2015 - Erica Fletcher, PhD

Erica Fletcher, PhDTitle of Dissertation:
MAD TOGETHER IN TECHNOGENIC TIMES: A MULTI-SITED ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE ICARUS PROJECT

Summary of Research:
This dissertation describes concerns associated with the technologization of madness and instances when people with diverse mental states engage with technology to participate in the more-than-human world. Drawing from field notes, visual data, and interviews I collected in a multi-sited ethnography, I argue that technology can shape an individual’s environ(mental) niche, bring people together, and create a sense of solidarity through sharing lived experiences within posthuman emotional ecologies. Paradoxically, such tools are unstable themselves: they can create volatile spaces in which people feel further alienated and fragmented as their “symptoms” of mental illness are performed publically. Noting the many iterations of The Icarus Project in digital and analog spheres and my engagements with those involved, I also articulate the internal logics and contradictions within neoliberal forces that push individuals within the organization to perform particular economic rationalities in preparation for the seemingly inevitable collapse of their own mental states and of the group’s functioning as a whole. Finally, I ask how we might begin to acknowledge the complexities of madness and loss in ways that do not further reify heroic—yet admittedly problematic—narratives of risk and resilience.

SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE:

  • Jerome Crowder, Ph.D., (CHAIR), Assistant Professor, PMCH; Member, Institute for the Medical Humanities, UTMB
  • Jason Glenn, Ph.D., Associate Professor, PMCH; Member, Institute for the Medical Humanities, UTMB
  • Rebecca Hester, M.A., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, PMCH; Member, Institute for the Medical Humanities, UTMB
  • Dwight Wolf, M.D., Professor, Psychiatry/Behavioral Science, UTMB
  • Dan Price, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, The Honors College, The University of Houston, Houston, TX
  • Bradley Lewis, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York Individualized Study, New York University, New York, NY

Bio: 
Erica joined our program in fall 2011.  Born and raised in Texas, Erica earned a BS in Anthropology and Sociology and a BS in Psychology at the University of Houston. During her time there, she also dabbled in international and local community development, nonprofit management, and ethnographic filmmaking. Marianismo, her first film, dealt with cultural factors surrounding the disproportionate spread of HIV/AIDS among Latinas living in Houston. As a part of an undergraduate thesis, her second film Pack and Deliver explored the roles and collaborative practices of local social service agencies aiding survivors of human trafficking. Erica's current research interests include women's issues, visual studies, public anthropology, and immigrant health, particularly among the Latino community. 

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