SMA Position Opening: Anthropology News Liaison

The Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) is seeking an Anthropology News (AN) Liaison who will be responsible for soliciting, editing, and uploading monthly columns for the SMA Section News portion of the AN website and print newsletter/magazine. This is an excellent opportunity for an individual with broad knowledge of medical anthropology and strong writing and editorial skills to contribute to SMA’s ongoing communications. The capacity to solicit columns from a wide array of colleagues is a plus. Individuals at any career stage will be considered.

The SMA/AN Liaison plays a key role in SMA’s communications initiatives and will participate in quarterly meetings with the organization’s president, communications committee, and Digital Communications Manager. The Liaison will also attend the AN Section News Editor’s meeting at the annual AAA meeting (some travel reimbursement available).

The preferred candidate will be proficient using (or willing to quickly learn) WordPress.

The SMA/AN Liaison is responsible for the following:

· Coordinating with the SMA communications committee regarding upcoming initiatives;
· Soliciting content from prospective AN authors for a monthly column;
· Providing authors with the AN column template and guidelines and reminding them of submission deadlines;
· Editing content when submitted and working with authors to complete revisions;
· Submitting finalized content to AN‘s WordPress site with photos embedded.

This is a volunteer position starting in December 2017; the SMA/AN Liaison will be considered an ex officio member of the SMA Board. If interested, please send a CV and cover letter describing your interest and qualifications to Erin Finley at by November 15, 2017.

Policy/Advocacy Mentoring Opportunity at 2017 AAAs

Become a Change Agent: Lessons from Experts offered at Annual Meeting  

Cathleen Willging,
Jennifer Hubbert,

Want to influence public policy that shapes the health and wellbeing in the U.S. and elsewhere? Interested in learning about techniques that can impact how policy gets developed and implemented, or want to further hone your own advocacy skills? Going to the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association this year?

If so, please join the Society of Medical Anthropology (SMA) and the Association for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP) for a co-hosted mentoring event on Thursday, November 30th between 6:30 pm and 8:15 pm. The event will be held in the Ambassador Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel and will include free yummy snacks, a cash bar, and two prominent speakers! This event (“How to Have an Impact on Health Policy: Lessons from Experts”) will focus on how we, as anthropologists, can be successful health policy advocates and change agents, focusing on the pragmatics of advocating for health policy by writing effectively for various media, collaborating with community organizations, and taking part in legislative processes.

The first speaker is Kathy Mulvey of the Climate and Energy Team at the Union of Concerned Scientists. For more than a quarter century, Kathy has worked in the trenches with researchers on policy analysis, campaigning, and legislative activity on a wide range of corporate accountability, environmental, and public health issues.

The second speaker is Ted Miller, a nationally-renowned economist and leading expert on injury and violence in the U.S. The author of over 250 publications, Ted will share his tried-and-true tips for engaging both media and policymakers on some of the most pressing social and health matters of our day, such as gun control.

Together, Kathy and Ted will school us on how we can play a role in framing, enacting, and evaluating of health policy. After we hear from the speakers, audience participants will split up into expert-facilitated groups to brainstorm how to best implement these practices and troubleshoot their own ongoing efforts. If you are interested in hands-on help, feel free to bring any of your own advocacy materials (e.g., op-eds, policy briefs) for on-site input. This is one mentoring event not to be missed!

** ATTENTION: ADTSG Membership **

Hello ADTSG members!

We would like to alert you to recent changes in the membership policy and procedures for Special Interest Groups (SIGs), such as ADTSG. The Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) supports SIGs as an important part of strengthening communication and collaboration among scholars based on topical interests. As a SIG of the SMA, ADTSG is required to report our membership demographics to the SMA board, which helps them determine SIG status and resource allocation. In an effort to promote and streamline SIG membership, a single membership form has been created.

The form is available on October 15 through December 15. The form is very brief, and will be used to establish memberships in all SIGs. We ask that all ADTSG members who would like to be part of the SIG fill out this form whether you are currently a member of ADTSG or not. If you do not fill out the form by December 15th, you may be removed from (or not added to) ADTSG’s roster.

Please note : You do NOT need to be a member of SMA to continue your membership in ADTSG. Simply indicate on the form whether you are a member of SMA or not and select the appropriate SIG(s) in which you would like to maintain membership. We are committed to keeping our membership open to those who are not members of SMA and AAA.

You will only need to fill out this form once per year. Please direct any questions/comments to Elizabeth Wirtz at .

You can find the form here. Or copy and paste the following into your browser:

Graduate Student Paper Prize Winner: Allison Schlosser

The Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group is happy to announce the winner of our 2017 Graduate Student Paper Prize: Allison Schlosser!

Allison is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University.  Her award-winning paper, “Stay in Your Square”: (Bounded) Intimacy and Moral Personhood in Addiction Treatment, examines how subjectivities and socialities are shaped by material and interpersonal exchanges in the moral world of addiction treatment in the US.

We would also like to announce that Henry Bundy from the University of Kentucky has been awarded an Honorable Mention for his paper, From Mundane Medicines to Euphorigenic Drugs: How Pharmaceutical Pleasures are Found, Foregrounded, and Made Durable. 

The ADTSG Graduate Student Paper Prize is an annual award that recognizes the best graduate student paper in the anthropology of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, or other psychoactive substance use.  Please join us in congratulating Allison and Henry on their excellent work and their contributions to our field!


CFP: Neocolonialism and Alcohol Use (SfAA 2018)


Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

April 3-7, 2018


Neocolonialism and Alcohol Use: Patterns, Consequences, and Community Responses

Michael Duke (U of Memphis)

Alcohol played a complex role in the history of European and North American colonialism: while the introduction of distilled liquor facilitated forms of economic dependence and social disruption that allowed colonialism to take root, Christianity likewise advanced the colonialist project in part by  offering solace to those afflicted by alcohol’s negative social effects.  For contemporary neo-colonial subjects, whose societies continue to be dominated by the policies of more powerful nations, alcohol use continues to exert an important influence in the forms of both ongoing–often culturally specific– social problems on the one hand, and new forms of personhood and expression on the other. This panel will examine the varying forms and consequences of alcohol use under conditions of neoliberalism, as well as community responses to problematic drinking.

Please submit paper abstracts by October 12 to


Student Profile: Tracy Brannstrom

This is the second installment of ADTSG’s new student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking him or her a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Tracy Brannstrom, a master’s student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

During undergrad, I took a lot of philosophy courses because I loved asking the ‘big questions’ about humanity, and I had planned to make this my major. But then I had an anthropological methods course, in which the students worked on a long-term ethnographic project with field work, interviews and archival research, and this hooked me. Anthropologists seemed to work with philosophical content, but in a grounded way – sourcing big ideas from the lived realities of their informants. I liked the methodology. Applying to graduate programs in anthropology was a natural progression from this, and I ended up in a small division of the anthropology department at Berkeley that focuses on folklore studies, for my MA.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

I’m drawn to questions and topics of human consciousness – the mind/body problem, conceptions of self, spirituality, things of this nature. “Drugs” seem to be compounds that can push the boundaries on ordinary perception, and I think these alterations can tell us a lot about the mind. I’m most interested in psychedelics because of their potential to facilitate new perspectives and re-work structures in the mind that we often think are solidified, but are actually malleable. Addiction is also something I’m very interested in from a social scientific perspective.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

For my current MA project, I spent three months looking at contemporary practices of folk medicine in the Peruvian Amazon. The project has more to do with medical knowledge and practice, but categories of “medicine,” “drug,” and “food” are always overlapping in complex ways. My fieldwork took me to women who claimed to have cured their Type 2 Diabetes with sessions of Kambo – the application of tree frog venom into the bloodstream, a process that is said to clean the blood and other organs. I also observed a healer’s home-based practice as he treated patients for alcohol addiction with Ayahuasca and other herbal preparations. When I returned to the US, I sorted through documents that belonged to the late anthropologist Marlene Dobkin de Rios, who did extensive work on mestizo shamanism and ayahuasca use in the Peruvian Amazon. This was at the Psychoactive Substances Research Collection at Purdue University.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I will finish my MA in the summer of 2018, and I hope to continue in a doctoral program – or to continue research in some capacity. I’d like to look at opiate addiction in the Northeastern US, which is research that I’ve already began since working as a newspaper reporter in Vermont before coming to Berkeley. My training in the folklore program here has drawn my attention to the ways that narratives are constructed and circulated, and I’d like to look at competing narratives regarding how and why addiction forms, in Vermont and/or New Hampshire. One of these narratives has to do with the African psychedelic Iboga, which is seen by many in the Northeast as a cure for opiate addiction, and was even the subject of an ongoing discussion by a committee in the Vermont legislature (!) when I was reporting. I’d like to return to this region, and help to document, and think through questions of addiction.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at for more information!

CFP: (Re)Making Drug Use, Addiction, and Recovery Online (SfAA 2018)


Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

April 3-7, 2018


(Re)Making Drug Use, Addiction, and Recovery Online

Organizer: Allison Schlosser, Case Western Reserve University Department of Anthropology

Discussant: TDB

(Il)legal drug use is now a central global concern with the stark rise in opioid use and overdose death in the U.S. and emerging worldwide. As this drug crisis has intensified, so has the proliferation of new information and communication technologies. Images and discourses on drug use and overdose death have become spectacles circulated rapidly online. Meanwhile, individuals increasingly connect online to exchange information on drug use, “addiction,” and “recovery” via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. People buy and sell drugs, narrate drug experiences, and form recovery and advocacy groups online. How is drug use, addiction, and recovery shaped in and through these virtual social spaces? What is at stake for identities, inter-subjectivities, and socio-political inclusion as online interactions become ever more present in daily life? This panel explores these questions with an emphasis on what anthropological research attuned to the realities of lives lived on and offline can contribute to policy, health services, and advocacy efforts.

Potential paper topics include (but are not limited to):

-How online sociality shapes understandings of drug use (e.g., as “habit,” “addiction,” “dependency”) and the practical implications for policy and services.

-How new cultural practices related to drug use/addiction/recovery emerge online.

-How virtual and offline lives intersect as individuals negotiate drug use/addiction/recovery.

-Unanticipated consequences and opportunities of online drug use/addiction/recovery interactions for intervention efforts (e.g., harm reduction, advocacy, novel interventions).

-How individual and communal identities negotiated online may be novel and/or reproduce existing practices and power relations related to drug use/addiction/recovery.

-The ways social position shapes access to and engagement with drug use/addiction/recovery online groups and related ethical implications.


Please send paper abstracts of no more than 100 words to Allison Schlosser at by Friday, September 29.

Presenters will be notified of selection by October 6 and asked to register for the conference and submit their paper abstracts by October 15.

CFP: Plantas sagradas en las Américas


Call for Abstracts – Plantas sagradas en las Américas (Sacred Plants in the Americas)

The western campus of the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS in Spanish), and the anthropologist Beatriz Labate, invite researchers and those interested in topics related to traditional, therapeutic use, history, politics and the legality of psychoactive plants, to submit abstracts with proposals to participate in the upcoming international conference Sacred Plants in the Americas, to be held on February 23 and 24, 2018, in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

Sacred Plants in the Americas has the primary purpose of exploring and discussing aspects related to the diversity of uses of psychoactive plants throughout history and in different geographical areas, as well as their current use, both in traditional and non-traditional contexts, scientific research, empirical experiences, cultural manifestations and the ways in which governments have attempted to control these practices.

The issues of drug policy reform are intersectional, particularly in Latin American. The public, political and academic discussions in Mexico over the last two years have primarily focused on the regulation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Recently a federal reform was approved, so it is pertinent to provide spaces for discussion on other topics, such as those concerning sacred plants and their increasing diversity of uses.

The content of the Congress will be divided into: history and anthropology of shamanic and religious uses of sacred plants, traditional medicine, urban and contemporary uses, science on the therapeutic uses of plants and their psychoactive compounds, as well as the politics surrounding them.

Those interested in participating are invited to submit abstracts on the following topics:

• History and ethnography of the traditional use of sacred plants.
• History and ethnography of urban and contemporary uses of sacred plants.
• Biomedical and psychological studies related to the therapeutic use of psychoactive plants and compounds.
• Analysis of the consequences of policies associated with sacred plant use and reform proposals.
• Sustainability and conservation of sacred plants and their relationship with physical spaces.
• Political economy of the use of sacred plants (production, transit, commercialization, tourism).
• Gender and identity issues related to the use of sacred plants.

Registration Process

Those interested in presenting at the conference must send their abstract via the form at the bottom of this webpage: . The abstract should be a maximum length of 250 words, and include the title of the presentation, and a paragraph with biographical information. Deadline: October 27, 2017.

The abstracts will be evaluated by a multidisciplinary scientific committee that will select the proposals whose topics are more relevant to the discussion, and that are more attached to the topics proposed in this invitation. Accepted applicants will be notified via email on December 1, 2017. Travel and accommodation expenses must be covered by participants.

For more information about the conference, visit the conference website:

AAA Conference Student Travel Awards

If you’re a graduate student and presenting at the 2017 AAAs, then you qualify for one of the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA) Conference Student Travel Awards!

The SMA offers conference travel support to five SMA graduate students, who have had abstracts accepted to the annual meeting of the AAA. The awards will be given out at the SMA Business Meeting during the AAA meeting in the form of $500 checks. Eligibility is restricted to student members of the SMA, who are presenting papers or posters at the AAA meeting.

Applications should include the following:

  1. Proof of current SMA student membership.
  2. Copy of the conference abstract.
  3. Proof of acceptance of the abstract.
  4. Recommendation letter from an advisor (directly sent by the recommender as an email attachment to the committee chair, Alexander Roedlach  <>.

Awards will be evaluated based on significance, innovation, and clarity of the submitted abstract, as well as the strength of the letter of support from the advisor, who should discuss the significance of the to-be-presented work. If students applying for this award co-author their poster or paper abstract with a faculty or professional anthropologist, a higher standard is expected. If students are co-authoring a poster or paper with another student, then the single award will be split between the two, should the abstract be selected.

Please compile supporting materials 1-3 in a single file and save it in PDF format. Email these materials and any direct inquiries to the SMA Student Travel Award committee at . The deadline for submissions is yearly on September 24. Awardees will be notified by October 2.

Remembering Michael Agar (1945-2017)

On May 20, 2017, Michael Agar, one of the world’s most famous anthropologist of drugs and founding member of the Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Study Group passed away. Below is a two-part obituary honoring Michael’s life and work. The first part, “The Professional Stranger,” was written by Michael himself, and the second part, “Mike Agar,” was written by fellow ADTSG member Bryan Page​.

RIP Michael

“The Professional Stranger”

in his own words:

Michael H. Agar was born in Chicago right around the time of the German surrender at the end of WWII in 1945. After an uneventful childhood of dirt clod wars at housing construction sites and memorized recitations of the Baltimore catechism, he was forcibly relocated to Livermore, California, in 1956, when his father took a job at the new Lawrence Radiation Lab. He always considered it his hometown, strange mix of cowboys and science that it was. Since he was particularly good at multiple-choice tests, he was able to attend Stanford, courtesy of the then abundant – and now endangered – concept of financial aid, graduating with a degree in anthropology in 1967. While there he arranged his own year abroad program with the help of a crypto-anarchist dean and anthropology professor Alan Beals. Mike worked in a small village in South India and then returned to enjoy the shift from beer to marijuana that had occurred in his absence. He had turned into an internationalist – and, therefore, in the eyes of many of his friends’ parents, a communist – with his experiences during high school as an exchange student in Austria and as a fieldworker in South India. Off he went to grad school at the Language Behavior Research Lab at Berkeley, leaving with a PhD in 1971. Life changed with the Vietnam War when he gratefully accepted a commission in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service during graduate school. Instead of becoming a South Asianist, with the help of his graduate advisor, Paul Kay, he turned into a lifelong drug expert, an ironic career for a 60’s Berkeley student. He taught at several universities, foreign and domestic, the most noteworthy of the foreign gigs being two stints in linguistics at the University of Vienna and several at the Intercultural Management Institute at the Kepler University in Linz. His most extensive domestic position was in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland where he helped develop and run a program to train practitioners, rather than academic researchers. By the mid-90’s he set off on his own as Ethknoworks, and, in fact, will be available as a ghost for a while on the home page

He wrote a lot – son of a journalist and a photographer – and considered himself a craftsman who worked with ideas rather than materials. His main reward was when a student came up after a talk and thanked him for help in solving a problem in the student’s own work. His concept of “languaculture,” modified from Friedrich’s original “linguaculture,” had a major impact in applied linguistics, and his article on the crack cocaine epidemic helped change discriminatory drug laws. His first book, Ripping and Running, opened new directions in ethnography and helped start the field of cognitive science. The Professional Stranger served as a resource for many students embarking on their first fieldwork. There were other books – Independents Declared, Speaking of Ethnography, and Dope Double Agent, to name a few. His last was a book called The Lively Science, an attempt to show how human social research was a different kind of science. Mike also left behind a draft manuscript behind called Culture: How to Make It Work in a World of Hybrids. He received an award here and there, but those never mattered much to him, except for the Career Award from the National Institutes for Health (NIH), which bought cash to free him from faculty meetings for several years. He sought work that passed the “trinity test” – intellectually interesting, with moral value, which paid the rent. He was grateful that so much of life was filled with work that met those conditions.

Mike will miss his life partner of many years, who recently became his wife, Ellen Taylor, his sister, Mary, and brother, Tom, and their kids and grandkids, a few friends who endured over the years, and the birds and animals who still drop by the acre of New Mexican desert that he and Ellen called home, for food and water.

Mike died peacefully in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on May 20, 2017. He would be honored by any donations in his memory to Somos Un Pueblo Unido, La Familia Medical Center, or any Santa Fe-based animal rights organization or sanctuary.

“Mike Agar”

Mike’s own narrative about his life helps the reader to comprehend how his birth (at the end of World War II) childhood (in Chicago and Livermore, California) high school (including an exchange visit to Austria) college (Stanford, with the opportunity to spend time in South India) and his doctoral studies at Berkeley strung together the set of formative experiences that resulted in such a man. His mercurial forays into linguistics, social science method, junkie behavior, drug policy and epidemiology, and the anthropological view displayed protean interests and insatiable curiosity. Behavioral drug researchers everywhere drew inspiration from his ethnoscientific analysis of copping in Ripping and Running. His treatment of the anthropological role in field work, The Professional Stranger, resonated with a much larger audience of anthropologists who had been in the position of the unknown other. More importantly, it communicated to non-anthropologists what the conduct of field research requires of anthropologists and other ethnographers.

His impact on how we think about language, social inquiry, justice, and human behavior was extensive, and it receives due credit in his own assessment. In his own narrative, however, he could not be expected to reflect on his interpersonal relations with fellow anthropologists and social and behavioral scientists. Mike had charm. He directed his gaze into the eyes of whomever he was talking to as if they were the only other person in the room. His expression was pleasantly earnest. He was not just unfailingly polite, but he showed genuine interest and often offered encouragement. His interactive style made him many friends and drew colleagues to collaborate with him. The rest of us tended to admire him as the “cool guy.”

Luckily, we’ll be able to continue reading and re-reading Mike’s flowing prose and reconsidering his formidable insights into the things that interest us most. But from now on, we can’t look forward to new reflections and insights, such as the ones that delighted us in Dope Double Agent. We won’t be seeing him in the halls of our professional meetings, enjoying his wit or just the pleasantness of his being around. To me, he was the master of the completely different, and I’ll miss the prospect of running into Mike by chance and hearing him one more time.

Bryan Page