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The Politics of Health

A conversation with Jonathan Metzl and others about the social and political construction of "health"

Values


Fields of Knowledge
  • Design
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Health Ecologies Lab

Contributing Institutions

Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Opens to public

11/08/2018

Time

6:30-8:30pm

Slought and the Health Ecologies Lab are pleased to announce The Politics of Health, a conversation with Jonathan Metzl and others about the social and political construction of "health" on Thursday, November 8, 2018 from 6:30-8:30pm. Metzl writes at the intersection of psychiatry, the history and sociology of science, and contemporary politics. In books such as The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease (2010) and Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality (2010), Metzl offers fundamental insights into the way in which healthcare exacerbates disparities. His forthcoming book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland (2019), analyzes the health effects of white supremacy in the era of Trump. This event, which will take place two days after the US midterm elections, will also engage the results of the election and strategies going forward.

Dying of Whiteness (2019) analyzes the consequences of right-wing backlash policies under Donald Trump's pledge to make American lives great again. Through a series of interviews, Metzl examines the impact of racial resentment on public policy, gun laws, the Affordable Care Act, schools and social services. Not only does he reveal the ties between policy and racial resentment, he also unveils the costs of these policies, including increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies, and rising dropout rates. Metzl argues that Trump's policies, while promising to change lives for the better, are in reality fueled by racial hierarchies which profoundly undermine the health of America's Heartland. Join us for this timely conversation about Dying of Whiteness and Metzl's longstanding engagement with the politics of health.

This event is co-presented with Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, and is the first of two events featuring sustained conversations with Metzl. The conversation with Metzl at Slought will be moderated by Megan Voeller, Director of Humanities at Thomas Jefferson University, and Aaron Levy, Senior Lecturer in English and History of Art, University of Pennsylvania.

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Metzl's The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease (2010) examines how institutionalized racism and the social construction of "abnormality" has influenced psychiatric definitions of mental illness. By revisiting the archives of Ionia State Hospital, a mental institute in Michigan that operated from the 1940s through the late 1970s, he demonstrates the specific ways in which diagnostic criteria were used to assign African-American ​patients mental ​illnesses ​such ​as schizophrenia, ​depression ​and ​bipolar ​disorder with devastating consequences. He also examines how this act of psychiatric labeling was deployed in response to civil rights activism and black power movements.

In Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality (2010), Metzl and co-editor Anna Kirkland examine the intersection of health and morality through essays that interrogate our relationship to food, race, disability, mental health, sexuality, and more. Responding to the question "Why Against health?," the book challenges readers to reflect on what kind of discourse about health is being produced today, for whom, according to what definitions, and under what unquestioned assumptions.

Jonathan Metzl is the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry, and the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University. He received his MD from the University of Missouri, an MA in humanities/poetics and a Psychiatric internship/residency from Stanford University, and a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan.

A 2008 Guggenheim fellow, Professor Metzl has written extensively for medical, psychiatric, and popular publications. His books include The Protest Psychosis, Prozac on the Couch, and Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality.

"The ​rhetoric ​of ​health ​and ​illness ​becomes ​effective ​ways ​of ​policing ​the ​boundaries ​of ​civil ​society, ​and ​of ​keeping ​these ​people ​always ​outside."

– Jonathan Metzl