Associate Professor

Email: jlchua@email.unc.edu

Phone: (919) 962-1145

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

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Area of Interest:

Anthropologies and politics of health and well-being; mental health and illness; psychiatric knowledge and practice; military psychiatry; pharmaceuticals; suicide

Education:

Ph.D. Stanford 2009

Research & Activities:

As a sociocultural medical anthropologist, my research to date has broadly focused on suicide, death, and violence in the contemporary world, and specifically on the ways psychiatry and psychology intervene into these threshold experiences by endeavoring to reshape human capacities for living.  I engage the global proliferation of mental health sciences and therapies, while recognizing that 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 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) explores how mental health experts and everyday people endeavor to intervene into a problem that they understand to be 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.

My current project explores relationships between war and medicine in the context of profit and empire.  Specifically, my new research examines the marked turn to the use of psychiatric medications by the United States military in overseas deployed settings in the post-9/11 wars.  I am interested in how psychiatric medications seen as “routine” in civilian life are assimilated into expert and lay practice in post-9/11 counterinsurgency settings, and the resulting lived experiences for soldiers who take them.

Courses Taught:

Undergraduate:

ANTH 147 Comparative Healing Systems

ANTH 280 Anthropology of War and Peace

ANTH 325 Emotions and Society

ANTH 390/490 War, Medicine, and the Military

ANTH 405 Mental Health, Psychiatry, and Culture

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:

Chua, Jocelyn, and Lacy Jo Evans. 2018. Collaborative Research Between Student Veterans and Faculty in Higher Education. Journal of Veterans Studies 3 (1):122-138.

Chua, Jocelyn. 2018. Fog of War: Psychopharmaceutical “Side Effects” and the United States Military. Medical Anthropology 37 (1):17-31.

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

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

Chua, Jocelyn. 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.

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

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