Media and Medicine: Racialized Productions of Public Health

Colloquium | February 8 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 691 Barrows Hall

 Charles Briggs, Anthropology; Mauricio Najarro, Medical Anthropology

 Center for Race and Gender

CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…


From Deracialized Bodies to Pathological Biomedical Subjectivities: Constructing Difference in Media Coverage of Health
Charles Briggs, Anthropology

This book examines the relationship between media and medicine, considering the fundamental role of news coverage in constructing wider cultural understandings of health and disease. The authors advance the notion of ‘biomediatization’ and demonstrate how health knowledge is co-produced through connections between dispersed sites and forms of expertise. The chapters offer an innovative combination of media content analysis and ethnographic data on the production and circulation of health news, drawing on work with journalists, clinicians, health officials, medical researchers, marketers, and audiences. The volume provides students and scholars with unique insight into the significance and complexity of what health news does and how it is created.

Of Mothers and Addicts: Racialization and the Translation of Interests in Contemporary News Coverage of the Opioid Epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area
Mauricio Najarro, Medical Anthropology

Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in news coverage about the opioid epidemic in the United States. In this paper, I will analyze the journalistic conventions that shape how notions of interest (personal interest, conflict of interest) are depicted by journalists who frame medicalized subjects and objects in news stories. I will focus specifically on the role of parent-advocates in constructing a new figure of the racialized addict. Drawing upon the work of feminist scholars and critical race theorists on the relation between racialized motherhood, death, and representation as well as my own interviews with local journalists and lay people, I will focus on the co-production of a fragile and vulnerable whiteness prone to addiction and the collateral figures who remain in the shadows and margins of contemporary discourse and policy debates on addiction as a medical problem.


Mauricio Najarro is a second year PhD student in the Joint UC Berkeley-UCSF Medical Anthropology program with a Designated Emphasis in Science & Technology Studies. He is also a PhD candidate in Religion at the Graduate Theological Union. His research is on the globalization and mediatization of the opioid epidemic both in the United States—specifically the San Francisco Bay Area—and northern India—specifically Punjab. He is interested in understanding how journalists, medical researchers, public health authorities, and lay people construct notions of the addict and the addicted body in news reporting and how such reporting shapes both beliefs and interventions about addiction, the addict, the chemical prosthetic.

Charles L. Briggs is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. His work combines linguistic and medical anthropology with socio-cultural anthropology and folkloristics.

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