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Pharmaceutical Self

The Global Shaping of Experience in an Age of Psychopharmacology

Edited by Janis H. Jenkins

This book addresses a critical contemporary issue—the worldwide proliferation of pharmaceutical use. The contributors explore questions such as: How are culturally constituted selves transformed by regular ingestion of pharmaceutical drugs? Does “being human” increasingly come to mean not only oriented to drugs but also created and regulated by them? From the standpoint of cultural phenomenology, does this reshape human “being”? An anthropological study that examines both human suffering and its biological realities, Pharmaceutical Self focuses on the social, cultural, and political aspects of the expanding distribution of psychopharmacological drugs.

2011. 280 pp., 6 figures, 3 tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: João Biehl, Stefan Ecks, Byron J. Good, Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Janis H. Jenkins, Tanya Luhrmann, Emily Martin, Jonathan M. Metzl, A. Jamie Saris
Awards: 2007 New Mexico Book Award Winner

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“At the intersection of the growing domains of research on the permanent reinvention of the self and the empire of the drug industry in the contemporary world, Janis Jenkins’s edited volume brings together the best specialists of both fields to open the promising territory of an anthropology of psychopharmaceuticals. With its unique global perspective, the book explores the way in which psychotropic medicines against insomnia, depression, or psychosis affect bodies and minds but also transform the moral and political meanings of suffering and trauma.”
—Didier Fassin, the James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), coauthor of The Empire of Trauma

Pharmaceutical Self plumbs the biosocial complexity inherent in the globalization of psychoactive drugs. The authors, ranking figures in medical anthropology, explore the collision of structural violence—poverty, gender inequality, discrimination, and disasters both natural and unnatural—and neuropsychiatry, and how social forces become embodied in adverse health outcomes and new subjectivities in psychiatric patients’ local worlds. The thematic, theoretical, and geographic breadth of this volume—with experience-near accounts from settings as different as underresourced clinics in Indonesia to homeless shelters in Chicago—provides valuable contributions to the burgeoning anthropology of psychopharmacology. Essential reading for any student of global mental health and for students of public health more generally.”
—Paul Farmer, Chair, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School


  1. Introduction
    Janis H. Jenkins
  2. Psychopharmaceutical Self and Imaginary in the Social Field of Psychiatric Treatment
    Janis H. Jenkins
  3. Trauma in Postconflict Aceh and Psychopharmaceuticals as a Medium of Exchange
    Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good
  4. “CATKINE…Asylum, Laboratory, Pharmacy, Pharmacist, I and the Cure”: Pharmaceutical Subjectivity in the Global South
    João Biehl
  5. Polyspherical Pharmaceuticals: Global Psychiatry, Capitalism, and Space
    Stefan Ecks
  6. The Complexities of Psychopharmaceutical Hegemonies in Indonesia
    Byron J. Good
  7. Gender Stereotypes in the Diagnosis of Depression: A Systematic Content Analysis of Medical Records
    Jonathan M. Metzl
  8. Medication on the Street: Homeless Women in Uptown Chicago
    Tanya Luhrmann
  9. Sleepless in America
    Emily Martin
  10. The Addicted Self and the Pharmaceutical Self: Ecologies of Will, Information, and Power in Junkies, Addicts, and Patients
    A. Jamie Saris

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.