By Alex Phillips, Honors student
My research began in 2010 with the help of Dr. Cassandra White, a professor in GSU's Department of Anthropology. I was leaving to work with a medical non-profit in Iraq in the beginning of summer 2010, and wanted to make the most out of my experience. Dr. White guided me through designing and carrying out a medical-anthropological field project, and upon returning helped me to prepare a manuscript based on my research.
My project was further refined during Spring semester 2011 when I took Honors Health and Culture with Dr. White. During that class, and after presenting at the 2011 Georgia State Undergraduate Research Conference, I finalized plans to continue and expand my research in Iraq in the summer of 2011. With the help of an Honors College scholarship, and the continuing guidance of Dr. White, I returned to Iraq to complete research for my Honors Thesis. I am currently working closely with Dr. White in the writing phase of my thesis, have submitted a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal, and will present the results of my most recent work at GSURC 2012 as well as at least two other anthropology conferences in 2011-2012.
My research, situated in the field of medical anthropology and based in Iraqi Kurdistan, examines how patients and families understand congenital heart disease. I focus especially on understandings of cause and treatment of the disease, and use participant-observation and in-depth interviews to elicit narratives and perspectives from families. I have found that beliefs on cause of the disease are strongly linked to the history of violence and marginalization in the region, while family perspectives on treatment have shown the potential of a model of reconciliation through healing. I am currently in Iraq continuing my original research as well as exploring further the concept of reconciliation through healing. I am expanding my focus to include southern Iraq in addition to Iraqi Kurdistan, and am working this summer primarily in the cities of Nasiriyah and Sulaymaniyah, and surrounding villages.
The first photo is of me conducting family interviews in a home in Sulaymaniyah. The next photo is of me conducting participant-observation in a cardiologist's office. (photos were taken by Lydia Bullock)