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Seth M. Holmes, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies provides an intimate examination of the everyday lives and suffering of Mexican migrants in our contemporary food system. An anthropologist and MD in the mold of Paul Farmer and Didier Fassin, Holmes shows how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Holmes’s material is visceral and powerful. He trekked with his companions illegally through the desert into Arizona and was jailed with them before they were deported. He lived with indigenous families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the U.S., planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, and accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals. This “embodied anthropology” deepens our theoretical understanding of the ways in which social inequalities and suffering come to be perceived as normal and natural in society and in health care.

Seth M. Holmes, a cultural and medical anthropologist and physician, focuses broadly on social hierarchies and health inequalities. Based on five years of research in the field, traveling with and working with migrants, his book uncovers how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment, and racism undermine health and health care. Dr. Holmes is Martin Sisters Endowed Chair Associate Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Holmes is currently investigating social hierarchies and health disparities in the context of US-Mexico migration and the ways in which these inequalities become understood to be natural and normal. This project draws on approximately eighteen months of full-time participant-observation, during which time Dr. Holmes migrated with undocumented indigenous Mexicans in the United States and Mexico, picked berries and lived in a labor camp in Washington State, pruned vineyards in central California, harvested corn in the mountains of Oaxaca, accompanied migrant laborers on clinic visits, and trekked across the border desert into Arizona. An article from this work has been awarded the Rudolf Virchow Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology. Concurrently, he is conducting research into the processes through which medical trainees learn to perceive and respond to social difference. In addition, Dr. Holmes is exploring new research into race and racism among youth in indigenous Mexican mixed citizenship status families in the United States.