Student Profile: Lauren Textor

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s 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 them a series of questions related to their background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Lauren Textor, a M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

I love meeting and building relationships with people I wouldn’t have the opportunity to deeply engage with unless I were doing fieldwork. I started studying anthropology as an undergraduate because I liked that meeting people, talking and engaging with them, was considered a legitimate way to understand the world. To me anthropology is a tool for understanding not just what is happening in a particular moment in a particular place, but how it happensIt’s one tool for asking questions about how injustices keep happening and how another way might be possible. 

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

Examining drugs, drug policies, and their on-the-ground effects provides insight into how a nation-state defines and governs pain and pleasure, care and addiction, and even citizenship. I got into studying opioids because I was training to be a physician, and I was observing violence carried out in the name of health care. My patients in pain were abandoned and punished by medical teams the moment they were deemed undeserving. I wanted to understand what was going on in this moment of “opioid crisis” that was deeply impacting health care but that I wasn’t really learning about in medical school. I wanted to better understand the role that biomedicine plays in shaping drug policy and how drug law enforcement shapes medical care. 

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

I want to keep pursuing drug research that helps to inform policy reform and advocacy. I also want to keep building on collaborations so that the anthropology of drugs is interconnected with research on housing justice, decarceration, and political economy. A big, persistent problem is that most health care providers cannot recognize the ways that health care and biomedical knowledge reproduce and sometimes worsen health disparities. So even when policy reforms attempt to increase access to health care and to something like addiction treatment, these reforms fall woefully short of providing meaningful care for people. At the policy level, we need new ways of imagining the meaning of care. That means asking the experts: people who use drugs, those who have been incarcerated, those who have lived unhoused, harm reductionists, and community organizers who have been practicing care for one another in the face of organized state abandonment for a long time. 

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I am going back to finish medical school this year and am applying to residency.

If you are an anthropology student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG’s Chair, Breanne Casper, at for more information!

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