P. Sean Brotherton, University of Chicago

Associate Professor Chicago, Illinois sbrotherton@uchicago.edu Office: (773) 702-7724

Bio/Research

I am a cultural anthropologist whose research and teaching interests are concerned with the critical study of health, medicine, the state, subjectivity, psychoanalysis, and the body. My theoretical references draw on contemporary social theory and postcolonial studies. Over the past decade, my ov...

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Bio/Research

I am a cultural anthropologist whose research and teaching interests are concerned with the critical study of health, medicine, the state, subjectivity, psychoanalysis, and the body. My theoretical references draw on contemporary social theory and postcolonial studies. Over the past decade, my overarching research questions have sought to weave together historical, epistemological, and ethnographic modes of analysis into a theoretical approach that I call a genealogy of individual bodily practices. Within this framework I examine the sometimes contradictory and overlapping relationships among the individual practices of everyday citizens, economic reform, and state power. I argue that this type of approach can help to unravel the multiple historical layers that contribute to bodily formations, both culturally and materially, and allow us to examine critically the lived experience of bodies. My first book, Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba (Duke UP, 2012), employs this analytical lens to analyze how different sociopolitical fields create and transform political subjectivities. It urges scholars to delve into the nebulous field of embodiment, asking pointed questions about how subjects respond, enact, and rearticulate ideological assumptions in their everyday practices. I am currently working on two lines of research that build on my broader interests regarding medicine, morality, and power. The first project, The Socialist Humanitarian Imperative: The Logic and Practice of Cuba’s Quest for Global Health in the Americas, for which I have carried out the research and am now currently writing up, is an ethnographic account of Cuba’s recent export of medical doctors throughout the world (Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, etc.) in exchange for hard currency. This project explores how a small, resource-poor nation such as Cuba has become a leading figure in delivering “humanitarian biomedicine” to, as Cuban officials note, the “world’s poor.” On the surface, the socialist humanitarian project eschews traditional binaries of capital flow from the North to the South. But, the question remains: Is there another logic at work here? Over the next several years, my second project, Talk Therapy: Trauma, Memory, and the Body in Psychoanalytic Culture in Buenos Aires, currently in the fieldwork stage, will allow me to return to several larger theoretical questions that have animated my thinking over the years concerning the entanglement of embodiment, power, and subject-formation, along with the relationship between scientific knowledge, therapeutic systems, and society.

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