Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles (2018)
M.A. University of California, Los Angeles (2012)
B.A. Sarah Lawrence College (2009)
Research and Teaching Interests
Medical and psychological anthropology; anthropology of ethics and morality; disaster; anthropology of care; mental health and psychic life; biopolitics; critical phenomenology; experimental ethnography; South Asia and the Himalayas
Aidan Seale-Feldman is a medical anthropologist interested in affliction and its treatments. Grounded in ethnographic explorations of disaster, mental health, and mass hysteria, her research asks how to approach forms of affliction that are not bound within the individual but instead move across bodies, environments, and generations.
Based on two years of fieldwork in Nepal (2014-2016), her first book project is an ethnography of the psychic life of disaster. Set in the time of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, the book moves between Kathmandu NGO offices and earthquake-affected communities as it tells the story of a “mental health crisis” and the forms of care that emerge in disaster's wake. This work brings disaster studies into conversation with critical phenomenology to explore not only what disaster destroys, but also what it generates.
In Nepal, Dr. Seale-Feldman has also conducted research on mass hysteria and collective affliction among teenage girls. In this work she engages a symmetrical approach to theory in medical anthropology in order to rethink psychiatric models of psychosomatic disorders in dialogue with Nepali analytics of affliction and care.
Dr. Seale-Feldman’s future work builds on her research on mental health and psychic life by exploring the “psychedelic renaissance” and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in the United States. While psychiatry is rapidly expanding throughout the Global South, in the Global North increasing dissatisfaction with the efficacy of SSRIs and psychiatric treatment modalities have inspired a flood of new research on psychedelic plant medicine to treat addiction, anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Through a study of the development of a new psychedelic pharmaceutical industry, theories of consciousness, and experiences of ego dissolution, this project will explore the challenges and imagined possibilities of psychedelic medicine as a liberatory form of healing.
Dr. Seale-Feldman’s research has been supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, the UCLA International Institute, the Foundation for Psychocultural Research, and the UC Chancellor’s Prize. Her work has been published in Cultural Anthropology, Ethos, and HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, as well as in public venues such as Somatosphere, The Record Nepal, and Cultural Anthropology online. From 2019-2021, she served as co-editor of The Screening Room, an experimental ethnographic film series hosted on the Society for Cultural Anthropology’s Visual and New Media Review.
Since 2018 Dr. Seale-Feldman has been a Research Associate in the Centre d’Anthropologie Culturelle (CANTHEL) at the Université de Paris, where she collaborates with researchers studying global mental health and medical pluralism in South Asia. Prior to joining the faculty at Notre Dame, she was a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer in Bioethics at the University of Virginia.