My work examines the roleof medical knowledge in shaping the fabric of the real. I am currently writing a book entitled The Order of Disorder on occupational burnout, a disorder identified as “emergent” during the 1990s and 2000s in Finland. In Order, I draw upon critical theory and ethnographic explorations of diagnostic politics to examine the unintended consequences of indexing the nowas a particular moment in history through the identification of occupational burnout as a temporally specific illness. Based on two years of fieldwork conducted at rehabilitation centers, self-help groups and NGOs that developed around the issue of burnout, I argue that the rehabilitative push to make timely workers instead opened the subject up to history as uncanny products beyond self-mastery.
In addition to my book, I have embarked on a new ethnographic assignment on the problematics of global mental health policy as it unfolds within the complex political terrain of Thailand. During the political divide between “Red” and “Yellow” groups from 2005 until the present, Thai health experts played a key role in advocating for particular forms of government, forms they cast as simultaneously deriving from Buddhist notions of kingship as well as stemming from World Health Organization ideas of health governance. Their new proposals de-emphasized popular participation in politics and advocated for a new, authoritarian, “moral” order. Through this lens, I question the status of the “global” and the role of globally-upheld models in guaranteeing an objective good that lies outside local politics and problematize the idea of translation in the spread of global ideas.