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Adjunct Professor


Phone: (919) 843-8076


(919) 966-7499


336 McNeider Hall

Area of Interest:

Medical Anthropology, Psychiatric Anthropology, Chronic Illness, Qualitative Methods, Health Policy as a Cultural System.


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1978.

Research & Activities:

Research Background

Most of my research has been conducted in psychiatric and mental health settings, both institutional and out in the real world. During 1975-1977 I conducted extensive fieldwork with a group of psychiatric patients living in a community setting in the Midwest. During a three year post-doctoral fellowship in psychiatry, I studied an in-patient psychiatric setting in a general hospital for one year. Following that time, I spent almost two years running a residence for men with multiple social and psychological disabilities and a social club for psychiatric patients. I came to UNC in 1982 and since then have worked on a variety of topics, each related to the experiences, vocabularies, and meanings of radical differentness. These inquiries include father-daughter incest, violence among and around people with major psychiatric disorders, disablement as a cultural process, informed consent for experimental maternal-fetal surgery, and how stigma and discrimination related to mental illness are addressed in community settings.

Present Research

We have just completed a national sampling of how various advocates and expatients address stigma and discrimination related to psychiatric disorders. There are contested strategies and views among the constituents of advocacy related to their understandings of psychiatric disorder, treatment, and individual autonomy and choice. I am particularly interested in how the topic of violence is represented and discussed. I continue to work on the narrated experience of couples deciding whether or not to have experimental maternal-fetal surgery for spina bifida. Along with this perspective, we are analyzing the transcripts of consent conversations between the clinician-researchers and potential subjects. A variety of topics both central and somewhat marginal to the cultural practices and experiences of radical differentness also occupy my attention.

Selected Publications:


Estroff, Sue E. Subject/Subjectivities in Dispute: The Politics and Poetics of First Person Narratives of Schizophrenia. In, The Edge of Experience: Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity/Culture, Subjectivity, and Schizophrenia. Eds., R. Barrett and J. Jenkins, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. In Press.


Estroff, Sue E. 1999. A Harmony In Three Parts: Utopian Treatment for Schizophrenia. New Directions in Mental Health Services. 83(Fall):13-19.


Estroff, Sue E. 1999. The Gaze of Scholars and Subjects: Rights, Roles, and Obligations in Ethnographic Research. In, N.M.P. King, etal., eds. Beyond Regulations: Ethics in Human Subjects Research. Chapel Hill: UNC Press. Pp. 72-80.


Estroff, Sue E., Jeffrey W. Swanson, William S. Lachicotte, Marvin Swartz, and Michele Bolduc. 1998. Risk Reconsidered: targets of violence in the social networks of people with serious psychiatric disorders. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, Vol. 33,Supplement 1: 95-101.


Estroff, Sue E., Donald L. Patrick, Catherine Zimmer, and William Lachicotte 1997. Pathways to Disability Income Among Persons with Severe, Persistent Psychiatric Disorders. Milbank Quarterly. Vol 75, No. 4: 495-532.


Swanson, Jeffery W., Estroff, Sue E., Swartz, Marvin, Borum, Randy, Lachicotte, William, Zimmer, Catherine, and Wagner, Ryan. 1997. Violence and Severe Mental Disorder in Clinical and Community Populations: The Effects of Psychotic Symptoms, Comorbidity, and Disaffiliation from Treatment.Psychiatry. Vol 60(1):1-22.


Estroff, Sue E.1997 A Cultural Perspective of Experiences of Illness, Disability,and Chronic Illness. In, G. Henderson, N.M.P. King, R. Strauss, S. Estroff, and L. Churchill, Eds. The Social Medicine Reader. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. pp. 6-12.