Bioethics Blogs

Creating Methods that Speak Across Disciplines in Medical Anthropology by Emily Mendenhall

María and I finished our three hours together with a blood spot and a hug. It was an extra long hug, and I couldn’t be sure if it was her or me who lingered. I was three-fourths of the way through my dissertation research at one of Chicago’s oldest public hospital clinics and it had been an intense period. María was one of 28 women who shared with me a devastating narrative of childhood sexual abuse. But today, María was one of two. Even more, these interviews were back-to-back, leading to a seven-hour stretch of interviewing. To say the least, I was exhausted.

I packed up my computer after I finished my field notes (conducted immediately after each interview), and placed my measuring tape, audio-recorder, and dried blood spot—protected in a plastic zip-lock—carefully into my satchel. I picked up my portable scale that I dutifully carried across the hospital each night to tuck away in my office, and I locked the door of the private room in the general medicine clinic where I conducted many interviews. I walked to the elevator and took it down a level to the pharmacy. Each day I savored those minutes as I walked through the pharmacy, filled with people from all walks of life, and most days I ran into someone I knew and conversed with them. These ethnographic moments sometimes gave me the best insight. Yet, that day I was too exhausted for more conversation. I kept my head down and carried my satchel and scale right out the door, crossed the road, entered the hospital, and swerved through the halls until I reached my adjacent office building.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.