Jennifer Jo Thompson
- Office: Miller Plant Sciences, Rm 4121
- Phone: 706-542-6357
Ph.D. Medical/Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Arizona 2010
M.A. Folklore, Indiana University 2000
B.A. Anthropology, University of Michigan 1996
Areas of Expertise: Public engagement with science. Human health and the environment. Science education. Qualitative research methods.
My research focuses on societal concerns at the intersection of agriculture and environmental sciences and health. I employ ethnographic and mixed-methods—including participant observation, interviews, focus groups, and surveys, and systematic content analysis and network analysis—to study individual, community, and societal perceptions of risk, understanding of and engagement with science, and trust in scientific and lay expertise.
I explore this interaction in projects addressing how the public and health care providers navigate shifting scientific knowledge and how people perceive the risks and benefits of health-related interventions (e.g., use of pharmaceuticals vs. “natural” health products). Public debates around issues such as sustainable agriculture, genetically modified crops, biofuel production, and water and land use are natural extensions of my current work. Yet, these debates are more frequently negotiated through practice—on the basis of people’s day-to-day decisions made within a social environment. Nowhere is this more true than in the decisions people make about what to eat (e.g., organic vs. local vs. sustainable vs. conventional). Along these lines, I am developing research examining the farm-to-school movement and how school meals influence children’s and families’ dietary preferences and practices and, ultimately, health.
Submitted: Thompson, JJ, E Conaway, and EL Dolan. Undergraduate Students’ Development of Social, Cultural, and Human Capital in a Networked Research Experience. Cultural Studies of Science Education.
Submitted: Thompson, JJ, and M Nichter. Is There a Role for Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Preventive and Promotive Health? An Anthropological Assessment in the Context of U.S. Health Reform. Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
In press: Horton, S, C Abadia, J Mulligan and JJ Thompson. CAGH “Take A Stand” Statement: Health Insurance Reform. Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
2011 Thompson, JJ, K Kelly, C Ritenbaugh, A Hopkins, C Sims, and SJ Coons. Developing a Patient-Centered Outcome Measure for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies II: Demonstrating Content Validity through Cognitive Interviews. BMC Complement Altern Med. 11(136).
2009 Thompson, JJ, C Ritenbaugh, and M Nichter. Reconsidering the Placebo Response from a Broad Anthropological Perspective. Cult Med Psych 33(1):112-52.
2007 Thompson, JJ, and M Nichter. The Compliance Paradox: What we need to know about "real world" dietary supplement use in the United States. Alt Ther Health Med 13(2):48-55.
2007 Nichter, Mimi, Mark Nichter, M Muramoto, S Adrian, K Goldade, L Tesler and JJ Thompson. Smoking among low income pregnant women: An ethnographic analysis. Health Education & Behavior 34(5):748-764.
2006 Nichter, M, and JJ Thompson. For my wellness, not just my illness: North Americans’ Use of Dietary Supplements. Cult Med Psych 30(2):175-222.
My research focuses on understanding how the demands of late-modern life are pragmatically negotiated at the site of the body. This is an applied research agenda that approaches health knowledges and practices as local biocultural phenomena affected by social and political-economic factors both local and global in scale. It is motivated by theory but pragmatically grounded in ‘real world’ health practices.
My dissertation examined women’s lived-experience of menopause management after the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trials were discontinued due to concern about the risks of hormone therapy. Based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in 2007-2008, I examined contemporary menopause management in an era characterized by a massive shift in the biomedical risk discourses, the explosion of therapeutic choice in a burgeoning pluralistic health care environment, and the broad expansion of women’s identities, body projects, and life priorities. In these images, a risk-model frames menopause as a potentially dangerous time for women—physically, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Menopause, this model claims, can be terribly disruptive to your life—as well as your health. It requires vigilance and, in many cases, intervention.
In these images, a quality of life model, focuses on the optimization of bodies and identities. It portrays the modern menopausal woman as smart, stylish, sexy and loving life. She refuses to accept disruption in her life rhythms and priorities. She is empowered to do whatever it takes to keep herself feeling great. The take home message reflects Rose’s (2001) notion of an “enlarged will to health” focused on optimization and driven by the consumer marketplace: Women must be vigilant to weather the risks and vulnerabilities of menopause. For those willing to take on this responsibility; however, menopause holds the potential to be the best years of a woman’s life.
My research also focuses on the phenomenology of healing and the potential evolutionary advantages of a pluralistic and multidimensional healing environment. In this work, I draw from anthropology, neuroscience, evolutionary medicine, performance theory, and complex systems theory to examine how the full range of human experience can catalyze a placebo response.