Anthropology Colloquia: Sickness Within and Between Cultures


Start Date: Feb 23, 2024 - 02:00pm

Location: Hibben 105

On Friday, February 23 at 2 pm in Hibben 105, Dr. Eric Shattuck will present his talk Sickness Within and Between Cultures as part of the Anthropology Colloquia Series.  


Sickness due to transient and fairly mild infectious diseases (e.g., colds and flu) is a common and regular experience in all societies. Despite the regularity of infection and the cumulative impact on economic activities, relatively less attention has been paid to different understandings of these sicknesses, their symptoms, and culturally appropriate behaviors while sick. Sickness behavior – a constellation of behavioral and mood changes during infection and inflammation – appears to be an evolutionarily conserved physiological response to infection and may provide a universal physiological basis to the human sickness experience. However, the enaction of sickness behavior (i.e., expression of lethargy or measurable changes in social behavior) can be expected to vary across individual and social contexts. Using qualitative and quantitative data from the US, Mexico, and Tanzania, this talk will explore different approaches to common sicknesses. As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, such variation has important consequences for pathogen transmission, vaccine acceptance, and treatment seeking.

Dr. Eric Shattuck is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology [at Florida State University] who specializes in topics related to infectious disease, inflammation, and immune function in humans across varied social and environmental contexts. His research is grounded in evolutionary theory and borrows from psychoneuroimmunology, behavioral endocrinology, and other allied fields while focusing on human biological and cultural variation. Dr. Shattuck earned a BA in Anthropology from the University of Georgia (2005), an MS in Biomedical Anthropology from SUNY Binghamton (2009), and his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Indiana University (2015). He uses multiple methods – including interviews, surveys, enzyme immunoassays, immune function measures, and accelerometry – to answer questions about human health and disease. In addition to work here in the US, Dr. Shattuck also works in Jalisco, Mexico on a project related to Indigenous Wixárika health in collaboration with faculty at the Universidad de Guadalajara. He has researched and published on multiple topics in Biological Anthropology, including sickness behavior, sleep and sleep health, “tattoo flu”, the intersection of pain and anger, disgust and the behavioral immune system, and “social immunology.”  He directs the Social Health and Immunology Research (SHIRE) Group (currently accepting members at FSU) and teaches courses on One Health, health disparities, Indigenous health, and human adaptability, among others. He also leads a field school on Indigenous health in Guadalajara, Mexico.