An Anthropologist's Decade-long Exploration of Disease, Family and Care through One Subject

NYU Shanghai Professor Todd Meyers has recently published a new book, Chroniques de la maladie chronique. The result of decade-long efforts tracing the life of a woman, the book shows how chronic illness affected her family dynamics and reconfigured the relationships of care.

In this story that took place in a US family, Beverly, the protagonist of the book, suffered from several chronic diseases and conditions. The book is based on over a decade of conversations and encounters with Beverly and her family.  Instead of writing the story from the perspective of a doctor or a public health expert, Professor Meyers approaches Beverly as an anthropologist and shows how she gave meanings to disease, treatment, life and time. Through Beverly’s story, the book also explores how chronic illness affected families, and how illness reshaped care at home and impacted medical practices in unexpected ways.

In the book, the focus shifts between bodily experience and social relations. Beverly’s story reveals that at times, long-term chronic illness could destabilize relationships, and at other times, care could emerge out of seemingly impossible circumstances. The book also shows how medical systems are too often focused on single medical conditions and fail to meet the needs of patients with multiple, co-morbid conditions.

The decade-long investigation helps readers understand the meaning of "chronic" by revealing how a person’s life is intertwined with chronic diseases. Vividly captured, the interactions between the anthropologist and his research "subject" are another highlight of this book.

Professor Meyers is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at NYU Shanghai and a Global Network Associate Professor at NYU. He is currently the Director of the Center for Society, Health and Medicine and the Co-Director of the NYU-ECNU Institute for Social Development at NYU Shanghai. Prior to joining NYU Shanghai, he was an Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Professor Meyers holds a joint PhD in Anthropology and Public Health and an MA in Anthropology, both from The Johns Hopkins University.

Professor Meyers's wide-ranging research encompasses the social study and history of medicine, clinical ethnography, and anthropological approaches to the study of visual culture. His recent books include Violence’s Fabled Experiment (with Richard Baxstrom, Walther König/August Verlag, 2018), and The Human Body in the Age of Catastrophe: Brittleness, Integration, Science, and the Great War (with Stefanos Geroulanos, University of Chicago Press, 2018). His past publications include The Clinic and Elsewhere: Addiction, Adolescents, and the Afterlife of Therapy (University of Washington Press, 2013), of which a Chinese edition will be published by East China Normal University Press.