I am interested in how violence, suffering and care are produced, distributed and experienced. A central concern is the disproportionate burden of drug addiction, mental illness and incarceration among low-income populations. A committed ethnographer and teacher, my work often combines the social sciences, the humanities and public health to elucidate the affective, bodily and structural dynamics of inequality, vulnerability and sociality.
My book, The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along The Rio Grande (University of California Press, 2010) explores the relationship between intergenerational heroin use, poverty and colonial history in northern New Mexico. It argues that heroin addiction among Hispanos is a contemporary expression of an enduring history of cultural and economic dispossession, social and intimate fragmentation, and the existential desire for a release from these. The Pastoral Clinic was awarded the 2012 Victor Turner Prize and a 2010 Pen Center USA Award for Exceptional First Book.
Since 2011, I have been engaged in research in Mexico City, examining emerging therapeutic worlds in the context of urban poverty and criminal violence. This work focuses on unregulated, coercive drug rehabilitation centers that are run and utilized by the informal working poor. I explore how these centers corral the conditions of crisis and endurance that characterize contemporary Mexico, while also using this setting to question public policy, ethics and the role of violence in medicine and social life. I am currently working on a book manuscript based on this research.
An outgrowth of my research in Mexico City is a bi-national research project that examines a mutual aid group for low-income Latinos with addiction and/or mental illness, called Grupos de Cuarto y Quinto Paso (Fourth and Fifth Step Groups). This research seeks to better understand the influences of inequality and spirituality on therapeutic modalities and communal life.
“Death as a Resource for Life.” In, Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium. Eds. Veena Das and Clara Han. Berkeley: University of California Press. Forthcoming.
“The Promise: On the Morality of the Marginal and the Illicit. Ethos 42(1): 51-64, 2014.
“Regeneration: Love, Drugs and the Remaking of Hispano Inheritance.” Social Anthropology 22(2): 200-212, 2014.
The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession Along the Rio Grande. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.
“The Elegiac Addict: History, Chronicity and the Melancholic Subject.” Cultural Anthropology, 23(4):718-745, 2008.