Community Projects & Academe

As a cultural and medical anthropologist, my work is concerned with the production and organization of medical knowledge as they are created and constrained within a political economy of health. Within this agenda my work falls into three broad and intersecting categories: the role of narrative in knowledge production, health inequalities, and a deep commitment to community-engaged research. In particular, I examine knowledge and meanings of health, sickness, and medicine from biomedical and non- biomedical perspectives as critical encounters for individual and social meaning-making, as points of contestation, and as power struggles between hegemonic and alternative discourses. Methodologically, I continue to examine the inclusion of multiple voices in the creation of research agendas, and how being more attentive to the interaction between text and image can transform how we see and collect ethnographic data. I have explored these issues in my work through topics such as cancer, unintentional injury, and narrative in graphic medicine.

The interdisciplinary nature of work has been of interest to medical professionals (medical schools and public health), as well as Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) who are actively engaged in improving the well-being of individuals and communities. My work with CBOs facilitates a stronger integration of the political economy perspectives into my teaching and research agenda. Thus many of my publications and research grants are submitted to venues where my interdisciplinary focus will make an impact as well as contribute to anthropology. The needs of communities, medical professionals, and politics of difference are regularly at odds, producing inequities through stigma and neglect. As a community-engaged scholar, the goal then is to facilitate the distribution of knowledge and resources while being critical of the ways in which these collaborations can co-produce the inequalities they seek to alleviate. My enduring interest in questions of knowledge production with a dual focus on cancer as a mediator of social relationships and engaged-work with Native Hawaiian communities has resulted in a productive research agenda. My graphic medicine work builds on these previous conversations but with an explicit concern with questions of methodology and how we “see” inequality. The integrated theory and applied approach to my research efforts frame my practices in teaching and service as well. I view my teaching and service as an extension of my efforts to better understand knowledge production and inequality and provide opportunities and tools for students and non-academics to engage in the debates that frame their daily lives.