On my 5? birthday, my friends I gathered to celebrate being in this world together. Of course this was pre-covid. I gave them each a packet of tobacco seeds in acknowledgment of our friendship and how we help and guide each other. We were to plant the seeds this spring. Spring came and I planted mine as did my friend. I waited. Sadly my seeds never sprouted. With great joy, my friend’s seeds grew with enthusiasm. She shared the generosity of the growth with me. We are growing tobacco. With gratitude to my friends, our plants, and the opportunity to share with others.
I’ve often thought about what to do with all the printouts of interviews and conversations that I’ve been a part of over the years. IRB always asks us when our data will be destroyed? I always tell them that “As is standard anthropological practice, the data will be kept indefinitely.” We do not “destroy” things that were shared with us. Right? But then, once everything has been digitized, what do we do with the boxes and boxes of paper? We could shred the “data”. But that feels like a violence to the words, the voices, that people so generously shared. Knives ripping through the life of the paper, ink, and meaning. How do we release the voices from the paper and allow them to become the air that first brought them into being? How do we honor the gift that was shared?
So my friends who helped me collect stories, who collected stories of their own, and I secured a firepit at the local beach. We cleansed the pit with sage and a blessing. Then we released the voices from the ink and paper. The voices in Samoan, Tongan, Spanish, English, and Italian whispered to us again, kept us warm, and stirred our memories.
On Friday, February 2, 2017, I had the honor of sharing work from my Creating Comics Project at the Beloved Foundation’s REACH Oncology Social Worker’s Symposium. The mission of the Beloved Foundation is “to ease the burden of families who are struggling financially as a result of caring for a loved one with terminal cancer.” It was a terrific day learning from co-presenters on current research on fertility and sexuality for cancer patients by Dr. Mehdi Kebria and laws and regulations for work accommodations by Joseph Richardson. The day was organized by CEO Jennifer Talbert-Miller, the joyful person in the picture with me. It was terrific time to meet so many people from The CARE Project, Michelle’s Place, American Cancer Society, Riverside, The Cancer Legal Resource Center, and more. I learned so much about the people and organizations supporting people living with cancer, their families, and each other. It was an inspiring day. They work together in the toughest moments of life to make a difference in how we care for each other.
Our Stories in Biosketches: Research Opportunities and Agendas
in preparation for
Office of Minority Health Resource Center,
Higher Education Technical Assistance Program.
San Francisco State University.
September 24, 2015
Thank you for the invitation to share with you today and for the opportunity to think through my research journey. As noted in my introduction I’ve worked on a number of projects and have all sorts of stories about the trials and joys of working with community, so if you have questions about those projects please ask.
But for this presentation, my research journey presentation, I kind of have a bone to pick about grant applications and the biosketch section we have to fill out. As I was preparing this presentation I got an email from our grants assistant telling me I needed to update my bio-sketch – so let’s have a talk about these documents that are supposed to track our research journeys.
So you all know about the NIH biosketch??
When you apply for funding the Biographical Sketch or “biosketch,” as it is more commonly referred to, is a document that you are asked to supply with your application. The first time, in the early 2000s I had to fill one out it requested my employment record, publications, and previous and current funding within the past 3 years. The format of that first biosketch was an evaluation of my productivity, what had I done in my career that was relevant to the funding I was asking for. But it was just a sketch, the barest of outlines.
The funny thing is that it also makes it appear as if you always knew that this is what you wanted, this was the path I was on and I always knew where I wanted to go.
I didn’t know I was going to be a medical anthropologist. I thought I was going to graduate school to study sociology of art, I was intrigued by the representation of bodies and their meanings in comics. Before arriving at graduate school, I had taken a lot of methods and data analysis classes as an undergraduate. I don’t know why, maybe because I had my preschool aged daughter at the time, and I was trying to figure out how we come to know the world. Whatever the reason I took a lot of methods courses as an undergraduate.
When I arrived at graduate school, Leo Chavez, who would eventually become my dissertation chair had just received an R01 with his colleague in the medical school to study Latina’s knowledge and preventive practices related to breast and cervical cancer. It was the early 1990s before the effort to really engage community in the research process. Interestingly this was among the first study to actually ask Latina women what they thought caused breast and cervical cancer. Up until that time the standard was to ask people if they knew what science said were the causes, a knowledge deficit approach. Continue reading
KA: It’s kind of an art just to have a body, isn’t it?
JM: And who gets to have a body? Right? I think—for me—a lot of this has been around questions of diversity and whose voices we get to hear. I would love to hear and see so many more comics. I’m looking for Pacific Islander texts around this genre and all of the autobiographical illness narratives, and there are so many other cultural reasons why you don’t tell certain stories. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me is amazing. He says these things about who gets to have a body, and who gets to tell the story.