Assistant Professor

Email: jlchua@email.unc.edu

Phone: (919) 962-1564

Fax: (919) 962-1263
Office: 307 Alumni Building

Area of Interest:

Anthropologies and politics of health and well-being; globalization of psychiatry; mental health and illness; politics of life and death; suicide; ontologies of the body; kinship and care; South Asia; Kerala

Education:

Ph.D. Stanford 2009

Research & Activities:

My research examines how globalizing psychiatry endeavors to systematically reshape human capacities for living. I am interested in how psychiatry’s relational forms of knowledge and practice produce, evaluate, and operate upon particular understandings of subjectivity, social change, and family life. I explore the ways bodies, emotions, and intimacies are assessed and managed by, but also problematize, psychiatric modes of knowing and acting.

My first research project examined expert and vernacular efforts to make sense of and intervene into an unfolding suicide epidemic in Kerala, south India. Once widely celebrated as a development miracle, Kerala was well-known among development and public health scholars for its progressive social indicators including low population growth and high literacy rates. More recently, however, Kerala has earned the new distinction as the nation’s so-called suicide capital, reporting the highest rates of suicide and family suicide in India. Drawing on three years of anthropological fieldwork spanning a decade in Kerala’s capital city, my book In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India (2014, University of California Press) examines how Keralites account for suicide in ways that extend beyond individual psychiatric illness to implicate broader political, economic, and social developments in the region. Many construe the contemporary suicide crisis to be, not an aberration on the path to modernity and development, but rather the bitter fruit born of these collective struggles and historical trajectories. In this book, I explore how mental health experts and everyday people endeavor to heal a problem that they understand and experience as being deeply political, historical, and social in nature. Suicide and suicide prevention in Kerala offer powerful windows onto the experiential dimensions of development and global change in postcolonial India.

I have a developing interest in the ways military psychiatry and military medicine are reshaping ideas of the human and capacities for living in relation to death.  I am particularly interested in pre-deployment psychological preparedness efforts by the US military that are evolving in response to concerns about the mental health of service members and their families.

Courses Taught:

Undergraduate:

ANTH 147 Comparative Healing Systems

ANTH 280 Anthropology of War and Peace

ANTH 325 Emotions and Society

ANTH 445 Migration and Health

Graduate:

ANTH 750 Graduate Seminar in Medical Anthropology

ANTH 898 States of Disorder: Self, Psyche, and Postcoloniality

ANTH 898 Mental Health, Psychiatry, and Culture

Selected Publications:

2014 In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2013 “’Reaching Out to the People’: The Cultural Production of Mental Health Professionalism in the South Indian Public Sphere.” Ethos 41(4):341-359.

2012 “The Register of ‘Complaint’: Psychiatric Diagnosis and the Discourse of Grievance in the South Indian Mental Health Encounter.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 26(2):221-240.

2012 “Tales of Decline: Reading Social Pathology into Individual Suicide in South India.” Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry36(2):204-224.

2011 “Making Time for the Children: Self-Temporalization and the Cultivation of the Antisuicidal Subject in South India.” Cultural Anthropology 26(1):112-137.