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- Cultural Anthropology
- Anthropology and Geography
- Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of California, San Diego, California, 1997 M.A. in Anthropology, University of California, San Diego, California, 1990 B.S. in Molecular Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1988
Professor, Department of Anthropology
I am a critical psychiatric anthropologist, who investigates the social foundations of mental well-being and the bio-psycho-cultural therapeutics of ritual and play. I am especially interested to understand how human health and healing processes function in natural and (technologically) built environments experiencing dramatic change and high risk and uncertainty. My research suggests that local therapies and sources of health resilience are especially important in such contexts and as such should be incorporated more fully into the global mental health agenda.
I direct the Ethnographic Research and Teaching Lab (ERTL), which gets students involved in my ongoing collaborative research. In my lab, I merge research and teaching in ways that aim to move the field of cultural anthropology beyond the “lone ethnographer” approach (see my recent Nov. 2016 contribution to the Annals of Anthropological Practice).
Some of my recent research has focused on spiritual systems of health and healing in India, for example, investigating how Hindu tribal celebrations provide sources of health resilience for central Indian conservation refugees (see my forthcoming April 2017 article in Current Anthropology). Combining stress biomarkers, epidemiological surveys, and more conventional ethnography, this research was funded by the National Science Foundation: 2011-14. “Environmental Displacement and Human Resilience: New Explanations Using Data from Central India” (NSF Grant #: BCS-1062787).
Even more recently, taking a bio- and cross-cultural perspective, my team and I examine how online gaming can be a coping mechanism for emerging adults. Such play can either work to relieve life distress or by contrast further it in problems resembling behavioral addictions. Drawing on social scientific and anthropological theories of ritual and play, and also on cognitive anthropological and social network/ norm theories like cultural consonance/ dissonance, we aim to uncover the bio-psycho-social mechanisms behind these two alternate paths. Research is ongoing in Brazil, France, Hong Kong/ China, India, and other locales. This research has also been funded by NSF: 2016-17. “EAGER: A Biocultural Study of the Functional Genomics of Intensive Internet Use” (NSF BCE #: 1600448, awarded Nov. 16th, 2015).
I situate my lab’s research within an anthropology directing renewed focus and energy on cross-cultural comparison and biocultural processes, with the aim of understanding the cultural shaping of pan-human experience and well-being. I hope that my lab’s work will add anthropological and ethnographic perspectives to current thinking and practice in global mental health and the clinical sciences.
I have published one sole-authored book (Casting Kings: Bards and Indian Modernity, Oxford University Press, 2006), one co-authored (Indigenous Peoples and the Collaborative Stewardship of Nature: Knowledge Binds and Institutional Conflicts, Left Coast Press, 2011), and one co-edited special journal issue (March 2008 issue of the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture, “Indigenous Nature Reverence and Environmental Degradation: Exploring Critical Intersections of Animism and Conservation”). In addition to numerous book chapters, my research has appeared in journals of anthropology and cultural studies (American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, Culture and Religion, Current Anthropology, Ethos, Ethnos, Field Methods, and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society), research methods (Annals of Anthropological Practice, Field Methods, and the Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology), communications and games studies (Cognitive Technology, Computers in Human Behavior, Games and Culture, New Media and Society), health and medicine (American Journal of Public Health, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, and Transcultural Psychiatry), environmental and development studies (Human Dimensions of Wildlife, Natural Hazards, Risk Analysis, World Development Perspectives), and general science (PNAS). I have received grants from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Spencer Foundation, the Killam Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and, as mentioned, the National Science Foundation.
I am interested to take on graduate students ready to employ mixed qualitative-quantitative ethnographic field methods to explore cultural psychiatric and global mental health research questions. All prospective graduate students should familiarize themselves with my current work, stating in their applications how their own backgrounds, interests, and proposed projects might intersect with and further advance ERTL’s psychiatric/ psychological anthropological research.
Full texts of my publications can be found on these two sites (often in pre-publication form; visit journal sites for post-publication versions):
Director, Ethnographic Research and Teaching Laboratory (ERTL). Critical psychiatric anthropology. Bio-psy-cultural therapeutics of ritual & play. Stress. Passion/ addiction. Little data. India.
ANTH 322, Anthropology of Religion
ANTH 423, Cultural Psychiatry
ANTH 445, Psychological Anthropology
ANTH 545, Global Mental Health: Theory and Method
ANTH 643, Ethnographic Field Methods