Bodies, Biology, and Society: A Biosocial Approach to Health in Appalachia
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Many health studies focus on the body in isolation from history, geography, and the exercise of power. Many social scientific studies fail to take seriously the ways in which humans' social lives shape biological matter, including genes, hormones, and organ systems, and vice versa. A biosocial approach attends to both social power and biology. For example, a biosocial explanation of health in Appalachia would grapple with synergistically interacting phenomena including the history of resource extraction, welfare politics, food insecurity, epigenetics, cultural practices, and healthcare access, among other things. Illuminating this kind of syndemic vulnerability invites us to understand that the diagnosis and the treatment for bodily conditions in Appalachia, as for those of other marginalized groups, must be at once political and biological.
Workshop leaders will highlight shortcomings in approaches based solely in history, biomedicine, or public health; outline the usefulness of biosocial concepts such as syndemics and syndemic vulnerability (exposure to social, economic, political, and structural determinants that put certain groups at risk of concurrent and deleteriously interacting forms of health adversity); and discuss the importance of a biosocial lens for socially engaged pedagogy.
Sponsored by the Diggs Teaching Award Association, Appalachian Studies in the Department of Religion and Culture, and the Department of Science and Technology in Society.
Workshop leaders include:
Rebecca J. Hester, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech. Hester is the author of a forthcoming book, Embodied Politics: Indigenous Migrant Activism, Neoliberal Citizenship, and Health Promotion in California, focused on the politics of health, biomedicine, the body, and indigeneity.
Sarah Raskin, PhD, Assistant Professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University. Raskin is a medical anthropologist who examines social, contextual, structural, and ethical determinants of health problems and health care access and use among historically marginalized populations. Her dissertation research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Previously, she served as a community health educator addressing HIV prevention and intimate partner violence in the rural and urban U.S. South, and as a research fellow at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Violence Prevention.
Vydia Permashwar, MBBS, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Permashwar is a pediatrician with Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital with an interest in underserved populations. She received her medical degree from University of the West Indies Faculty of Medical Sciences and has been in practice for more than 20 years, initially at Appalachian Primary Care in Lee County in far Southwest Virginia. In 2019 she was inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which celebrates and honors empathy, altruism, and integrity in medical practitioners.
Emily Satterwhite, Director of Appalachian Studies and Associate Professor at Virginia Tech.