Paul Brodwin

Paul Brodwin


Adjunct Professor
Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities
Medical College of Wisconsin

Office: Sabin 180
Phone: (414) 229-4734
Web Site:


Ph.D., Harvard University, 1991

Research Narrative

I am a broadly trained medical anthropologist with research experience in the U.S. (community psychiatry, human population genetics, and chronic pain) and internationally (religion and healing in Haiti and the French West Indies). My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Human Genome Research Institute (an R01 grant), National Institute of Mental Health, Fulbright Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Fund for Anthropological Research. For over two decades I have studied the ethical dimensions of health care in their full cultural context. Through ethnography, I explore how local moral orders are produced and disrupted in the face-to-face encounters of clinical work. What ordinary people say about ethics illustrates on-going debates about the meaning, and proper limits, of care.

My new book, Everyday Ethics: Voices from the Front Lines of Community Psychiatry (University of California Press 2013), explores the moral lives of mental health clinicians serving the most marginalized individuals in the U.S. healthcare system. Drawing fieldwork in a community psychiatry outreach team, the book traces the ethical dilemmas and everyday struggles of front line providers. On the street, in staff room debates, or in private confessions, these psychiatrists and social workers confront ongoing challenges to their self-image as competent and compassionate advocates. This in-depth study exposes the fault lines in today's community psychiatry. It shows how people working deep inside the system struggle to maintain their ideals and manage a chronic sense of futility. The experiences of these clinicians pose a single overarching question: how should we bear responsibility for the most vulnerable among us?

My work advances the dialogue between bioethics and medical anthropology. The needs of people with severe psychiatric symptoms and profound social marginality call for more resources and greater moral imagination. But the retrenchment of the state, as well as the stigma attached to mental illness, make reform especially difficult. My future research about people with experience of mental illness who become providers continues the general project of rethinking public sector psychiatry and its ethical stakes. I also participate in more immediate mental health reform efforts with several local advocacy groups. (see

Other Relevant Activities:

Consultant in qualitative methods, Center for AIDS Intervention Research, Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical College of Wisconsin

Coordinator, faculty workshop in Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, Center for 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Courses Taught:

Anthro 104: Introduction to Anthropology
Anthro 440: Medical Anthropology - Sample Syllabus (pdf 70kb)
Anthro 445: Psychological Anthropology - Sample Syllabus (pdf 89kb)
Anthro 460: Anthropological Theory - Sample Syllabus (pdf 45kb)
Anthro 560: Introduction to Research Methods in Anthropology - Sample Syllabus (pdf 50kb)

Recent Publications:

2013. Everyday Ethics: Voices from the Front Line of Community Psychiatry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Publisher's Information

2000. Biotechnology and Culture: Bodies, Anxieties, Ethics. Paul Brodwin (ed). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press (Theories of Contemporary Culture) No. 25. Publisher's Information

1996. Medicine and Morality in Haiti: The Contest for Healing Power. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology) No. 3. Publisher's Information

1992. Pain as Human Experience: Anthropological Perspectives. M. Good, P. Brodwin, B. Good and A. Kleinman (eds). Berkeley: University of California Press (Comparative Studies of Health Systems and Medical Care). Publisher's Information


2014. The Ethics of Ambivalence and the Practice of Constraint in US Psychiatry. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 38(4): 527-549. (pdf 218kb)

2014. Introduction: The Practice of Constraint in Psychiatry: Emergent Forms of Care and Control. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 38(4): 524-526.(pdf 110kb)

2013. Introduction to Everyday Ethics. (pdf 1.7mb)

2011. Futility in the Practice of Community Psychiatry. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 25 (2): 189-208. (pdf 145kb)

2010. The Assemblage of Compliance in Psychiatric Case Management. Anthropology and Medicine 17 (2): 129-143. (pdf 13kb)

2008. Mixed Methods and Bioethics Pedagogy: Suggestions for Future Research. The American Journal of Bioethics 2 (4): 56-56. (pdf 42kb)

2008. The Coproduction of Moral Discourse in U.S. Community Psychiatry. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 22 (2): 127-147. (pdf 131kb)

2007. Mediations of Power in Contemporary Medical Anthropology. Anthropology in Action 14(3): 1-5. (pdf 123kb)

2005. "Bioethics in Action" and Human Population Genetics Research. Culture. Medicine and Psychiatry 29: 145-178. (pdf, 154kb)

2005. Genetic Knowledge and Collective Identity. Introduction to special issue of Culture. Medicine and Psychiatry 29: 139-143. (Paul Brodwin, guest editor) (pdf, 38kb)

2003. Marginality and Subjectivity in the Hatian Diaspora. Anthropological Quarterly 76(3): 383-410. (pdf, 145kb)

2003. Pentecostalism in Translation: Religion and the Production of Community in the Haitian Diaspora. American Ethnologist 30(1): 85-101. (pdf, 145kb)

2002. Carl Elliott and Paul Brodwin: Identity and Genetic Ancestry Tracing. British Medical Journal 325: 21-28 December: 1469-1471. (Reprinted in BMJ-USA 3, April 2003: 225-227). (pdf, 232kb)

2002. Genetics, Identity, and the Anthropology of Essentialism. Anthropological Quarterly 75(2): 323-330. (Reprinted in 'Mixed Race' Studies: A Reader, Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe (ed.). London: Routledge, 2004, pp. 116-122). (pdf 155kb)

2001. Pluralism and Politics in Global Bioethics Education. The Annals of Behavioral Science and Medical Education 7(2): 80-86. (pdf, 47kb)

2000. Professional Power and the Cultural Meanings of Biotechnology. Co-authored with Robert M. Nelson. In The Encyclopedia of Ethical, Legal and Policy Issues in Biotechnology (Vol.2), ed. by Thomas H. Murray and Maxwell J. Mehlman. New York: John Wiley and Sons, pp. 888-896. (pdf, 958kb)

1997. Politics, Practical Logic, and Health Development in Rural Haiti. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 11(1): 69-88. (pdf, 1.75Mb)