Aidan Seale-Feldman

Aidan Seale-Feldman

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Anthropology

Affiliation: Health, Humanities, and Society

Trained in medical, psychological, and cultural anthropology, my research explores mental health and the ethics of care through the ethnographic study of disaster, humanitarianism, and psychosocial interventions in the Himalayas. Based on 30 months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Nepal (2014-2016), my first book project, The Work of Disaster: Crisis, Care, and Worldbuilding in the Himalayas, is an ethnography of the ethics and politics of psychic life in times of disaster. Set in the time of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, the ethnography moves between Kathmandu NGO offices and earthquake-affected communities as it tells a story of an emergent “mental health crisis” and the quest to build a mental health system in times of disaster. In this work I bring disaster studies into conversation with medical and psychological anthropology, critical phenomenology, and the anthropology of ethics and morality to explore the problematization of mental health and the ethics of care in times of crisis.

My future project, Is Another Psychiatry Possible? Healing and the Alterpolitics of Psychedelic Medicine, builds on my research on mental health and therapeutics by exploring the “psychedelic renaissance” and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in the United States. While traditional psychiatry and psychosocial counseling are rapidly expanding throughout the Global South, in the Global North increasing dissatisfaction with the efficacy of SSRIs and psychiatric treatment modalities has inspired a flood of new research on the psychedelic plant medicine such as psilocybin to treat addiction, anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Through a study of the development of a new psychedelic pharmaceutical industry, theories of consciousness, and experiences of therapeutic efficacy, this project will explore the challenges and imagined possibilities of psychedelic medicine as a liberatory form of healing distinct from traditional psychiatry.

I have developed a number of undergraduate courses that bring together work in medical anthropology, history of medicine, transcultural psychiatry, philosophy, and critical theory which could serve the Health, Humanities and Society minor. At Notre Dame, I currently teach “Health and Culture,” an introductory course in medical anthropology that focuses on cultures of medicine as well as the social and structural determinants of health. I also plan to offer courses such as “Biopolitics,” “Moral Experience,” “Anthropology of Psychic Life” and “Anthropology of Care.” 

Email: asealefe@nd.edu

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