Plastic Reason, Part One

The big theme of the book is of course how the discovery of plasticity upset the classical concept of the brain as a fixed and immutable structure. But there is no overall core argument that would organize and arrange the stories assembled in Plastic Reason. In fact, I could say that one of the major points of Plastic Reason is precisely to not have a core argument.

The Fallacy of Equating Gun Violence with Mental Illness

“Every time one of these shootings happens, it puts us three steps backwards,” Paula said to me during my first summer of preliminary fieldwork in 2012. Her concern stemmed from media discourse following the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting at a midnight movie theater screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Paula, a staff member at Vista, a New Orleans-based organization that provides various mental health programs for individuals with mental illness and their family members, has good reason to be concerned about how mass shootings, like the one in Aurora, portray individuals with mental illness as dangerous and violent, further exacerbating existing stigma that individuals with mental illness face daily. This discourse further discourages individuals from using such services because they might be seen as dangerous or violent.

Social and Chemical Life in Mexico City

The most prevalent form of lead exposure in Mexico City today is culinary; lead glazed ceramic dishes that are prized within families. Lead glaze makes the dishes shine and the food taste sweeter, and the enormous ollas (pots) that hang on kitchen walls connect current generations to past and future family celebrations. What if anthropology could tell the broader story of what these pots do, and their effects, by intertwining their social and chemical lives? Our bioethnographic project, Mexican Exposures (MEXPOS), seeks to do just that; we insist that, to understand lead exposure and working-class life in Mexico City, we need to keep glaze, sweetness, celebrations, and toxicity together.

Notes from the Section Leadership

It has been just four years since the Association for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP) was founded and we have sustained the energy that helped launch us. Interest in our section—and in the anthropology of policy—is stronger than ever. Over the past year we have grown by fifty members, making us one of the fastest […]