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Brotherton, Sean P.

Brotherton’s research and teaching interests include the critical study of health, medicine, the state, subjectivity, and the body. His theoretical references draw on contemporary social theory and postcolonial studies. His ethnographic research is carried out in the Caribbean, particularly Cuba and Jamaica. Brotherton is currently completing a book-length manuscript, tentatively titled Machinations of the State: Macroeconomic Change, Emergent Capital, and the Biopolitics of Health in Post-Soviet Cuba. The book is an ethnographic examination of how Cuba’s shifting state policies and external global factors have interacted with each other to change the course of health and medicine in the socialist island-nation. Using individual practices relating to the body and health as an ethnographic starting point, the book examines multiple pathways through which political subjectivities are created and transformed in contemporary Cuba.

Brotherton is also working on new two projects. The first is an ethnographic account of Cuba’s recent export of medical doctors throughout the world for hard currency. This research focuses on several case studies, including the Barrio Adentro (Inside the Barrio) program, where over 20,000 Cuban physicians are working in Venezuelan communities providing medical care in exchange for hard currency and subsidized petroleum, popularly known as “the oil-for-aid deal.” This research will explore how the moral legitimacy of the state is both challenged and maintained by the Cuban government’s foreign aid policies, commonly referred to as “international proletarianism.”  This research aims to further examine the state’s recent mobilization of biomedicine as a technology of politics and the effective integration of medical expertise into its strategies of corporate governance under the banner of the “struggle for socialism”. The second project, based in Jamaica, examines how popular conceptions of the “infected body,” produced through intersecting discourses of colonization, biomedicine, and traditional medicine, anchors notions of psychological, national, and racial health. Taking both an historical and contemporary approach, this project examines how various forms of power have “managed” epidemics using preventive, therapeutic, and diagnostic practices to differentiate and regulate subjects’ bodies within the larger social order. The objective of this research is to challenge the perceived division between colonial and postcolonial medical discourses, as well as to question the epistemological foundations of biomedicine as an outcome of modernity.

Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, Brotherton held an appointment at Michigan State University (2006-2008) and was a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow (2004-2006) in the Anthropology of Medicine Program at the Universitat Rovira I Virgili in Spain.  He teaches courses on medical anthropology, anthropology of the body, subjectivity and the state, and contemporary social theory. Brotherton’s recent articles appear in American Ethnologist and the Journal of Latin American Anthropology. He is also the co-editor of special issue of Anthropologie et Sociétés, focusing on issues of socialism/post-socialism.


Yale University, Department of Anthropology

The Yale Department of Anthropology was officially founded in 1937 and traces its origins of research and teaching to work done within the Peabody Museum of Natural History (1866) and the Institute of Human Relations (1928).  The Department is home to over 30 faculty and nearly 120 graduate...

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