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Associate Professor, Social Medicine Adjunct Associate Professor, Anthropology Adjunct Associate Professor, Religious Studies Adjunct Associate Professor, Communication

BS 1981, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
MD 1986, University of Maryland – Baltimore
MA 1989, and PhD 2000, Religion & Culture, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

In Social Medicine I work from two kinds of training—in medical doctoring (general internal medicine) and in an unholy mix of humanities disciplines. I am a cultural anthropologist of contemporary biomedicine and teaching hospitals—using approaches from philosophy, anthropology, religious studies, history, and literary criticism. I consider how medicine and hospitals are, among other things, like religious institutions, with their own doctrines and scriptures, rituals and priesthoods, sacred spaces and objects.

Within health/medical humanities, these days I am most engaged with scholars doing critical and materialist medical studies, particularly medical STS (science, technology, & society). Most of my academic writing concerns practices of scientific and clinical knowledge-making. I am interested in how diagnosticians organize evidence, in how disease definitions and bodily infirmities are reshaped and redistributed by technologies, and in how our archives, taxonomies, and methods relate to older forms of colonial discipline and biopower. In this current era of “evidence-based medicine,” I am interested in how textual, rhetorical, and imaging techniques condition what seems evident—and more specifically in how metrological ways of knowing (measurement, numeracy, standards, statistics) relate to personal ways of knowing (craft-knowledge, judgment, expertise) and the social formations that support them. My first book, CT Suite: The Work of Diagnosis in the Age of Noninvasive Cutting (Duke University Press, 2008), is an ethnography and philosophical history of CT (computed tomography) scanning. My current book project is an intellectual history of “chiasms”—optic, rhetorical, and philosophical—at particular junctures of late modernity.

For 20 years, until December 2011, I was an emergency physician at Chatham Hospital in Siler City, NC. In Chatham I have been involved in some collaborative community research. And I have been involved in the evaluation of several telemedicine projects.

In UNC’s School of Medicine, I teach in (and help direct) Social and Health Systems 1/2, the first-year seminar course at UNC that helps students gain early critical purchase on their socialization into the medical profession. I also teach in, and presently direct, the second-year Social and Health Systems 3 Seminars. I coordinate a Social Medicine electives program in which various faculty colleagues mentor student projects; I also co-coordinate (with Sue Estroff) the Scholarly Concentration in Humanities & Social Sciences, which serves ~12 students in each medical school class. In most years I supervise a few individual student cultural studies projects relating to biomedicine or comparative healing systems. Outside the School of Medicine, I teach graduate seminars and serve on graduate thesis committees in several departments where I have adjunct appointments: Anthropology, Religious Studies, Communication. I have taught undergraduate seminars in the Honors Program concentration in Literature, Medicine, & Culture and have served as a medical school liaison for the Literature, Medicine, & Culture MA program in the Dept of English & Comparative Literature.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

As a scholar of anthropology and religion I am awed by variation in human experience and values—and by the enormity of suffering and damage wrought by so many colonial and imperial projects. I try to contribute to learning, scholarly, and collegial environments that are inclusive, sensitive, welcoming, and reflexive. My teaching encourages students to consider how relations between privilege and vulnerability, center and periphery, authority and clientele, ritual and revolution offer analytical frames that can solicit ethical intervention. I have published on use and misuse of racial categories in medical pedagogy; I support efforts of faculty and students to improve our handling of matters of equity throughout the medical curriculum.

Barry Saunders, MD, PhD