Social Anthropological Approach to Death, Health and Disaster: Towards An Interdisciplinary Approach to Anthropology and Medical Science

Venue: 7th Disaster psychiatry and Neuroscience Seminar (2015/12/16)

Theme: Disaster and Mental Health

Location: School of Medicine, Tohoku University (Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture)

The School of Medicine of Tohoku University held its 7th Disaster Psychiatry and Neuroscience seminar. Led by Prof. Hiroaki Tomita (Disaster Medical Science Division), this seminar series introduces the latest research in the field post-traumatic stress and other mental illnesses relating to post-disaster conditions. While previous contributions came essentially from clinical psychiatrists, the 7th seminars of this series innovated by invited Dr. Sébastien Penmellen Boret, assistant professor in social anthropology. The aim of this seminar was to stimulate collaborative and interdisciplinary research between medical science, social anthropology and other disaster disciplines represented at the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS).

During his presentation, Boret discussed the subject of a “Social Anthropological Approaches to Death, Health and Disaster: Towards Interdisciplinary Approach to Anthropology and Medical Science”. The first objective of his talk was to introduce his qualitative research among survivors and bereaved family of the Great East Japan Disaster in the Tohoku Region and Indonesia. In particular, Boret presented the merits of anthropological research methods through participant-observation, whereby the researcher becomes for a year or more part of the community he/she wishes to research and collect in-depth and qualitative information. The second part aims at identifying the areas where social anthropologists might benefit from medical knowledge and approaches. Here, Boret made particular reference to the need for a medico-social understanding of disaster induced emotional, behavioural and medical conditions, which he observed during his ethnographic fieldwork. The final Q&A session brought a lively discussion with the members of the medical school, which it is hoped will lead to more collaborative research and publications in the near future.

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