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.