45 AM Quantum Consciousness: A Scientific Spirituality

Christopher Cochran – University of California, Berkeley

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM Remodelling Psychosis with Psychedelic Science in the New ‘New Age’

Tehseen Noorani – University of Durham

9:00 AM – 9:15 AMIs Chinese Medicine an Empirical Medicine?

Isaac Cohen – University of California, Berkeley

9:15 AM – 9:30 AM Discussion

Torang Asadi – Duke University


12:15 PM – 1:30 PM (3-0660) Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Integrative Medicine (IM) Group (CAM/IM) Open Business (Community) Meeting: Society for Medical Anthropology


Sunday, November 18th, 2018

10:15AM – 12:00 PM (6-0435) The Work of Travel in the (New) Age of Spiritual Healing: Spiritualism, Gnosticism and the “White Shaman”

10:15 AM – 10:30 AM Travel Between Gnosticism and Shamanism in the New Age of Spiritualities: Toward a Comparative Framework of Analysis.

Quetzil E. Castaneda – OSEA

10:30 AM – 10:45 AM Social Justice Pilgrimages of Healing and Remembrance: Famine Walks in Ireland, Canada, and the USA

E Moore Quinn – College of Charleston

10:45 AM – 11:00 AM New Age Pilgrimage to Greece: (Re)Creating Ancient Spiritualities in a Contemporary Context

Jill Dubisch – Northern Arizona University

AAA 2018 updates and change in leadership

Hello members,

We are about two weeks away from our annual business meeting at the AAAs in San Jose and we wanted to send a couple updates.

  1. We are soliciting nominations for a new SIG chair or co-chairs that we will discuss and vote on during our business meeting. We have received two self-nominations so far (copied below). To nominate yourself or someone else, please provide a brief statement indicating your interest in leading the group, your research interests, and your ideas for keeping the SIG useful and supportive for researchers like yourself.
  2. Before the meetings we will send out a list of papers and panels that might be of interest to group members. To ensure we share your paper/panel, please send us the information as soon as possible.
  3. Our business meeting will be held Thursday, Nov 15th, from 12:15-1:30 PM. The session number is 3-0660. If you’re available, please consider attending – we’re only a community of practice to the degree that people show up and participate! We’ll also be voting on new leadership, so this is a good opportunity to have a say in the group’s future.

Emery and I have enjoyed our time leading the group and look forward to what new leadership will bring!




Nominations for the position of CAM/IM SIG Chair


Laura Meek

I am a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, scheduled to graduate in June 2019. As Chair or Co-Chair of the CAM/IM Special Interest Group, I would start by taking an online poll of members to find out how you all would like to see the group develop in the coming years. My own ideas include: 1) sending out calls for CAM/IM sponsored panels at conferences; 2) highlighting student work in the field by posting short pieces by students on the site once a month, featuring a different person’s undergraduate/graduate research each time; 3) organizing mentoring events at conferences by pairing graduate students with professors to receive guidance on areas like grant writing and the job search; and 4) creating a resource on our website, where members can upload and share their course syllabi and film suggestions on topics related to CAM/IM. I would welcome any other ideas or suggestions from members, too! My own work explores the globalization of pharmaceuticals in East Africa, embodiment and bodily epistemologies, and the ethics of healing. I conducted two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Tanzania, examining how pharmaceuticals were used and understood by people in their everyday lives. In my dissertation, I frame my interlocutors’ engagement with pharmaceuticals as a form of healing—involving the re/creating of right social relationships—and contrast this with a biomedical emphasis on curing—which locates the efficacy of medicines in their chemical properties, rather than in the contexts and circumstances of their use. Additional areas of research interest include counterfeits & other “fakes”; the history of medicine and healing across the Indian Ocean world; methods as theory; bodies, experimentation, and practices of dreaming.

Jane Saffitz

My research explores the emergence of a medico-legal humanitarian category—“albinism”—that has come to the fore of debates in Tanzania about truth, knowledge, and the future. Yet, albinism is unstable, and there are myriad ways of knowing light skin. These include using their body parts in medicine to access an invisible realm and catalyze socio-bodily transformation. Debates about the onto-epistemic status of people with light skin seem urgent, given recent murders. This violence is reportedly motivated by an illicit speculative economy for these body parts led by traditional healers and laborers in extractive industries. It has also given rise to a transnational movement for “albinism rights.” While NGOs, scientists, and journalists claim that violence emerges from deeply-held “occult beliefs” and a lack of knowledge that light skin is albinism, healers and their patrons point to a Euro-American fixation with albinism, and suggest that the state, NGOs, and media are creating the violence they claim only to describe. This project is an ethnography of disparate material-discursive practices surrounding albinism and its excesses. I argue that these practices cannot be separated as violent or humanitarian, spiritual or scientific, inscrutable or enlightening. Indeed their import lies in their ability to destabilize these very categories.

My interests in CAM/IM stem from the productive problems of thinking about albino body parts as a kind of medicine for others’ use. Facilitating a broader network of scholars thinking similarly and differently about what medicine is—and what it can be and do—stands to deepen my work, and that of others. When conducting fieldwork, I was forced to confront my inability to know dawa, a Swahili category that is usually translated as medicine, but is perhaps better thought of as a powerful, transformative substance or technology. What would it mean to think dawa with scholars who work in labs, morgues, and hospitals, across continents and with different logics? How might dawa, or sowa rigpa in Tibet (Craig 2012) transform their work?

I am motivated to chair the CAM/IM Interest Group not only because of this potential for cross-fertilization, but also because of the possibilities for mentorship and professional and interpersonal growth. I envision mentorship programs that not only pair ABD graduate students with professors, but also pair pre-field graduate students with those who are ABD. Through virtual conferences and coffee breaks on Facebook live, I envision lively, and sometimes short discussions, about newly published work, as well as work in progress. Lastly, I anticipate collectively brainstorming how CAM/IM can engage politically through our work. Whether advocating for the existence of trans and intersex individuals or asking how medical anthropology can serve migrants at the southern border, I would aim to increase our presence as a force for change at the intersections of health, medicine, and social justice.

What I’ve Been Reading – 6/18/2017

I’m a fan of Playtypus’ (somewhat) weekly roundup and Neuroanthropology’s frequent facebook posts. In my day-to-day work as a health services researcher I don’t have a lot of space to think about complementary and integrative health or anthropology per se. I’m using my first blog post to run through some recent articles and posts that helped me re-engage with anthropological perspectives around health and healing that may be of interest to others here. This list would have been better curated, but a colleague distracted me mid-week with a question about ethnography and complexity science that took me down a less related rabbit hole.

What are your favorite places on the internet related to complementary and integrative health or that help you to think more deeply about the work you’re doing? Do any of you keep blogs? Consider contributing a post to this one! 


NPR covered a report from Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality on the potential benefits of yoga and mindfulness programs for girls in the juvenile justice system who have experienced trauma. Recently, I’ve been thinking more about military service-related and other trauma among veterans (particularly female veterans), and the U.S. Veteran’s Health Administration’s whole health model of care. (more to come in upcoming blog posts) Anthropologists have the potential to contribute (and continue contributing) good things to these efforts by studying, among other things, how these therapies are most successfully implemented and maintained, the ways in which complementary and integrative care are coopted by biomedicine, the new therapeutic lenses and processes they offer, the (different) outcomes they might encourage us to attend to.  (See Emery’s post on an NCCIH funding opportunity)


On a similar thread: Super tiny pilot study that touches on placebo, patient expectations, and hope. What grabbed my attention were the idea of patients’ self-healing power, and importance placed on specific and non-specific treatment effects (which reminds me of complexity theory). The authors argue “the unspecific effects are produced by thorough anamneses, building trust, identification and agreement of a common understanding and mutual goals, being professional, taking control of the situation, and showing empathy and respect towards the patient.”


Do you incorporate visual methods in your work? It’s always one of the top three things I want to do, but it’s not something I’ve used effectively. This article on using photography to understand how people perceive happiness makes me want to do better.


This 2013 article about a farm training program for veterans recently showed up in a feed. It reminded me of the work of fellow Veterans Health Administration anthropologist Karen Besterman-Dahan and others to use community agriculture to help veterans transition back civilian life. In the article, Karen says, “’Veterans join the military because they want to make a difference in the world […] And coming back and being able to serve their community, this is a definite way and a very life affirming way.’” Both these articles offer opportunities to think about healing, identity, connectivity, and place in new ways.


A little over a year ago, I went on a “field trip” to several military simulation centers. At one, where troops were put through battlefield simulations to prepare for deployment, staff expressed interest in studying how simulations could be used to both identify people who might be at enhanced risk for developing PTSD and for helping provide exposure therapy for people who have developed PTSD in the field. Turns out, people have already been working on this. Back in April, Rolling Stone had a piece on how virtual reality is being used in exposure therapy for returned troops. The article quotes a doctor who calls this “‘hard medicine for hard problems.'” The treatment is described as addressing cognitive and behavioral parts of trauma. However, I wonder what insights anthropologists might bring to this using CAM/IM literature? Could ritual and performance be useful concepts here? Moral trauma? What about the social parts of these experiences? Others?


Even during the horrible (horrible) Texas summers, you’ll find me taking walking breaks around the hospital to help me think through issues or expend pent up energy. New-ish research out of Stanford provides evidence for how walking can facilitate creativity. The authors suggest that “any movement away from an emotional baseline is useful for creative thinking”. What gets you going and how do you sustain it?


If you have something you’re working on or read something you’d like to share with a short write up, please consider contributing a post to our blog! We’d like this to be vibrant, collaborative space for sharing ideas and receiving feedback.