Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Cubanist Reflects on Reformed US Health Care

The day is still hazy in my mind. I was sick and could barely walk. I hadn't gotten out of bed in almost a week. Finally my (now former) mother-in-law came over and let me lean on her shoulder as we walked to the neighborhood clinic. I hadn't gone before because I wasn't sure I could. As a foreigner, I was supposed to use the expensive tourist hospitals, but I doubted I could afford to go there since I hadn't bought tourist insurance. With my U.S.-based understanding that cost is part of care, I fumbled for the US$10 bill -- about half a Cuban's monthly salary -- that was tucked in my wallet as we walked out of my apartment.

In contrast to previous visits with my (then) husband, there was barely a wait at all to see the doctor. Mami explained to her that I was foreign, but sick: "Won't you help her, please?" The doctor began to ask me about my symptoms and examined me. She determined that I had strep throat and gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. I tried to pay her with the $10 I had brought but she refused. Mami then took me around the corner to the pharmacy (featuring herbs, Chinese medicines, and Western medicines) where I paid about CU$5 (less than US$0.50) for the antibiotics. The last thing I remember was taking my medicine and falling asleep until the next day.

To be clear, I do not suggest that Cuba's system is without flaws: it generally features long lines, the equipment is frequently antiquated, and foreign tourists can pay for the kinds of services they may be accustomed to in their home countries. Likewise, the reforms to the U.S. health care system will not be perfect when they are ultimately enacted in the months and years ahead. But, at long last, we are on the right track to everyone having access to affordable health care.

I share my experience with the Cuban health care system in celebration of the reforms just made law in the United States.

Contributed by L. Kaifa Roland

Monday, March 8, 2010

Advice for People Doing Research in the Caribbean? (Repost)

Do you remember the best piece of advice you received while planning to do research in the Caribbean?

For the past few years, I have collected the “words of wisdom” concerned colleagues, researchers, elders in my discipline, “everyday experts,”* friends, and family members have graciously given me before, and during, my multiple research trips to Jamaica. In a recent volume of Transforming Anthropology**, I wrote about the five themes that connected these pearls of wisdom in a piece titled, "'Don't Ride the Bus': and Other Warnings that Women Anthropologists Are Given During Fieldwork." Although the individuals giving me advice seemed dedicated to thinking up ways to help me navigate unfamiliar territory, and genuinely wanted to make me feel comfortable in this space, in reality, much of their advice and warnings only worked to remind me of three things: (1) I was traveling alone; (2) I was a foreigner; and (3) I was a woman. For almost all of my advice givers, the gendered fact of Number 3 somehow exacerbated their anxiety and concern around the first two sentiments. It seemed that being a foreign woman alone in Jamaica, and the Caribbean more broadly, was somehow dangerous and problematic. Subsequently, these well-meaning American tourists, business travelers, African diasporic researchers, and Jamaican residents called, emailed, and whispered strategies to help me deal with the obstacles I would undoubtedly face.

In my article, I conclude that the advice people gave me during my research did not necessarily help me figure out how to get around Jamaica, or do my fieldwork research more efficiently. However, their advice did tell me a great deal about the ways Jamaica, and the Caribbean more broadly, are read through racialized, nationalized, gendered, sexualized, and classed lenses. Additionally, I realized that there were not enough spaces available for those completing research in the Caribbean, (particularly women), to talk about and discuss their experiences—the daily ins and outs of “doing research,” while navigating bustling city streets, crowded beaches, lively taxi car parks, jam-packed buses, and peaceful mountain towns. The silencing of these stories does not prepare our graduate students to do better research. And the revisionist histories that we often include in the texts that we write, erasing the highs and lows of our experiences, often downplay the significance of our identities and how these social markers affect our interactions with, and research about, the Caribbean.

Therefore I ask you: How was your experience of doing research in the Caribbean? What advice would you give current and future researchers working in the diverse locations that make up the Caribbean?

*I use the term “everyday experts” to describe the individuals anthropologists have traditionally called “informants.”

**Volume 17, issue 2, October 2009.

Contributed by Bianca C. Williams

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Earthquakes

In the recent days following the second largest earthquake to hit the southern region of the Western hemisphere, one may notice the stark contrast in global media and public international reaction. The responses to the Jan. 12th Haitian earthquake has spawned unprecedented levels of international support and financial aid and many wonder will the commitment to Chile do the same and if not, why or why not? United States based Associated Press reporters offer a media perspective on how the impacts of the two earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are being compared, which works to influence the varied international public responses to both countries still very much in need. Are such media reactions rooted in racialized, internationally political, and economic agendas? Or, is it genuinely "A Tale of Two Quakes"?

Click here to read the full article http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,587604,00.html