Kathryn Goldfarb
Faculty: Cultural Anthropology

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My research explores how social inclusion and exclusion shape holistic well-being and embodied experience. I bring together three domains that generally are understood separately—kinship, medical anthropology, and semiotics—to examine how past and present social relationships are experienced in visceral, embodied terms. I consider myself an “engaged anthropologist,” and endeavor for my research to be both theoretically rigorous and relevant to my interlocutors.

In Japan, my research focuses on the stakes of disconnection from family networks. I conduct ethnographic research at child welfare institutions, with foster and adoptive families, and with networks of youth who grew up in state care. I have also conducted research on infertility treatment, which informs my thinking on the ways “blood ties” are understood in Japan. I examine how kinship ideologies articulate with discourses of Japanese national and cultural identity, how these discourses shape understandings of what is “normal,” and how these concepts of normalcy are caught up in global circuits of knowledge surrounding human development, child rights, and concepts of “care” under the rubric of social welfare. My thinking is informed by feminist studies of science and queer theory.

I am developing a new, transnational project exploring how psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers, and former state wards in Japan and North America theorize attachment and childhood interpersonal trauma. I am particularly interested in the ways that neuroscientific evidence is mobilized in the context of claims regarding early life adversity, development, and a person’s ability to make interpersonal connections. In the context of transnational knowledge translation and the circulation of psychiatric expertise, this project considers how ideologies about culture play into understandings of health and well-being, policy development, and service provision in Japan and North America.

Selected Publications

(please contact me if you are interested in forthcoming or under review material):

Kathryn's Presentation on the  "Underlying Conditions: 'Race,' Racism, and Health."