Yale University Department of Anthropology

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    Yale Universityhttp://www.yale.edu

P. Sean Brotherton

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Ph.D. McGill University, 2004


10 Sachem Street, Room 227
Tel: (203) 432-3675
Fax: (203) 432-3669



My research and teaching interests are broadly concerned with the critical study of medicine, the state, subjectivity, and the body.  My overarching research questions are at the intersection of three distinct, yet interrelated, areas of inquiry: (1) anthropology of the body, (2) anthropology of the state, and  (3) political economy of health.  I conduct fieldwork in the Caribbean and Latin America.

My current research explores how, within the last several years, the Cuban government has increasingly focused on mobilizing biomedicine and medical expertise as a marketable commodity for sale through programs associated with “medical internationalism.” Such programs are based upon foreign policy (several decades in the making) and community health care. This research considers how the strengthening of alliances through medical internationalism are strategies employed by the socialist government that are consequences of Cuba’s integration into the global economy. While recent social science scholarship has highlighted the nexus among humanitarian aid, conditional trade agreements, militarism, and highly volatile flows of capital, decidedly less attention has been paid to situating these analyses in socialist, and, no less important, post-socialist contexts. Historically, the Cuban government employed a moral framework to describe itinerant physicians on “medical missions” as “symbols of the revolution.”  Increasingly, however, citizens are beginning to challenge the legitimacy of the government’s move towards strategic aid programs, particularly as the economic benefits of these specified programs fail to redress domestic shortages and lead to worsening material circumstances for everyday citizens.

This new research project substantively builds on my forthcoming book, titled Revolutionary Medicine: Revolutions: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba (2012, Duke University Press). Based on more than a decade of research in the city of Havana, this book explores how bodily health and physical well being, in a context of economic insecurity, is interpreted through ethical and moral valences that embody the past and, importantly, reflect new reconfigurations of power and statecraft.

Another project I am currently developing in the Caribbean examines how popular conceptions of the “infected body,” produced through intersecting discourses of colonization, biomedicine, and traditional medicine, anchors notions of psychological, national, and racial health. Taking both an historical and contemporary approach, this project examines how various forms of power have “managed” epidemics using preventive, therapeutic, and diagnostic practices to differentiate and regulate subjects’ bodies within the larger social order. The objective of this research is to challenge the perceived division between colonial and postcolonial medical discourses, as well as to question the epistemological foundations of biomedicine as an outcome of modernity.

I teach courses on medical anthropology, anthropology of the body, subjectivity and the state, and contemporary social theory. My recent articles appear in American Ethnologist and the Journal of Latin American Anthropology. I am also the co-editor of special issue of Anthropologie et Sociétés, focusing on issues of socialism/post-socialism.


Introduction to Medical Anthropology (ANTH114)

Anthropology of the Body (ANTH357/557)

Topics in Medical Anthropology (ANTH427)

Epistemologies of Health, Medicine, and Science (ANTH552)