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Sue E Estroff

Professor, Social Medicine Research Professor, Psychiatry

BA 1972, Duke University
MA 1975, and PhD 1978, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin – Madison

I am primarily interested in sociocultural forces that influence the biographical experiences of persons with disabling chronic illnesses. In my work, I seek to illuminate the interrelations between social and personal experience and what might be called prognosis. Some of the sociocultural factors that have occupied my attention in research are: representations of illness and identity; individual economies of disability; the impact of disability income on identity and illness trajectory; and how use of mental health or psychiatric services influences self labeling and illness accounts among persons with major psychiatric disorders. I am also interested in exploring how interpersonal and contextual factors influence the occurrence of violence by persons with serious mental illnesses, as well as how such violence is conceived of and operationalized by researchers with varied agendas and training. The study of persons with serious mental illness has occupied most of my research career, and while I specialize in qualitative methods, increasingly I combine them with quantitative analysis techniques. My current work branches out to the study of cultural influences on consent for experimental maternal fetal surgery, and an analysis of community based stigma reduction strategies.  Recent illustrative publications are: Estroff, Sue E., David Penn, and Julie Toporek 2004. From Stigma to Discrimination: An Analysis of Community Efforts to Reduce the Negative Consequences of a Psychiatric Disorder and Label. Schizophrenia Bulletin. Estroff, Sue E. 2004 Subject/Subjectivities in Dispute: The Politics and Poetics of First Person Narratives of Schizophrenia. In, The Edge of Experience: Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity/Culture, Subjectivity, and Schizophrenia. Eds., R. Barrett and J. Jenkins, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. Pp. 282-302. Taylor, Pamela J., and Sue E. Estroff. 2003. Schizophrenia and Violence. In, Schizophrenia. S.R. Hirsch and D.R. Weinberg, eds. Oxford: Blackwell Science Ltd. Pp. 591-612.; and Sue E. Estroff, Jeffrey W. Swanson, William S. Lachicotte, Marvin Swartz, and Michele Bolduc, “Risk Reconsidered: Targets of Violence in the Social Networks of People with Serious Psychiatric Disorders,” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 33 (Supplement 1, 1998): 95-101.

I hold appointments in the departments of Anthropology and Psychiatry, in addition to Social Medicine. In Social Medicine I teach a selective seminar, Exploring the Other Side: Experiences of Deviance, Disability, and Chronic Illness, along with an introductory course in all aspects of Social Medicine. In anthropology, I teach in the areas of medical and psychiatric anthropology and on the topics of moral reasoning and the production of knowledge in anthropology (which includes fieldwork ethics), and work with graduate students in medical anthropology. In psychiatry, I teach residents about various topics in community and social psychiatry, including narrative accounts of recovery from serious mental illness, consumer activism and self advocacy, and violence among persons with psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Estroff is the co-editor of the 2-volume series The Social Medicine Reader, 3rd edition, (Volume I, Ethics and Cultures of Biomedicine and Volume II, Differences and Inequalities, 2019, Duke University Press).