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Teaching Resources on Normal and Abnormal, Pathology, and Othering

Trauma discourses are deeply embedded in debates on normality and pathology. This sample reading encourages students to think critically about the concept of normalcy and the socio-historical processes of Othering.


Ethnographic Writing and Cross-Cultural Approaches to Pathology and Othering


We examine how the concept of normality has been historically, culturally, and politically constructed, measured, and challenged. Problematizing the taken for granted-ness of what constitutes abnormal, we will examine its formative discourses and will look at the ways in which science and technology and the categories of knowledge and expertise are embedded in their own historical and epistemological contexts. The implication is that the knowledge forms and meaning of normality mutually shape and reshape each other across times and places. Normality, in other words, is more than a mere biological/material construct; it is politically and historically constructed through various discourses (per Foucault). We will also examine medicalization through the lens of interpretive medical anthropology and with close attention to the concept of subjectivity.

  • Foucault, M. Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-1975, Graham Burchell trans., Arnold I. Davidson, English series editor (New York: Picador, 2003): Read Page 323-329, and 334-339:https://monoskop.org/images/9/9b/Foucault_Michel_Abnormal_Lectures_at_the_College_de_France_1974_1975_2003.pdf

  • Lock, Margaret, and Vinh-Kim Nguyen. 2010. An Anthropology of Biomedicine. John Wiley & Sons. Introduction, Chapter 2: The Normal Body; Chapter 4: Local Biologies and Human Difference

  • Valentine, David. 2007. Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category. Chapter 1.

  • Behrouzan, Orkideh. Prozāk Diaries(2016, Stanford University Press): Introduction, Chapter 1 and chapter 4 (carefully read footnotes too)

  • Conrad, Peter. 1992. “Medicalization and Social Control.” Annual Review of Sociology. 18 (January): 209–32.

  • Kitanaka. Diagnosing Suicides of Resolve: Psychiatric Practice in Contemporary Japan Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 2008, Volume 32, Number 2, Page 152

  • Jain, S. Lochlann. Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 2013: Selected Chapters

  • Lock, Margaret, and Nancy Scheper-Hughes. "The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology." In Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology. Edited by Peter Brown. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2009, pp. 208–24.

  • Benedict, Ruth. 1934. Anthropology and the Abnormal. Journal of General Psychology, 10:59-80 (1934). Link to full article: http://users.manchester.edu/Facstaff/SSNaragon/Online/texts/201/Benedict,%20Anthropology.pdf

  • Lock, Margaret. 1996 “Death in Technological Time: Locating the End of Meaningful Life” in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, New Series, 10(4):575-600.

  • Good, B.J. The Heart of What’s the Matter: The Semantics of Illness in Iran. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry1:25–58

  • Lock, Margaret. "Displacing Suffering: The Reconstruction of Death in North America and Japan." In Death, Mourning and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader. Edited by A. Robben. Blackwell Publishers, 2004, pp. 189–204.

  • Kitanaka, Junko. 2012. Depression in Japan: Psychiatric Cures for a Society in Distress. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • de Certeau, M.  The practice of everyday life (Berkeley: University of California, 1984)

  • Sajadi, Sahar. "Puberty Suppression: Saving Children from a Natural Disaster?" Journal of Medical Humanities, Volume 34(2), June 2013.

  • Behrouzan, O. (2015). Writing Prozak Diaries in Tehran: Generational Anomie and Psychiatric Subjectivities, Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 39(3):399-426.

  • Arthur Kleinman, “Culture and Depression,” New England Journal of Medicine351(10): 951-953, 2004.

  • Conrad, Peter. 1975. “The Discovery of Hyperkinesis: Notes On the Medicalization of Deviant Behavior.” Social Problems 23 (1): 12–21. doi:10.2307/799624.

  • Conrad, Peter. 2007. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • Conrad, Peter, and Deborah Potter. 2000. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories.” Social Problems 47 (4): 559–82. doi:10.2307/3097135

  • Brewis, Alexandra A., Amber Wutich, Falletta-Cowden, and Isa Rodriguez-Soto. 2011. “Body Norms and Fat Stigma in Global Perspective.” Current Anthropology 52 (2) (April 1): 269–276. (Link to full article: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/659309.pdf?acceptTC=true)

  • Davis-Floyd, Robbie E. Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Berkeley: University of California, 1992, p.1-42, 154-240 

  • Canguilhem, G. 2012. Writings on Medicine. Fordham University Press. Canguilhem, G. 1966. Le normale et le pathologique. Paris: Presses Universitaire de France. Foucault, M. 2004. Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-1975. London: Picador.

  • Martin, Emily. 1988. “Premenstrual Syndrome, Work Discipline and Anger.” The Woman in the Body. Boston: Beacon Press, pp.113-138.

  • Hacking, Ian. 1990. The Taming of Chance. Cambridge University Press

  • Waldby, Catherine. 2000 “Fragmented Bodies, Incoherent Medicine” in Social Studies of Science, Vol 30, 3: 465-75


On Subjectivity

  • Biehl, J. et al. (eds.) 2007. Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations (University of California Press, 2007): Introduction, Epilogue, and chapters according to your interest

  • Ortner, Sherry. 2005. “Subjectivity and Cultural Critique,” Anthropological Theory 5(1): 31-52.

  • Fanon, Frantz. 1967. Black Skin White Masks. New York, Grove Press. (First published in 1952.)

  • Good, B. J. Theorising the “Subject” of Medical and Psychiatric Anthropology. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 18 (3), 2012, pp.515-535.

  • Good, Byron J., Michael M. J. Fischer, Sarah S. Willen, and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good. 2010. A Reader in Medical Anthropology: Theoretical Trajectories, Emergent Realities. John Wiley & Sons. Chapter 36: Amuk in Java

  • Biehl, João and Amy Moran-Thomas. 2009. “Symptom: Subjectivities, Social Ills, Technologies.” In Annual Review of Anthropology 38: 267-88

  • Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor

  • Kleinman, A. & Good, B. 1985. Culture and Depression: Studies in the Anthropology and Cross-cultural Psychiatry of Affect and Disorder. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chapters 3 (pp.101-133), 13 (pp. 429-490), & Epilogue (pp. 491-505).

  • Good, Byron, and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good. "The Subject of Mental Illness: Psychosis, Mad Violence and Subjectivity in Indonesia." In Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations. University of California Press, 2007.

  • Martin, E. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and depression in American Culture. Princeton U. Press.

  • Scheper-Hughes, N. 2001. Saints, Scholars, and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland. UCal. Whitaker, R. 2003. Mad in America. Perseus Publications.

  • Good, Byron, and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good. "The Subject of Mental Illness: Psychosis, Mad Violence and Subjectivity in Indonesia." In Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations. University of California Press, 2007.

  • Certeau, Michel de. 1984. The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: Univ of Calif. (particularly interesting chapters on space and the arts of memory, walking in the city, and spatial practices)

  • Das, Veena and Ranendra K. Das. 2007. “How the Body Speaks: Illness and the Lifeworld of the Urban Poor,” in Joao Biehl, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman, eds., Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations, Berkeley: University of California  Press, pp. 66-97

  • Paul Stoller (memoir, cancer),Stranger In the Village of the Sick.

  • Garcia, Angela. 2010. The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession along the Rio Grande. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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