During the academic year 2020-21, I am a Research Fellow at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Vienna) and The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna. I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard, MD candidate at The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine working within the Department of Psychiatry, and advanced candidate in adult psychoanalysis at The Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis. My areas of research and teaching include aesthetic anthropology, the intersection of racial and psychiatric ideas, medical and legal anthropology, prisons and punitivity, social medicine and critical global health, and psychoanalytic theory and technique.
Following more than five years of ethnographic engagement on Chicago's South Side in neighborhood writing workshops and associated long-term relationships, psychiatric wards, carceral and police facilities, and community mental health centers, my scholarly and applied work proceeds on three interrelated but distinct fronts. Each of these attends to questions and action at different scales, traversing the universal, the particular, and the singular.
First, moving across universal and singular modalities of thought, I am completing an ethnographic and theoretical monograph, provisionally titled Acts of Writing: Racial Overdetermination, Psychiatric Rationality, Aesthetic Suspension. This project is set against a backdrop of the disciplinary formation of urban sociology for which Chicago's racially segregated neighborhoods have been used as laboratory for the production of sociological knowledge for over a century. Such sociological and closely related anthropological scholarship, alongside the popular media it inspires, has generated the now-pervasive terms by which these racialized neighborhoods and their residents have come to be understood, both through outside representations and through the languages of local institutions and life experiences of residents themselves. These discourses have overwhelmingly focused on frames of violence, "social pathology," poverty, race and "the underclass," criminality, trauma, and various forms of psychic and physiological injury. Acts of Writing thus considers the stakes of aesthetic practices, particularly writing, as a strategy of being-in-language and being-with-others that resists and subverts the pathologizing and overdetermining terms of life that have been inherited from these powerful academic-political discourses and their popular diffusion.
Aesthetics, in this frame, pertains not to the study of art objects and recognized artists. Instead, it follows aesthesis as qualities of feeling that are, by definition in the pivotal articulation of aesthetics by Immanuel Kant, beyond representation and cognition while also necessarily shared with others. In order to situate aesthesis in its relation to representation, however, an ethnography of aesthetic dynamics for my interlocutors must account for the specific histories of discourse against which aesthetic practices find vital and strategic functions. Acts of Writing therefore interweaves an ethnography of writing with a deconstructive genealogy of two fundamental discourses that overdetermine the lives of my interlocutors: racial reason and psychiatric rationality. This work proceeds from a reexamination of the shared moment of interrelated emergence of racial, psychiatric, and modern aesthetic discourses in eighteenth-century German anthropology and philosophy. These co-constitutive discursive-epistemological structures are then traced forward through American psychiatric theory and practice, the rise of urban sociology, and the development of the governing structures in Chicago today, including the logics of policing and incarceration. Acts of Writing thereby endeavors to draw out specific psychosocial and material consequences of racial-psychiatric logics while also demonstrating their always-incomplete power over the practices of my interlocutors.
I have also written a set of essays on post-interpretive anthropology, documentality and the death of the clinic, the political temporality of pandemicity, and a critique of clinical economy in American medicine.
The second front of my scholarship attends to the particular and is guided by my ethnographic relationships and the life histories of my interlocutors in Chicago, as well as ethnographic research in India and South Africa. These projects make use of quantitative methods and more immediately applied empirical methods that seek to address the governing structures that bear down on my interlocutors' life chances and understandings of themselves. Much of this work is conducted in collaboration with my colleague, law and economics scholar Daniel Chen, and draws on my training and teaching in epidemiology, clinical medicine, global health implementation science, medical and legal anthropology, and critical legal studies. This research attends to structural violence and irrationality in legal systems globally and also particularly within the American criminal justice system, specifically its policing and incarceration practices. Several projects consider the perceived legitimacy of American jurisprudence, the health consequences of policing and incarceration policies, and quantifying and tracing the determining factors behind systematic biases and arbitrariness in sentencing decisions and other arenas of judicial decision-making. These critical projects are coupled with intervention programs–many implemented in collaboration with the DE JURE (Data and Evidence for Justice Reform) program at The World Bank, where I am a Researcher for Health & Justice Reform–that experimentally evaluate the potential of machine learning, public data transparency, and personalized data feedback to address class, gender, caste, and ethno-racial biases in legal processes, public health, and policing.
The third front of my work–that which attends to the singularity of each one–manifests clinically at the intersection of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, primarily oriented around the work of Freud, Klein, Bion, Lacan, and Laplanche. Making use of my native fluency in American Sign Language, I seek to enhance access to psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic treatment for an underserved group of patients with a distinct cultural history and associated dynamics of subject-formation in a context of typically prolonged language deprivation in childhood. The bracketing of speech–typically taken within psychoanalysis as the presumed medium of communication and thought–in the clinic of the Deaf opens new questions for psychoanalytic research and treatment. My other areas of clinical interest involve the use of both psychiatric and psychoanalytic frames in the theorization and treatment of the psychoses and the design and implementation of mental health programs–that is, broad biopsychosocial community infrastructure investments–both in the United States and internationally.