Janis H. Jenkins

Dr. Janis Hunter Jenkins is a psychological/medical anthropologist.  She received her Ph.D. from UCLA and post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School. She has taught on the faculty at Harvard University, Case Western Reserve University, and UCSD. At UCSD, Professor Jenkins is Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Psychiatry.

Professor Jenkins is a leading scholar internationally within the field culture and mental health.  She is a permanent Member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, where she was in residence during academic year 2011-2012.  She has also been named a Fellow by the earliest learned society of the United States, the American Philosophical Society (2004).  In 2002 she was Visiting Professor in the Department of Health and Human Sciences, Institute of Social Medicine, State University of Rio de Janeiro.  The Russell Sage Foundation appointed her as Visiting Scholar-in-Residence in New York City (1996-1997).  At the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Jenkins has been active as a Member of three different Scientific Review Groups (1993-2005).  Professor Jenkins has also been elected President of the Women’s Faculty Association (1991-1993) and appointed Director of Women’s Studies at Case Western Reserve University (1994-2000).  At Harvard Medical School, she was appointed Research Fellow, Instructor, and Head Preceptor in the Departments of Social Medicine, Anthropology, and Psychiatry from 1986-1990. 

From 1984-1986, she was on faculty at UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences as Assistant Research Anthropologist.  Most recently, she was awarded a Distinguished Visiting Faculty Fellowship at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia (summer 2013).

Dr. Jenkins is a member of the Editorial Boards for Medical Anthropology Quarterly, (Society for Medical Anthropology) and Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, for which she has also served as Co-Editor (1995-2000); she has also served a term on the Editorial Board of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry: An International Journal of Cross-Cultural Comparative Research.  She has served as elected member and ex officio (as Co-Editor of Ethos) of the Board of Directors for the Society for Psychological Anthropology (1992-2000).

Dr. Jenkins is notable among anthropologists for a career having an ongoing research program as Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator for a series of grants funded by National Institute for Mental Health (1986-2011).  In addition, the American Philosophical Association, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and the Department of Mental Health of the State of California have awarded her research funding.   As Principal Investigator, she conducted research from 1999-2004 on the “Subjective Experience of Atypical Antipsychotics and the Culture of Recovery” (National Institute of Mental Health Grant #R01 MH 60232:  $636,222); “Culture, Mental Health, and Recovery (American Philosophical Society 2004-2005: $60,000); "Socio-cultural Factors and Course of Persistent Mental Illness” (National Institute of Mental Health Grant #MH 47920: $525,953); and during from 1988-1990 “The Mental Health of Central American Refugees” funded by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression ($60,000).  She has also served as Principal Investigator and Mentor for research funded by the National Institute for Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, for pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, and faculty research and training grants in the social and medical sciences.

As Co-Principal Investigator, she conducted research from 2006-2011 for a project entitled “Southwest Youth and the Experience of Psychiatric Treatment” (National Institute of Mental Health Grant #R01 MH071781: $2,306,130.00).   Data analysis for that study is ongoing.  She has also been Co-Principal Investigator and principal author of a grant to study Spanish-speaking Central American immigrants called "Therapeutic Family Interventions for Hispanic Families" (Department of Mental Health, State of California: $596,000).  Dr. Jenkins has also served as Co-Investigator for a host of other NIMH collaborative studies.

Professor Janis Jenkins is a member of the Psychological/Medical Anthropology subfield. Dr. Jenkins' principal interests are mental health and illness, and lived experience in global perspective, particularly in relation to the cultural shaping of self, emotion, gender, adolescence, migration, political violence, resilience, and psychopharmacology.   She has conducted ethnographic research in the Americas with Mexican immigrants, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, and Iraqi Kurdish refugees, Puerto Rican migrants, and other Spanish-speaking Latinos, as well as with Euro-American and Native American populations.   The sites of Professor Jenkins’ research include everyday settings such as homes, neighborhoods, clinics, and schools.

Current Research:   “Cultural Perceptions and Practices Surrounding Adolescent Mental Health in Northern Mexico,” Janis H. Jenkins, Ph.D., PI

In this study, our interdisciplinary team is currently collecting data to identify cultural conceptions of mental health and patterns of help-seeking in the northern Mexico region.  The research seeks an empirical understanding of contemporary knowledge and practices surrounding emotional distress and behaviors regarded as problematic.  Working with parents, teachers, and service providers, we are investigating (1) the conceptualization of wellbeing and the identification of problems of emotional/mental health; (2) decision-making for seeking services; and (3) the social-emotional features that contribute to vulnerability and resilience in processes of recovery.  That empirical data obtained will serve as the basis for interactive, community-designed interventions for adolescent health that are effective and sustainable over time. 

Dr. Jenkins' published works examine ordinary and extraordinary experiences that define what it means to be human across an array of social and cultural contexts. In her research, Professor Jenkins has addressed the enduring question of whether the normal and pathological are discontinuous categories or poles on a continuum, favoring an ontological approach that calls into question explicit and implicit categorical distinctions.  Dr. Jenkins has theorized and empirically examined the significant variation in the course and outcome of illness in relation to socio-emotional response of kin, cultural conceptions of illness, and the subjective experience of medicine and healing.  This research contributes to findings by the World Health Organization of better course and outcome for serious mental illnesses in less industrialized countries as compared to Europe and the United States.  Dr. Jenkins’ research team was the first to show that low-income Spanish-speaking first-generation Mexican immigrants to the United States had better course of illness than their Euro-American counterparts in relation to family social and emotional response.  While Mexican-American families typically viewed the problem as a common condition called nervios, from which everyone may suffer to a greater or lesser degree, and for which the cultural response incorporates sadness, warmth, and sympathy, low income, Euro-Americas more often regarded the problem as a personality deficit (e.g., ‘laziness’) about which kin often expressed anger and hostility.  These differing cultural conceptions and social responses significantly affect the course and outcome of illness.  This anthropological approach to mental health is important in showing not only cultural variation in the ways in which problems are conceived but also that such conceptions and associated emotional responses make substantial difference for who gets better and who does not.   Along these lines, Dr. Jenkins has theorized what is “inside the black box of ‘expressed emotion’” as researched within the field of cultural psychiatry - (see Jenkins & Karno 1992 - "The Meaning of Expressed Emotion: Theoretical Issues Raised by Cross-Cultural Research.", Special Article, American Journal of Psychiatry).

Dr. Jenkins has carried out ethnographic studies of violence and warfare and explored what she has termed the “political ethos” – defined as culturally organized feeling and sentiment pertaining to social domains of power and interest – of societies besieged by violence, terror, and torture. - (see " The State Construction of Affect: Political Ethos and Mental health among Salvadoran Refugees”) Culture, Medicine, Psychiatry 1991 These studies have been aimed at theorizing the nexus among the role of the nation-state in constructing a political ethos, discourses about affect, and cultural phenomenology and the mental health consequences of those who dwell in that ethos. Dr. Jenkins and her colleagues have identified culturally specific bodily transactions of emotions and embodiment of trauma such as the sensation of intense heat in the body - (see Jenkins & Valiente 1994 - "Bodily transactions of the passions: el calor among Salvadoran women refugees.).  Not only are such phenomena central to mind-body problems, they are also of clinical significance insofar as they may be misdiagnosed as, for example, menopause, psychosis, or high blood pressure.                                

As Co-Principal Investigator (along with Dr. Thomas Csordas) for an NIMH-funded (RO1 MH071781) study entitled “Southwest Youth and the Experience of Psychiatric Treatment” (SWYEPT), Dr. Jenkins has conducted collaborative research with an interdisciplinary team (anthropologists, psychiatrists, psychologists). The study examines psychological distress, cultural meaning/dissonance, and structural violence among adolescents who are placed in residential psychiatric treatment facilities. Also studied are a comparison group of adolescents, who according to research diagnostic criteria do not have symptoms of mental illness.  The study was carried out with a multiethnic population (Latino/Hispanic, Native American, Anglo/Euro-American) utilizing a research protocol that is longitudinal and spans a wide geographical area, following participants after hospital discharge into a range of social settings including other psychiatric facilities, kin-based homes, foster care homes, schools, and neighborhoods.  Methods of study combine ethnographic interviews and observations, psychiatric diagnostic interviews, informal and unstructured interactions over time and across a range of social settings.

The goal of the study is to produce anthropological knowledge of broad use to those concerned with culture and lived experience, social conflict, mental health services, and an informed public policy that affects the lives of youths through institutions of care, containment, or social abandonment.  The study is intended to shed empirical light on the often-neglected sites of poor American communities that are ravaged by the violence of poverty and the economic consequences of the Great Recession, institutional and familial neglect, gang activity and substance abuse. A major concern is to identify what strategies youths create to elude such circumstances and under what conditions they succumb to these circumstances. Institutional and everyday neoliberal discourse on “personal responsibility” is analyzed in a context of choosing short-term psychiatric facilities as preferable to incarceration in prisons/detention centers. The problem of uncontrollable rage, and what can at times appear as heroic familial struggles to “contain” such powerful affects, has emerged as a central problematic for the development of social, cultural, and political theorizing of youth culture and life worlds.

Professor Jenkins recently published a book:  Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Illness http://www.ucpress.edu/go/extraordinary

 In addition, she is working on a co-authored ethnographic monograph on adolescent mental health, entitled "Land of Enchantment: Youth Culture and Struggles for Sanity."

2015  Jenkins, Janis H.   Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Health.  University of California Press.


2015  Jenkins, Janis H. Straining Psychic and Social Sinew: Trauma among Adolescent Psychiatric Patients in New Mexico.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly 29(1):42-60.

2014   Jenkins, Janis H. and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good. “Women and global mental health:  vulnerability and empowerment." In Essentials of Global Mental Health.  Samuel O. Opakpu, Ed.  Cambridge University Press.  

2013    Jenkins, Janis H. Palpable Insecurity and Sen’s Comparative View of Justice:  Anthropological Considerations. Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy 16(2):266-283.  

2010   Jenkins, Janis H.  “Introduction.”  (Pharmaceutical Self) and Chapter 1: “Pharmaceutical Self and Imaginary in the Social Field of Psychiatric Treatment.”  In Pharmaceutical Self:  The Global Shaping of Experience in an Age of Psychopharmacology.  School of Advanced Research Press; pgs. 3-16. & pgs. 17-40. 


2009 Jenkins, Janis H. and Elizabeth Carpenter-Song. “Awareness of Stigma among Persons with Schizophrenia: Marking the Contexts of Lived Experience.” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 197(7):520-529.  

2009  Hollifield, M., T. Warner, B. Krakow, J.H. Jenkins, and J. Westermeyer. The Range of Symptoms in Refugees of War: The New Mexico Refugee Symptom Checklist-121Journal Nervous and Mental Disease 197:117-125. 

2009  Floersch, J., Townsend, L., Longhofer, J., Munson, M., Winbush, V., Kranke, D., Faber, R., Thomas, J., Jenkins, J.H., & Findling, R. Adolescent experience of psychotropic treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry, 46(1), 157-179. 

2009  Sajatovic, M., Jenkins, J. H., Cassidy, K. A., & Muzina, D. Medication treatment perceptions, concerns and expectations among depressed individuals with Type I Bipolar Disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 115(3), 360–366.

2008 Jenkins, Janis H. and Elizabeth Carpenter-Song. “Stigma Despite Recovery: Strategies for Living in the Aftermath of Psychosis.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 22(4):22(4):381-409.  

2008 Sajatovic M, Jenkins JH, Safavi R, West JA, Cassidy KA, Meyer WJ, Calabrese JR. Personal and societal construction of illness among individuals with rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder: A life-trajectory perspective. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 16(9):718- 726.

2008 Jenkins, Janis H., Hollifield, Michael A. Postcoloniality as the Aftermath of Terror between Vietnamese Refugees. In Postcolonial Disorders. Good, M.J.D, Hyde, S.T., Pinto, S., and B.J. Good, Eds. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

2007 Jenkins, Janis H. Anthropology and Psychiatry: The Contemporary Convergence. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Bhugra, Dinesh and Kamaldeep Bhui., Editors. Cambridge University Press.

2005 Jenkins, Janis H. and Elizabeth Carpenter-Song. The New Paradigm of Recovery from Schizophrenia: Cultural Conundrums of Improvement without Cure. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 29(4):379-413. 

2005 Jenkins, J.H., Strauss, M.E., Carpenter, E., Miller, D., Floersch, J., Sajatovic, M. Subjective Experience of Recovery from Schizophrenia with Atypical Antipsychotic MedicationsInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry 51(3):211-227.

2004 Jenkins, Janis H. and Robert J. Barrett. Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity: The Edge of Experience. Janis H. Jenkins and Robert J. Barrett, Eds. Cambridge University Press 


2004 Jenkins, Janis H. and Robert J. Barrett. Introduction. In Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity: The Edge of Experience. Janis H. Jenkins and Robert J. Barrett, Eds. Cambridge University Press, pgs. 1-25. 

2004 Jenkins, Janis H. Schizophrenia as a Fundamental Human Process. In Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity: The Edge of Experience. J.H. Jenkins and R.J. Barrett, Eds. Cambridge University Press, pgs. 29-61.

2002 Nasser, L., Walders, N., and J. H. Jenkins. The experience of schizophrenia: what's gender got to do with it? A critical review of the current status of research on schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin 28:351-362. 

1999 Jenkins, J.H., Schumacher, J. Family burden of schizophrenia and depressive illness: Specifying the effects of ethnicity, gender and social ecologyBritish Journal of Psychiatry 174:31-38. 

1998 Jenkins, J.H. Diagnostic Criteria for Schizophrenia and Related Psychotic Disorders: Integration and Suppression of Cultural Evidence in DSM-IV. Transcultural Psychiatry 35:357- 376.

1998 Jenkins, J.H. and N. Cofresi. The Sociosomatic Course of Depression and Trauma: A Cultural Analysis of Suffering and Resilience in the Life of a Puerto Rican Woman. Psychosomatic Medicine 60:439-447. 

1998 Jenkins, Janis H. The Medical Anthropology of Political Violence: A Cultural and Feminist Agenda. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 12:122-131.

1997 Jenkins, J.H. Subjective experience of persistent schizophrenia and depression among U.S. Latinos and Euro-Americans. British Journal of Psychiatry 170:20- 25. 

1996 Jenkins, Janis H. Culture, Emotion and Psychiatric Disorder. In Revised edition of Medical Anthropology: Contemporary Theory and Method, T. Johnson and C. Sargent, Eds., New York: Praeger Press, pgs. 71-87. 

1996 Jenkins. Janis H. The Impress of Extremity: Women's Experience of Trauma and Political Violence. In Gender and Health: An International Perspective. Carolyn Sargent

1996 Jenkins, Janis H. Culture, Emotion, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In Ethnocultural Aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A. Marsella and N. Freedman, Eds., Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association Press, pgs. 165-182

1995 Jenkins, J.H., Warren, M., Strauss, M., Bloom, F. C. Jacobson, C., Frasca, A. Sociocultural Dimensions of "Family Burden:" The Specificity of Ethnic, Gender and Diagnostic Effects. Schizophrenia Research 15(1-2):217.

1994 Jenkins, Janis H. Culture, Emotion, and Psychopathology In Emotion and Culture: Empirical Studies of Mutual Influence. S. Kitayama and H. Markus, (Eds.), American Psychological Association Press, pgs. 307-321, pgs. 321-335.. 

1994 Jenkins, Janis H. and Marta Valiente. Bodily Transactions of the Passions: El Calor (The Heat) among Salvadoran WomenIn Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self. Thomas J. Csordas, (Ed.), Cambridge University Press, pgs. 163-182. 

1994 Jenkins, Janis H. The Psychocultural Study of Emotion and Mental Disorder. In Handbook of Psychological Anthropology, P. Bock, (Ed.). Greenwood Publishers, pgs. 97-120.  

1992 Jenkins, Janis H. and Marvin Karno. The Meaning of "Expressed Emotion:" Theoretical Issues Raised by Cross-Cultural Research. Special Article, American Journal of Psychiatry 149: 9-21.  

1991 Jenkins, Janis H. The 1990 Stirling Award Essay. Anthropology, Expressed Emotion, and Schizophrenia. Ethos: The Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 19:387-431.

1991 Jenkins, Janis H. The State Construction of Affect: Political Ethos and Mental Health among Salvadoran Refugees. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 15:139-165. 

1991 Jenkins, Janis H., Arthur Kleinman and Byron J. Good. Cross-Cultural Aspects of Depression. In J. Becker and A. Kleinman, (eds.), Advances in Affective Disorders: Theory and Research, Volume I. Psychosocial Aspects. Erlbaum Press, pgs. 67-75, pgs 75-83, pgs 83-92, and pgs 92-99.

1988 Jenkins, Janis H. Conceptions of Schizophrenic Illness as a Problem of Nerves: A Comparative Analysis of Mexican- Americans and Anglo-Americans. Social Science and Medicine 26:1233-1243. 

1988 Jenkins, Janis H. Ethnopsychiatric Interpretations of Schizophrenic Illness: The Problem of Nervios within Mexican-American Families. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 12:303-331. 

Professor Jenkins was awarded the 1990 Stirling Prize by the Society for Psychological Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association.  Dr. Jenkins is the recipient of an award from the Russell Sage Foundation (1997) to convene an international conference that resulted in the volume Schizophrenia, Culture, and Subjectivity: The Edge of Experience, Jenkins, Janis H. and Barrett, Robert, J.  Editors.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2004).

She was also awarded funding from the School for Advanced Research (2007) for an Advanced Seminar on culture and mental health that led to publication in 2011 of  Pharmaceutical Self:  The Global Shaping of Experience in an Age of Psychopharmacology.

At UCSD, Professor Jenkins is Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Psychiatry.  She teaches graduate students, undergraduate students, and psychiatry residents.  Her courses focus on a variety of aspects of global health and cultural diversity, medical and psychological anthropology, mental health, psychopharmacology, emotion, migration, political violence, and mixed-methods (ethnographic, qualitative, and quantitative) approaches to research.  Professor Jenkins serves actively as Chair for doctoral student training on wide-ranging studies in medical/psychological anthropology that include topics such as mental health in Oaxaca, Mexico (Dr. Whitney Duncan, 2011); political asylum-seeking among African migrants (Dr. Bridget Haas, 2012); subjective well-being in Cartagena, Colombia (Jessica Novak, Ph. D 2014); and “risky subjectivity” among HIV+ men who have used methamphetamine (Ted Gideonse, Ph.D 2012).

Professor Jenkins is core faculty for the undergraduate major in Global Health for the Global Health Program in tandem with the UCSD campus-wide Global Health Initiative. In addition, Dr. Jenkins supervises global health students participating in the UCSD Blum Cross-Border Initiative and serves on the Advisory Board of the UCSD Center on Global Justice