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Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Emily Martin

Professor of Anthropology, New York University

In this illustrated lecture, Professor Martin will explore psychiatric categories involving emotion through ethnographic fieldwork in the contemporary US. She will ask how these categories are culturally created, measured and applied in relation to gender and race; then modified, contested, and rejected in contexts such as clinical rounds, patient advocacy support groups, and internet newsgroups. Some issues raised include: What definitions of rationality do mood disorders entail? What are the implications for the personhood of the patient of treating “irrational” mood disorders with psychotropic drugs intended to “manage” them? What are the stakes of the current broad revaluing of “mania” for larger cultural contexts, such as competitive US corporations, which now place a high value on energized, "manic" states for the sake of the innovation and creativity they are believed to yield?


Emily Martin has taught anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University and (currently) at New York University. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Social Science Research Council and as president of the American Ethnological Society. Her research has been supported by Fulbright awards, a Guggenheim fellowship, and grants from the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Spencer Foundation. She has done research on Chinese culture and society, which she published in The Cult of the Dead in a Chinese Village (Stanford University Press), Chinese Ritual and Politics (Cambridge University Press) and The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, coedited with Hill Gates, (Stanford University Press). Based on her research in conceptions and practices of the body, the mind, work, health and personhood in American culture, she published The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction, Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in America from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (Beacon Press); and Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture (Princeton University Press). Bipolar Expeditions is affiliated with a website intended to provoke readers’ engagement and participation:

She is the founding editor of the public interest magazine Anthropology Now ( sponsored by the American Ethnological Association, funded in part by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and published by Paradigm Publishers. With Louis Sass and Elizabeth Lunbeck, Martin co-organizes the regional seminar, The Psyences Project. The Psyences Project brings clinicians into dialogue with academics around common interests in mind and brain as understood by disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, and psychopharmacology in cultural and historical context. 

Assigned Reading

Emily Martin, Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture (Princeton University Press, 2007)


A reception will be held at 5pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4335

6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public