CALL FOR PARTICIPANTS: AAA ROUNDTABLE Truth, Responsibility, and Mental Health in Anthropology: The Crisis in Graduate Student Mental Health and Beyond

Beatriz Reyes-Foster and Rebecca Lester, co-organizers

Recent studies have identified a growing crisis in graduate student mental health. At the same time, conversations in the field, occurring primarily in outlets such as anthropology blogs (Anthrodendum and The New Ethnographer) and in the Anthropology Twitterverse, are increasingly taking the field of anthropology to task over the field’s failure to address what has been called a toxic culture of “cruelty that masquerades as intellectual rigor” (Beckett 2019). In addition to instances of academic bullying and program policies that perpetuate structures of social, racial, and structural inequalities, many anthropology programs are also failing to adequately prepare their students for potentially traumatic experiences in the field. For this round table discussion, the Anthropology of Mental Health Interest Group (AMHIG) invites an open and frank conversation about the current state of mental health and attitudes towards mental health in anthropology. Our goal is for the conversation to result in a set of best practices and/or contribute to a policy brief on mental health in anthropology to be published as an official AMHIG document. We invite scholars from all career stages to join this conversation, especially those from marginalized communities.

Please send an email with a statement of interest of no more than 250 words to and by Friday, February 21st. This roundtable is sponsored by the Anthropology of Mental Health Interest Group, an SMA SIG.

CfP: AAA panel, New and Emerging Perspectives in the Anthropology of Mental Health

The Anthropology of Mental Health Interest Group requests abstracts for a panel to be presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings in St. Louis, MO (November 18-22). 

Recent years have seen a surge of anthropological research on mental health in the Global North and South. Anthropological approaches have grappled with syndemics, critically engaged with Global Mental Health, considered the intersections of disability, race, class, and other identities in mental health care, and have questioned the effects of possibly traumatic fieldwork experiences on the mental health of anthropologists themselves. Anthropologists have also charted the impact of governmental and quasi-governmental organizations’ distribution of mental health care services, the growth of psychiatric user/survivor movements, and activism(s) at the intersection of mental health services, education, and criminal justice systems. This panel features recent and up-and-coming work conducted by junior and senior scholars engaged with research on mental health. We are particularly interested in papers that grapple with intersectional approaches and identities, particularly work produced by traditionally under-represented voices. We encourage theoretical approaches grounded in Disability Studies, Mad Studies, the Health/Medical Humanities, Black feminism, Indigenous approaches, coloniality of power or decolonizing approaches, community engaged research, and Queer Studies. The papers will be organized around the question: what does the future of the anthropology of mental health look like?   

To be considered for this panel, please send a title, abstract (250 words), and keywords to Beatriz Reyes-Foster and Erica Fletcher at by Monday, February 24. We will issue decisions on all submissions by March 2nd. 

AMHIG Celebrates New Leadership and Plans for Continued Success in 2020

AMHIG held its annual business meeting last week in Vancouver during the American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings. We have some updates and exciting plans for the coming year to share with everyone here.
  • After several years of service, Michael Duke has stepped down as co-chair of AMHIG. Erica Fletcher has stepped forward to serve with me as co-chair. We are extremely grateful for her willingness to serve and are very excited to move forward. Thank you Michael for everything you have done for AMHIG over the years. THANK YOU Erica for agreeing to co-chairing with me! I look forward to a successful partnership!
  • Erica is starting a Google group for our group and will be re-vamping the AMHIG website. PLEASE STAY TUNED as the google group will probably become our primary method of communication. Once the link is available we will share it here so people may subscribe.
  • After the success of the AMHIG-sponsored blog series, this year we would like to continue sponsoring blog posts by AMHIG members. We would like to work with an existing Anthropology blog (outlets mentioned were anthrodendum, Sapiens, this anthro life, and The New Ethnographer) and will be researching an appropriate partnership in the coming months.
  • Kristin Yarris suggested also starting an Anthropology of Mental Health podcast series. We all agreed using an existing podcast such as Anthropologist on the Street, Anthropod, or Sapiens would be better than trying to launch our own series. We will be researching and trying to find a venue over the next few weeks and months.
  • We will once again offer a travel award next year.
  • Other ideas we would like to pursue:
    • An AMHIG-sponsored roundtable on Trauma and ethnographic fieldwork building off the Anthrodendum series at the AAAs (Rebecca Lester, would you be interested in co-organizing?)
    • A Policy brief or statement on mental health in anthropology, particularly speaking to graduate student mental health (including important factors such as poverty, food and housing security, and toxic academic culture) –would love to know if anyone would like to work on this with us.
    • Reaching out the the Anthropologists Action Nertwork for Immigrant Rights (AANIR) for possible partnership and collaboration.
Stay tuned over the next weeks and months as we begin moving our agenda forward. We are very excited and energized and look forward to seeing what 2020 will have in store for AMHIG.
I think that is all for now! I hope everyone had an enjoyable break last week and wish an uneventful end of the semester.

AMHIG Travel Award Announcement

AMHIG Congratulates Ms. Emma Backe on receiving the first annual AMHIG Student Travel Award. Emma will be presenting her paper, “The ART of Survival: Psychosocial Care in South Africa’s Feminized Syndemics” at the AAA/CASCA meetings in Vancouver.

Emma Louise Backe is a PhD student in Anthropology at The George Washington University (GW). Her research focuses on the politics of crisis around gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa, specifically the temporalities of care provided to survivors of intimate partner violence and the processes of psychosocial recovery survivors in Cape Town must navigate. In addition to her research, Emma also serves as a Peer Advocate in GW’s Anthropology Department to promote open dialogues about safety planning in the field, the emotional labor associated with ethnography, and cultivating consensual learning spaces. Emma is also a member of the Editorial Board of Feminist Anthropology; an Advisory Board member of Sapiens; and the Managing Editor of The Geek Anthropologist.


AMHIG Business Meeting Minutes

Sorry for the delay in posting this.

Meeting Minutes: Anthropology and Mental Health Interest Group

Minneapolis, MN, 11/17/16


1)      AMHIG Conference- A few years ago we put on a very successful 1 day conference at American University prior to the AAA Meetings. Participants discussed whether we would like to do this again in 2017. We reported that this year, another SIG had carried out a half-day conference by piggy-backing on the existing conference rather than running a stand-alone meeting, as we had done. We discussed the fact that this approach would entail far less work than the one we used. We are currently in contact with the Society for Medical Anthropology to put this initiative into place. If we get the green light, the meeting will likely take place on November 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.

2)      Policy statement- The SMA encourages it SIGs to develop policy papers on issues of significant concern through its Take a Stand initiative. A number of interesting mental health issues were raised that would lend themselves to this type of initiative. However, given that the incoming Trump Administration’s specific policies regarding mental health and well-being were unknown, it was decided to table this initiative to our next meeting.

3)      Paper prize- We reported on our first paper prize competition. The winners were Whitney Duncan (University of Northern Colorado) in the Professional category and Philippa Fielding (University of Sussex) for the Student category. We will be submitting an RFP for 2017’s paper prize in the Spring.

Note: For those who can attend, we will hold a business meeting at the Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting in Santa Fe, NM.