Lemelson CohortAs part of the 2011-2013 Lemelson Anthropological Fellows/Scholars Program, Anna worked with a team of faculty, graduate fellows, and undergraduate scholars as a mentor and researcher.  As part of this collaborative project, Anna led a small laboratory focused on the study of care and communication.

Student Research

Jason Naziri: The Role of Empathy within Palliative Care

NaziriAbstract: In this thesis I examine the role empathy plays in the administration of care by palliative care doctors and other healthcare providers in the palliative care unit of a hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I argue that in an effort to treat pain holistically, physicians implement shared ideologies of care that involve developing a close, caring relationship with patients. In addition to a local model of empathy, I introduce three modalities through which the practitioners convey empathy: by taking time, through touch, and through attentiveness.

Allison Portney: From the Mouths of Babes: An Examination of Elderspeak in an Intergenerational Daycare Facility

PortneyAbstract: As our population ages, it becomes increasingly important to understand how the new generation is learning to interact with the elderly. This study examines the way that children and staff at an intergenerational daycare facility speak to older Americans. Williams observed the pervasive phenomenon of “elderspeak,” a linguistic register similar to baby talk used to speak to the elderly in many settings, including a long-term care facility (Williams 2011: 4). Elderspeak was found to have extremely negative consequences on elderly individuals’ health outcomes. I analyzed twenty hours of audio data from naturalistic interactions I observed at my research site. This study found that using 1) age-avoidance terms, 2) a patronizing tone, 3) lack of honorifics, and 4) scolding by staff, older adults, and children linguistically separated older adults into a different and lower social status from staff members and children. This communicative practice impacted the social and linguistic environment of the intergenerational care facility. As elderspeak is socialized, it spreads across generations. The simplified register with a tone and structure of condescension is a reflection of societal ideologies about aging.