Skip to main content

Associate Professor
Medical Anthropologist
Alumni Building 307

Research Interests

Mental Health and Illness, Psychiatric Knowledge and Practice, Critical Military Studies, Military Psychiatry, Pharmaceuticals, Suicide, US Empire


Medical Anthropology, Psychological Anthropology, Psychiatric Anthropology

Research Background

My research to date has broadly focused on suicide, death, and violence in the contemporary world, and specifically on the ways psychiatric and psychological sciences intervene into these threshold experiences by endeavoring to reshape human capacities for living. I engage the global proliferation of mental health sciences and therapies, and how these forms of knowledge and practice are shaped by political, social, and institutional histories in specific contexts. I draw on the strengths of ethnography to unravel unexpected effects, contradictions, and tensions that mental health interventions produce in people’s lived experience and relations with others. My first research project examined expert and vernacular efforts to make sense of and intervene into the problem of suicide in Kerala, South India. My book In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India (2014, University of California Press) explores how experts and families endeavor to intervene into a problem that they understand to be deeply political, historical, and social in nature. Suicide and suicide prevention offer powerful windows onto the experiential dimensions of development and global change. My current project, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the National Science Foundation, explores relationships between war, medicine, and the US military by examining the marked turn to the use of psychiatric medications by the US military in the global war on terror. My project interrogates how medications seen as “routine” in American life are assimilated into the work of global counterinsurgency, and the resulting lived experiences for soldiers who take them.


PhD, Stanford Unviersity

Current Courses

  • ANTH 147 – COMP HEALING SYSTEM (TTH, 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM)
  • ANTH 750 – SEM IN MEDICAL ANTH (TH, 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM)