Ph.D. University of Southern California 1999
development, medical anthropology, visual anthropology, resistance, critical race theory, consciousness, North America, Ghana
Carolyn Rouse is a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on why people accept systems of inequality. When people learn about social inequality extant in other cultures they often react with horror. Examples include the caste system, burqas, female circumcision, and different forms of servitude. While we find it easy to state what is wrong with social systems out there, beyond our cultural borders, people generally find it difficult to recognize power and mystification in their own backyards. Rouse’s work on race and inequality examines the discourses and practices that are used to rationalize forms of suffering as well as to negate them. The notion that ours is a meritocratic system is one example. The American ideal that social rewards are tied to merit is how we rationalize wealth inequality. While this belief helps us make sense of racial disparities, for example, it also compels us to open up opportunities for some of the poorest citizens as well.
Rouse’s fieldwork focuses on four domains; religion, medicine, education and development. Each of these domains provides different cultural strategies for social transformation. For African American Muslims, Qur’anic exegesis becomes a tool for negotiating within the ummah and for imaging new social and personal possibilities. In biomedicine, scientific authority and operationalized treatment protocols are used to delegitimate suffering and to redirect health care resources. Education and development are tools for shaping the subjectivity and sociality of the poor.
Rouse is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam (2004) and Uncertain Suffering: Racial Health Care Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease (2009). She is finishing a co-written book entitled Televised Redemption: The Media Production of Black Jews, Christians and Muslims. Her current book project, Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World, examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her project building a school in a fishing village in Ghana. In addition to being an anthropologist, Rouse is also a filmmaker. She has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), a film about a lesbian wedding; and Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental Illness in Bali (1998).
Her website is: www.uncertainsuffering.com
Rouse, Carolyn. 2009. “Eye of the Storm” Anthropology Now.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2010. “Patient and Practitioner Noncompliance:Rationing, Resistance, and the Missing Conversation.” Anthropology and Medicine special volume.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2009. “Turning African-Americans into Rational Actors: The Important Legacy of Fauset’s Functionalism,” In Revisiting Black Gods of the Metropolis: African American Religions in the Twentieth Century.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2008. “Nation of Islam,” In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2007. “Pious Muslim Bodies and Alternative Medicine: Continuities and Discontinuities Between the African Diaspora and an Emerging Gendered Diaspora.” In Transforming Anthropology, Vol. 15, Number 2, pp 111-124.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2007. “Crossing Borders: Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, M.D.” In Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. 18(1).
Rouse, Carolyn. 2006. Jesica Speaks?: Adolescent Consent for Transplantation and Ethical Uncertainty. In Beyond the Bungled Transplant: Jesica Santillan and High-Tech Medicine in Cultural Perspective.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2006. “Shopping With Sister Zubayda: African American Sunni Muslim Rituals of Consumption and Belonging.” In Women and Religion in the African Diaspora.
Rouse, Carolyn. 2004. “Paradigms and Politics: Shaping Health Care Access for Sickle Cell Patients Through the Discursive Regimes of Biomedicine.” In Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 28(3).
Rouse, Carolyn. 2004. “If she’s a vegetable, we’ll be her garden: Embodiment, Transcendence, and Citations of Competing Metaphors in the Case of a Dying Child.” American Ethnologist 31(4).
Rouse, Carolyn and Janet Hoskins. 2004. "Purity, Soul Food, and Islam: Explorations at the Intersection of Consumption and Resistance." Cultural Anthropology, Volume 19, No. 2.