Janis H. Jenkins is a psychological and 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. While her primary appointment is Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, she holds an appointment in the Department of Psychiatry.
Dr. Jenkins has been Principal Investigator on a series of NIH-funded grants, and is the recipient of awards from the Society for Psychological Anthropology, the Russell Sage Foundation, the School for Advanced Research, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and the Departments of Mental Health in California and Ohio. She has also served as mentor for a numerous doctoral, post-doctoral, and faculty research and training grants in the social and medical sciences. Currently, she is preparing an edited volume entitled “Pharmaceutical Selves: Psychopharmacology in a Globalizing World” that is the product of an Advanced Seminar she organized as recipient of an award funded by the School for Advanced Research.
Her principal interests are culture and mental health, gender and ethnicity, adolescence, migration, violence, and resilience. Her ethnographic research has been with Mexican immigrants, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, and Iraqi Kurdish refugees, Puerto Rican migrants, and other Latino, Euro-American, and Native American populations across North America.
A primary impetus to her research program has been the findings of the World Health Organization demonstrating that long-term course and outcome of major psychiatric disorder is better in developing countries than in more developed nations. To investigate possible sources of this variation, Dr. Jenkins and her colleagues extended studies from the U.K. on familial “expressed emotion” to demonstrate that the familial attitudes and behaviors predict the course of schizophrenia among Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants, who fare comparatively better than their Euro-American counterparts. Professor Jenkins has theorized the factors that account for this variation in relation to culturally shaped emotion, cultural conceptions of illness, and the subjective experience of medicine and healing. She has also carried out ethnographic studies of violence and warfare and the mental health consequences for those who live under such circumstances. Through this work, she has identified culturally specific symptoms of depression and PTSD such as sensations of intense heat in the body. Not only are such phenomena central to understanding mind-body relations, they are also of clinical significance insofar as they may be misdiagnosed as, for example, menopause or high blood pressure.