Tuesday, March 13, 2018

[Talk] Folk Pulmunology

MANILA - As one of the keynote speakers at the 37th Annual Chest Convention of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), I talked about 'folk pulmonology', or patients' perspectives when it comes to their lung problems, in a 30-minute presentation on March 14, 2018.

Drawing from the work of Prof. Michael Tan and Prof. Anita Hardon, I introduced the talks with concepts like 'hiyang' and the idea that cough is a particularly "socially-disruptive" disease because it is both 'visual and auditory'. I stressed the value of language, referencing dying terms like dalahik and dahak that could enhance the specificity of history taking and help build rapport between doctors and patients. I also mentioned explanatory models such as the 'hot-cold syndrome': the lungs is viewed as a 'hot organ' and can therefore be affected by the cold.

I proceeded by presenting some insights, including the explanatory role of medicine: patients consult doctors not just to get well, but to find out what's happening in their bodies. I then concluded with a question: "What possibilities lie when we think of pulmonology not just as a profession that cures lung diseases, but one that allows patients to breathe better?"

Many thanks to Dr. Eric Moral and all the members of PCCP for giving me a chance to share my insights! This topic is something that only clinicians and anthropologists can do working together and I hope doctors will pursue the many research possibilities  - towards "culture-guided medicine" in the Philippines. 

[Workshop] Pharmaceutical becomings, Tokyo, Japan

TOKYO - Upon the invitation of Prof. Yosuke Shimazono of the University of Osaka, I came over to Japan to join a workshop entitled " “Pharmaceutical becomings: Emerging subjectivities in the age of pharmaceuticalization". Held in AEON Compass, Yeasu Conference Hall,  the workshop's other speakers included Prof. Shimazono (Osaka University) who talked about the use of immunosuppresants, Junko Iida (Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare) who discussed palliative care, and Miho Ushiyama who reflected on the 'de-pharmaceuticalisation' of people who refuse to use steroids to treat atopic dermatitis.

The abstract of my presentation, which was about height and growth supplements in the Philippines, is as follows:

In the Philippines, a class of vitamins and nutritional supplements that are growing in popularity are those that are colloquially known as pampatangkad (height enhancers) or ‘growth supplements’. Marketed for children and teenagers and imagined to contain “hormones” or “growth factors”, these products contain the legal disclaimer that they have “no approved therapeutic claims”, but their imagery - of measuring sticks, teenage basketball players,  young beauty queens, and scientific terminology (i.e. “Chlorella Growth Factor”) reinforce the perception that they are pampatangkad.

My presentation seeks to make sense of these products’ emergence and popularity in the Philippines - as part of a broader study that looks into how height figures in the everyday lives of young people in the country. My first insight is that these  products are involved in the ‘co-production’ (Jasanoff, 2003) of the notions of height: they not just reflect, but also reinforce, the meanings and materialities of tallness and shortness in the Philippines. Imagined or real, however, the efficacy of these products requires a conceptual framework, and this is accomplished by the reification of the idea of a “hormone” in popular imagination.

Interestingly, the panelists say that they do not see the same pervasiveness of the value of tallness in Japan, citing anime and TV shows that depict smaller people defeating big enemies, and the absence of height requirements for jobs. Surely, a comparative survey of the meanings of height in the region (and globally) would be a very fascinating research direction.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

[Talk] Millennials and Social Media

On February 23, 2018, I joined Dr. Chester Cabalza in a talk held at the Development Academy of the Philippines, which reflected on the 'new media' today - particularly social media. Part of the 'Kartilya Series', we engaged with an audience that was composed of film graduate students and college students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

My talk, entitled "Millennials and Social Media", discussed the three major social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), and raised questions to the audience, including the blurring of a person's various networks (i.e. familial, personal, professional) on Facebook, the possibilities of alternative identities on Twitter, and the rise of 'the visual' due to Instagram. The talk drew together some themes I raised in some of my essays, such as "In Search of Instagrammable Moments" and "Life and Death in the Time of Facebook".

"Will these social networks survive?" My response to this question, raised by the audience, is tentative, given how we have failed to predict the demise of Friendster, Multiply, and many other web-based entities. The challenge is not so much to prognosticate the future of social media, but to be aware of how rapid changes are - and we often use these platforms without the time to reflect on their ramifications.

[Talk] Being Filipino in Five Senses

On March 7, 2018, I had the opportunity to share "Being Filipino in Five Senses", an overview of the cultural history of the senses in the Philippines with the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines' History Program, which was held at the Ateneo Professional Schools in Rockwell, Makati City.

Looking at the sensory vocabularies and metaphors (i.e. 'kapit-patalim'), and the ways Filipinos engaged the world through their senses makes for a very rich topic for cultural history and anthropology. One example of this exercise is an essay I published, entitled "The Filipino sense of smell".  Here's a passage from this exploratory piece:
Sniff kisses, for their part, are part of a broader body language. If you look at romantic scenes in Filipino movies—or if you reflect on your own romantic experiences—the act of sniffing is likewise privileged. We experience each others’ bodies not just with the visual (seeing) or the tactile (touching) but also with the olfactory (sniffing). And from a neuroscientific perspective, this again makes a lot of sense, as the olfactory bulb—the part of the brain responsible for smell—is a component of the limbic system, which is the seat of memories and emotions. Scents, then, allow us to memorialize experiences and bodies in a more sensorial, sensual way.

Surely there are many more materials waiting to be unearthed, dealing with the tactile, the olfactory, the gustatory, the auditory, and the visual - and this is a research interest I intend to pursue in the future.