Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College

PhD, McGill University, 2004


Anthropology of medicine, science, technology, and the body; social theory; subjectivity and health; humanitarianism; postcoloniality; governmentality; statecraft; theories of post-/socialism; psychoanalysis/psychological anthropology; Latin America and the Caribbean.

Broadly, my research and teaching interests are concerned with the critical study of health, medicine, the state, subjectivity, psychoanalysis, and the body. My theoretical references draw on contemporary social theory and postcolonial studies. Over the past decade, my overarching research questions have sought to weave together historical, epistemological, and ethnographic modes of analysis into a theoretical approach that I call a genealogy of individual bodily practices. Within this framework, I examine the sometimes contradictory and overlapping relationships among the individual practices of everyday citizens, economic reform, and state power. I argue that this type of approach can help to unravel the multiple historical layers that contribute to bodily formations, both culturally and materially, and allow us to examine the lived experience of bodies critically. My first book, Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba (Duke University Press, 2012), employs this analytical lens to analyze how different sociopolitical fields create and transform political subjectivities. It urges scholars to delve into the nebulous field of embodiment, asking pointed questions about how subjects respond, enact, and rearticulate ideological assumptions in their everyday practices.

I am currently finishing up a book manuscript, Against Humanitarianism: Cuba’s Quest for Exporting Social Justice through Medicine. This book interrogates what happens when a small, resource-poor nation such as Cuba becomes a leading figure in delivering “humanitarian biomedicine” to the world’s underserved populations. Cuba has garnered accolades for transforming the landscape and, indeed, bodies in health care delivery in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in several African countries. For Cuban officials, the necessity to assist is not solely dictated by need, as defined by the Western humanitarian imperative, but a duty based on a political commitment to equality and social justice. The country’s tactical efforts to mobilize biomedical expertise, as a war on structural violence, unsettle traditional geopolitical understandings of donor-recipient relations. For example, it challenges well-established capital flows from the global North to the South. This book project is an ethnographic and historical account of Cuba’s medical internationalism missions in the Americas.  With an eye to rethinking the logic and practice of global health, Against Humanitarianism examines Cuba's explicitly politicized variant of humanitarian biomedicine. Specifically, this book explores how Cuba's approach to humanitarianism challenges the existing normative and regulatory logic of global health, as articulated by international governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

I am also carrying out archival and field research for a second project, Psychoanalytic Grammars in Buenos Aires. This research explores how psychoanalysis has produced an ensemble of institutions, expertise, procedures, and practices for rendering the psychoanalytic subject legible and, through this, psychic life as an actionable site of intervention, dislocation, and struggle. I seek to examine how diverse psychoanalytic communities in Buenos Aires have produced unique grammars that influence how individuals articulate ideas about health and well-being. Descriptive, culturally specific, historically informed, and always provisional, this grammar is empirically grounded in lived experience. This research seeks to flesh out how these grammars, as deictic expressions of/for the unconscious are deployed, reworked, and embodied in everyday interactions. I highlight how social and political experiences enmesh psychic life.


Contact Information

Office: Haskell 227
Phone: (773) 702-7724
Email: sbrotherton@uchicago.edu
Website


Selected Publications

2017
"Cuba as Dreamworld and Catastrophe" In Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology website, March 23, 2017.

nd
The Socialist Humanitarian Imperative: The Logic and Practice of Cuba's Quest for Global Health in the Americas. Manuscript in progress.

2016
Psychoanalysis in Buenos Aires. In The Routledge Handbook of Medical Anthropology. Eds. Lenore Manderson, Elizabeth Cartwright, and Anita Hardon. London: Routledge.

2013
Revisiting Local Biology in the Era of Global Health. Brotherton, P. Sean and Vinh-Kim Nguyen. In Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness 32(4): 287-290.

2013
"Fueling la Revolucion: Itinerant Physicians, Transactional Humanitarianism, and Shifting Moral Economies," In Nancy Burke, ed., Health Travels: Cuban Health(Care) on the Island and Around the World. University of Calfiornia Press, pp. 127-151.

2013
"A Genealogy of Bodily Practices in Post-Soviet Cuba," In Naomi Adelson, Leslie Butt, and Karina Kielman, eds., Troubling Natural Categories: Essays in Honor of Margaret Lock. McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 16-32.

2012
Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba. Duke University Press.

revolutionary medicine.jpg

2011
"Health and Health Care in Cuba: History after the Revolution: Key Phases and Overviews of Health Development," In Alan West-Duran, ed., Cuba: People, Culture, and History. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 478-485.

2008
"'We have to think like capitalists but continue being socialists': Medicalized Subjectivities, Emergent Capital, and Socialist Entrepreneurs in Post-Soviet Cuba," American Ethnolologist, 35(2): 259-274.

2005
"Macroeconomic Change and the Biopolitics of Health in Cuba's Special Period," Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 10(2): 339-369.