Call for papers for fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry

It’s not exactly neuroanthropology, but if you’re one of those energetic psychology-neurology-anthropology-psychiatry hybrid grad students who contacts us from time to time, you may want to consider applying for the following fellowhip. I got the announcement through the Society for Psychological Anthropology:

Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture
Call for Papers: Charles Hughes Fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry

The Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture announces its 8th annual call for papers for the Charles Hughes Fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry, an annual award presented to a graduate student who has an interest in and commitment to cultural psychiatry and mental health. Graduate students in the social sciences who are interested in competing for this award should submit an original scholarly paper on a topic in cultural psychiatry, along with a CV and a letter of recommendation from his/her department or committee chair, to:

Joan D. Koss-Chioino, Ph.D.
2753 Bon Haven Lane
Annapolis, MD 21401
or Email all 3 documents to: joan [dot] koss@asu [dot] edu

The deadline is February 28, 2009. The Society will pay partial travel costs for the awardee to present his or her paper at its annual meeting to be held May 15 -17,2009 in San Francisco, California.

For more information, contact Dr. Joan Koss-Chioino at joan [dot] koss@asu [dot] edu.

Just a Place to Talk: Women and HIV/AIDS

By Christine, Dorian, Kristine, Tom & Vanessa
Nine months ago, Maria birthed a healthy baby girl. Just two days later, the joyous ecstasy of new life quickly led to a striking reality: Maria’s husband was diagnosed with HIV.

“He thought I was going to leave him, but of course I wouldn’t. We’re in this together.” At the time, she didn’t know quite how personal her statement would become. Just three months later Maria and her newborn daughter were also diagnosed with HIV.

“Initially I was able to handle it in the moment, but then it hits. In time, it’s become much more difficult to deal with.”

Maria certainly feels stigmatized and has refrained from telling her other children. In this Midwestern town, the needs of Maria (a pseudonym) and other women with HIV are ripe with concern and lack of viable opportunity. She told us, “What I, and other women need, is just a place to talk.”

Currently there are HIV/AIDS support groups offered locally through a community center. Our community-based student project, focused on understanding and empowering women suffering from HIV/AIDS locally, brought us to these groups. What we found was a support group for homosexual men that did not offer the support women need.

Through research concerning sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS, we discovered that homosexual men and heterosexual women have different coping mechanisms and symptoms. Women experience more illness as a result to their HIV/AIDS status than homosexual men. They also are more likely to need social support to deal with the pain and fear of being HIV/AIDS positive. (Mosack 2009:137) Although the group that exists can be literally defined as a place to talk, it may not be the best place to be heard and understood as a woman.

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What do these enigmatic women want?

25desire_6002In this week’s The Times Magazine of The NY Times, Daniel Bergner has a piece on women’s sexuality and research that’s already in preprint causing a bit of controversy as well as a convulsion of 1950s era humor in the online response. The title, ‘What do women want?’, that nugget of Freudian wonder, no doubt will raise the readership, as will the pictures of models simulating states of arousal (Greg Mitchell is in a bit of snit about them in, Coming Attraction: Preview of ‘NYT Magazine’ With Semi-Shocking Sex Images on Sunday. ‘Semi-Shocking’? I can imagine how that goes… ‘Are you SHOCKED by these photos?’ ‘Well, I’m at least SEMI-shocked, yes!’).

In particular, Bergner gives us thumbnail portraits of women engaged in sex research: Meredith Chivers of Queens University (Kingston, Ontario), Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah, and Marta Meana from UNLV, although there’s also commentary from Julia Heiman, the Director of the Kinsey Institute, and others. As with so much of contemporary science writing, we get researchers as characters, with quirky personal descriptions and accounts of meeting the author, each one standing in for a particular perspective in current scientific debates.

Chivers is portrayed as arguing that women are existentially divided ‘between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective,’ Diamond is made to stand in for the ‘female desire may be dictated… by intimacy, by emotional connection,’ and Meana stands in for the argument that women are narcissists desiring to submit. Whether or not these are accurate portrayals—and they might be—the model is prevalent in science writing: get characters to represent lines of thinking, even though many of us are not so clearly signed on with a single theoretical team. Here, we know the score: Diamond arguing women want intimacy, Meana that they want a real man to take them, and Chivers that women want it all, even if they don’t realize it and contradict themselves.

The irony is that, with such a tangle, the conclusion is foreordained: women will seem enigmatic, inconsistent, and irremediably opaque. As I’ll suggest in this, I think that the conclusion is built into the way the question is being asked. If a similar question were asked about nearly any group, in nearly any domain of complex human behaviour, and then a simple single answer were demanded, the questioner would face nearly identical frustration.

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