Mara Buchbinder

Mara Buchbinder Faculty Member at UNC Department of Social Medicine

Assistant Professor, Social Medicine
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Anthropology

PhD 2010, Anthropology, University of California - Los Angeles
MA 2005, Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University
AB 2002, Psychological & Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College


Mara Buchbinder, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Social Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UNC – Chapel Hill. Dr. Buchbinder’s current research examines the clinical encounter as a platform for exploring the sociocultural and political forces that shape the organization and delivery of healthcare in the United States, with a particular focus on the role of language in medicine. Dr. Buchbinder also has interests in the ethical dimensions of clinical communication and the patient-provider relationship.

Dr. Buchbinder’s forthcoming book, All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain (University of California Press, 2015), draws on ethnographic fieldwork in a multidisciplinary pediatric pain clinic to explore how clinicians, adolescent patients, and their families understand and work to alleviate intractable pain. Phenomenological approaches to pain have flourished in recent years because pain has been cast as a private experience that shatters language and evades representation. And yet, despite the obvious epistemological constraints on apprehending another’s internal states, language is what translates pain from the solitary and unknowable to a phenomenon that is richly described in literature, medicine, and everyday life. All in Your Head builds on phenomenological accounts but situates pain within an intersubjective context to emphasize the relational, everyday means through which chronic pain is understood and managed. Through careful attention to the language of pain and detailed analysis of how pain sufferers make meaning through interactions with others, the book reveals that however private pain may be, making sense of it is profoundly social.

Dr. Buchbinder is currently working on a new project that explores the ethical dimensions of mandated-counseling abortion laws, as well as the language ideologies underlying these laws and the scripting of clinical speech. In this project, she traces the multiple, complex, and ambivalent relationships between language and action at the intersections of medicine, ethics, and the law.

Curriculum Vitae

Office: 341A MacNider


Phone: 919.843.6881

Fax: 919.966.7499

Post: Mara Buchbinder / CB #7240, Department of Social Medicine / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill / Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7240