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Faculty

Carole Browner


Research Professor and Professor Emerita


Contact Information

Email    browner@ucla.edu
Office  760 Westwood Plaza, Box 62
Phone  310-794-6299

I am a Professor in the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Women’s Studies, and in the Center for Culture and Health, which is based in the David Geffen School of Medicine’s NPI-Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. I became Chair of the Anthropology Department in July 2010. My training as a medical anthropologist combines a doctorate in socio-cultural anthropology with a Master’s degree in public health.

Throughout most of my career, my research interests have lay principally at the intersection of gender, reproduction, and health. I have done field research in urban Colombia, rural Mexico, and with diverse ethnic groups in the U. S. In Cali, Colombia I investigated the circumstances that led pregnant women with unintended conceptions to seek illegal abortion. In rural Mexico, I sought to understand how local political relations shape gender-based reproductive strategies. Since 1989, I have worked mainly in the U. S. on issues surrounding the medicalization of pregnancy and prenatal care, particularly the ways that prenatal genetic information may alter reproductive experience.  Broadly based on these interests, my collection, Reproduction, Globalization and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives (co-edited with Carolyn Sargent) was published in 2011 by Duke University Press.  

Building upon and expanding my longstanding research into the social impact of decoding the human genome, and meanings and uses of genetic information, my current work focuses on the growing role of genetic testing in the field of neurology.  My monograph, Neurogenetic Diagnoses, the Power of Hope, and the Limits of Today’s Medicine, co-authored with Mabel Preloran (2010, Routledge), explores the diverse meanings and impacts of genetic diagnoses for patients enduring currently incurable, ultimately fatal neurodegenerative diseases -- and for their family caregivers and clinicians.  The analysis is framed by increasingly sharp social debates over the consequences of decoding the human genome -- and the impact of genetic technology on our lives.  Currently, with a team of neurogenetics experts and health services researchers, I am continuing this work with an investigation of when and why community-based neurologists order genetic testing and refer patients for neurogenetic specialty consultations.    

Some of my other work has concerned how couples from Mexican backgrounds who are offered amniocentesis decide whether to undergo the procedure, how conflicts between a woman and man over whether to be tested are resolved, and the role genetic counselors play in couples' amniocentesis decisions.  A follow-up study enabled me to deconstruct the strategies prenatal genetic service providers use to communicate information about prenatal genetic testing options to Latinas with limited education and/or English living in south Texas and southern California.  Other projects have examined how Latino couples make decisions about condom use; the meanings associated with cervical cancer held by women and men living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border; and the use of reproductive health services by homeless women in Los Angeles.  

Other current projects include a collaboration with professors from the UCLA Dental School to study motivations for volunteering on a medical mission to treat Mexican children born with cleft lip and palate; a project sponsored by the UCLA Departments of Medicine and Rheumatology on the real life contexts of lupus-associated “flares” among women of diverse ethnic and social class backgrounds living in Los Angeles; and the longitudinal processes that have contributed to rural Bali’s dramatic fertility decline. 

My work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Health Care Policy Research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, private donors and private foundations.

I teach graduate seminars in Medical Anthropology; The Anthropology of the Human Body; The Politics of Reproduction; and Anthropological Perspectives on Genetics, Genetic Testing, and Genetic Knowledge, as well as courses in research design and methods to graduate and undergraduate students.

My professional service has included membership on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the State of California's Birth Defects Monitoring Program and on the Executive and Advisory Boards of several University of California institutes including UC-MEXUS, the Institute for American Cultures, the Institute for Development Studies, the International Institute, the Latin American Center, and the Center for the Study of Women. 

Nationally, I have been elected to the Executive Boards of the American Anthropological Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Society for Latin American Anthropology, and the Society for Medical Anthropology; I was President of the latter from 1995-97. I’ve also served on the several journal editorial boards. 

I consult on a wide variety of research projects on women’s and Latino health in southern California, on the U.S.-Mexican border, in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

Center for Culture and Health

Department of Anthropology

Mental Retardation Research Center

Positions

  • 1977-83 Assistant Professor and Coordinator of M.A. Program in Applied Medical Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.
  • 1983-84 Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.
  • 1983-87 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA.
  • 1983- Member, Mental Retardation Research Center, UCLA.
  • 1987-93 Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA.
  • 1989-93 Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, UCLA.
  • 1993- Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA.
  • 1993- Professor, Department of Anthropology, UCLA.
  • 1999 Visiting Professor, Universitat Rovira I Virgil, Tarragona, Spain.
  • 2004-05 Visiting Professor, Department of Socio-Medical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY.
  • 2009- Professor, Department of Women’s Studies, UCLA.
  • 2010- Chair, Department of Anthropology, UCLA.

courses

Anthropology 191HB - Honors Seminar in Research Design and Research Methods

The goal of this class to help Anthropology Department Honors students prepare for the data collection phase of their Honors research.

Anthropology M234T/Psychiatry M282 - The Anthropology of the Human Body

This seminar will explore how sociocultural and political dynamics shape perceptions of and understandings about the human body and how, reciprocally, those perceptions and understandings influence social processes. Materials are drawn from both non-Western and Western societies. Among the topics considered are: how society influences the ways we perceive our own bodies and those of others; cross-cultural variation in body metaphors, narratives, and discourses; the role culture plays in shaping the bodily experience of illness and disability; how sickness and disability challenge and alter perceptions of the body among those affected, those around them and the society at large.

Anthropology M263Q/Psychiatry M273 - Advanced Seminar in Medical Anthropology

Medical anthropologists are concerned with issues surrounding the cultural construction of health and illness, the nature of therapeutic processes, and the ways that inequality and diverse forms of social stratification shape sickness, suffering and recovery. They employ a wide range of theoretical and conceptual approaches to examine these issues. In this course, we examine some of the approaches having the most impact on the development of the field today.

Anthropology M265/Psychiatry M283 - Anthropological Perspectives on Genetics, Genetic Testing and Genetic Knowledge

This class will offer a broad overview of concepts that are orienting research, clinical practice and public health programs and debates in the fields of genetics and genetic testing. Most of the work we will discuss concerns the U. S. experience.

Each day much is made in the press and other mainstream media about the “cutting edge” nature of this field. The focus is typically on the vast possibilities that genetic research holds for transforming our most basic understandings as to what it is to be human, the nature of disease and disability, the practice of medicine and law, the field of education – in essence society at its very core – and the complicated bioethical issues that accompany these developments.

This seminar will explore how sociocultural and political dynamics shape our understandings of genetic discoveries, and reciprocally, how genetic information is used to create conceptions of the self and society.

Anthropology M269P/Psychiatry M280 - The Politics of Reproduction

This seminar will examine the various ways that power, as it is structured and enacted in everyday activities, shapes human reproductive behavior. Drawing on case materials from a variety of cultures, we will study how competing interests within households, communities, states and institutions influence reproductive arrangements in society.

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Degrees

B.A. Social Sciences, New School for Social Research (1969)
M.A. Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley (1974)
Ph.D. Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley (1976)
M.P.H. Health Administration and Planning, University of California, Berkeley (1977)

Awards

  • 1980-83 Committee on the Status of Women in Anthropology, American Anthropological Association
  • 1987-89 Review Panel for Behavioral and Neural Sciences (Social/Cultural Anthropology) National Science Foundation
  • 1987-89 Nominations and Elections Committee, Society for Applied Anthropology (named Chair, 1989)
  • 1987-90 Executive Board, Society for Medical Anthropology
  • 1988-91 Councilor, Society for Latin American Anthropology
  • 1990-91 Executive Board, Society for Medical Anthropology
  • 1992-94 Editorial Board, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
  • 1994-97 Executive Committee, Society for Applied Anthropology
  • 1995-97 President, Society for Medical Anthropology
  • 1995-96 Executive Board, American Anthropological Association
  • 1998-99 Visiting Fellow, Russell Sage Foundation
  • 1999-02 Editorial Board, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
  • 2000 Editorial Board, Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology (3 volumes)
  • 2001 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA
  • 2001- Steering Committee, Special Grants Program on Migration and Health, California Policy Research Center, Office of the President of the University of California
  • 2002- Advisor, Sexuality Research Fellowship Program, Social Science Research Council
  • 2002 Ad hoc Review Panel, Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues, Center for Human Genome Research, NIH
  • 2002- Editorial Board, Anthropology of Work Review
  • 2003 Outstanding Research Mentor Award, Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA.
  • 2009 Medical Anthropology Student Association MASA Mentoring Award, Society for Medical Anthropology, 2009.

Selected Publications

Browner, C.H. 1979. Abortion Decision Making: Some Findings from Colombia. Studies in Family Planning 10 (3): 96-106. Translated and reprinted in Estudios de Población IV (1-6): 16-29, 1979. PDF

Browner, C. H. 1980. The Management of Early Pregnancy: Colombian Folk Concepts of Fertility Control. Social Science and Medicine 14B: 25-32. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Lewin, E. 1982. Female Altruism Reconsidered: The Virgin Mary as Economic Woman. American Ethnologist 9(1):61-75. PDF

Browner, C. H. 1983. Male Pregnancy Symptoms in Urban Colombia. American Ethnologist 10(3): 494-510. PDF

Browner, C.H. 1986. Gender Roles and Social Change: A Mexican Case Study. Ethnology 25(2): 89-106. PDF

Browner, C.H. 1986. The Politics of Reproduction in a Mexican Village. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 11(4): 710 -24. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Perdue, S. T. 1988. Women’s Secrets: Bases for Reproductive and Social Autonomy in a Mexican Community. American Ethnologist 15(1): 84-97. PDF

Browner, C.H. 1989. Women, Household and Health in Latin America. Social Science and Medicine 28 (5): 461-73.  PDF

Browner, C. H. and Press, N. A. 1995. “The Normalization of Prenatal Diagnostic Screening.” In, F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp, eds. Conceiving the New World Order, pp. 307-322. Berkeley: University of California Press. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Press, N. A. 1996. The Production of Authoritative Knowledge in American Prenatal Care. Medical Anthropology Quarterly10(2): 141-156. PDF

Browner, C. H., Preloran, H. M. 1999. The Effect of Male Partners on Latinas’ Amniocentesis Decisions. Journal of Genetic Counseling 8(2): 85-109. PDF

Browner, C. H. 1999. On the Medicalization of Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 13(2): 135-40. PDF

Browner, C. H., Preloran, H. M., and Cox, S. J. 1999. Ethnicity, Bioethics, and Prenatal Diagnosis: the Amniocentesis Decisions of Mexican-origin Women and their Partners. American Journal of Public Health 89(11): 1658-66. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2000. Latinas, Amniocentesis and the Discourse of Choice. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 24(3): 353-75. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2000. Interpreting Low-Income Latinas’ Amniocentesis Refusals. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 22(3): 346-68. PDF

Browner, C. H. 2000. Situating Women’s Reproductive Activities. American Anthropologist, 102(4): 773-88. PDF

Root, R. and Browner, C. H. 2001. Practices of the Pregnant Self: Compliance with and Resistance to Biomedical Prenatal Norms. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 25(2): 195-223. PDF

Preloran, H. M, Browner, C. H., & Lieber, E. 2001. Strategies for Motivating Latino Couples’ Participation in Qualitative Health Research. American Journal of Public Health, 91(11): 1832-41. PDF

Browner, C. H. Preloran, H. M., Casado, M. C., Bass, H. and Walker, A. 2003. Genetic Counseling Gone Awry: Some Consequences of Miscommunication between Prenatal Genetic Service Providers and Latina Clients. Social Science and Medicine, 56(9): 1933-1946. PDF

Markens, S., Browner, C.H., and Preloran, H.M. 2003. “I’m Not the One They’re Sticking the Needle Into”: Latino Couples, Fetal Diagnosis, and the Discourse of Reproductive Rights. Gender & Society, 17(3): 462-481. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H.M. 2004. Expectations, Emotions, and Medical Decision Making: A Case Study on the Use of Amniocentesis. Transcultural Psychiatry 41(4): 427-444. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Levin, B. W., eds. 2005.  The Social Production of Health: Critical Contributions from Evolutionary, Biological, and Cultural Anthropology. Papers in Memory of Arthur J. Rubel.  Invited theme issue for Social Science and Medicine 61(4): 745-878. PDF

Levin, B. W. and Browner, C. H. 2005. The Social Production of Health: Critical Contributions from Evolutionary, Biological, and Cultural Anthropology. Social Science and Medicine 61(4):745-50. PDF

Preloran, H. M., Browner, C. H., and Lieber, E. 2005. Impact of Interpreters’ Approach on Latinas’ Use of Amniocentesis. Health Education & Behavior 32(5):599-612. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2006. “Culture and Communication in the Realm of Fetal Diagnosis. Unique Considerations for Latino Patients.” In, Neil F. Sharpe and Ronald F. Carter, eds. Genetic Testing: Current Practices, Ethical Concerns, Legal Considerations, pp. 31-44. NY: John Wiley & Sons. PDF

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2006. “Entering the Field: Recruiting Latinos for Ethnographic Work.” In, Dick Hobbs and Richard Wright, ed. Handbook of Fieldwork, pp. 93-106.London: Sage. PDF

 Browner, C. H. and Sargent, C. F. 2007.  “Engendering Medical Anthropology.” In, Serge   Genest and Francine Saillant, eds. Medical Anthropology: Regional Perspectives and   Shared Concerns, pp. 233-51. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Ltd. PDF

Browner, C. H. 2007. Can ‘Gender Equity’ in Reproductive Programs and Policies Unintentionally Reinforce Male Authority?” In, Marcia Inhorn, ed. Reproductive Disruptions, Childlessness, Adoption, and Other Reproductive Complexities, pp. 145-164.  Oxford: Berghahn. PDF

Hess, P., Preloran, H. P., and Browner, C. H. 2009. Diagnostic Genetic Testing for a Fatal Illness: The Experience of Patients with Movement Disorders. New Genetics and Society 28(1): 3-18PDF

Markens, S., Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. Interrogating the Dynamics between Power, Knowledge and Pregnant Bodies in Amniocentesis Decision-Making. Sociology of Health and Illness, in press, 32(1), 2010.  PDF

Browner, C. H. and Preloran H. M. 2011, Neurogenetic Diagnoses, the Power of Hope, and the Limits of Today’s Medicine, London: Routledge.

Browner, C. H. and Sargent, C. F. eds., 2012 Reproduction, Globalization, and the State New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Research

Gender, reproduction, healthocial impact of decoding the human genome, reproductive politics; Latin America, urban U.S.