The 87th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2018)


Session 39. The False Meritocracy of Choice within Social Constructs of Health. Invited Podium Symposium. Chair: Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford Co-organizers: Robin G. Nelson, Dept. of Anthropology, Santa Clara University; Julienne N. Rutherford, Department of Women, Children, and Family Health Science, University of Illinois, Chicago

April 13, 2018 , Texas V/VI Add to calendar

The medical concept of “health” is framed predominantly within a narrative of personal choices and responsibilities. At entry into healthcare systems, health histories are compiled, foregrounding current diet, activity levels, “lifestyle factors”, and demographic characteristics. Those who make “good” choices enjoy favorable outcomes, in absence of external realities. This emphasis on hyperlocal and individual factors ignores the way health decisions and outcomes are embedded in structural frameworks that shape ecologies, societies, communities, and persons in ways that do not map directly on processes of individual choice. Emerging social and (bio)medical scholarship is overturning this notion of the individual as the sole seat of responsibility of health outcomes. Structural realities such as poverty, violence, food insufficiency and insecurity, discrimination, and other experiences of historical trauma limit “choice” in such a way as to render the concept of choice itself a meritocratic marker of elite status. More fundamentally, these structural realities work on biological mechanisms to dilute the impact of “good” choices even if they exist. In this session, scholars from anthropology and other disciplines will interrogate the availability and impact of individual choice on health, ranging across the life course, populations, and generations, with particular foci including reproductive health, obesity, violence, and environmental justice. Both data and theory will be presented in the interest of shaping discussions for the role our discipline can play in shifting responsibility and refiguring health for diverse peoples.

2:30 Add to calendar Freezing for the Future: Costs, Culture, and Fertility Preservation Decisions in Trans Youth. Moira A. Kyweluk, Afiya Sajwani, Diane Chen.
2:45 Add to calendar Behavioral interventions for maternal overweight and obesity: Exploring the implications for health and health care inequalities. Kathryn Hicks.
3:00 Add to calendar From Start to End: Maternal early life conditions, perinatal mortality, and the limits of personal responsibility across pregnancy. Julienne Rutherford.
3:15 Add to calendar Navigation through misinformation: Visualizing the realities and fallacies of reproductive choice in the Midwest. Victoria deMartelly, Neetu Hariharan.
3:30 Add to calendar Birthing Inequality: Disparities in Maternal Health at Home and Abroad. Kylea L. Liese, Crystal L. Patil.
3:45 Add to calendar "The Illusion of Choice: Barriers to Patient-Centered Care and Shared Decision Making in Obstetrics". Deena Mallareddy.
4:00 Add to calendar Under State Control: Scarcity, Child Growth, and Life Trajectories. Robin G. Nelson.
4:15 Add to calendar “War as Imposed Ecology: Conflict and Embodied Biology”. Patrick F. Clarkin.
4:30 Add to calendar The more things change: Environmental crisis, health, and 'good choices' in the past. Emily K. Parnell, Gwen Robbins Schug.
4:45 Add to calendar Fight the bite: Zika Virus, personal responsibility, maternal stigmatization, and disabled children in American Samoa. Christopher D. Lynn, Michaela Howells, Margaret Sesepesara.
5:00 Add to calendar When the healthy choice isn't healthy or a choice: Structural determinants in cases of environmental injustice. Lawrence M. Schell.
5:15 Discussant: Lorena Madrigal
Add to calendar Withdrawn. Breastfeeding and the Appearance of Choice. Ifeyinwa Asiodu.