Seth Holmes is a cultural and medical anthropologist and physician whose work focuses broadly on social hierarchies, health inequalities, and the ways in which perceptions of social difference may naturalize, normalize, or challenge these inequalities.
Dr. Holmes is currently investigating social hierarchies and health inequalities in the context of U.S.-Mexico migration, the ways in which these inequalities become understood to be natural and normal in society and in health care, and the moments in which these inequalities are resisted or challenged. This project draws on approximately eighteen months of full-time participant-observation, during which time Dr. Holmes migrated with undocumented indigenous Mexicans in the United States and Mexico, picked berries and lived in a labor camp in Washington State, pruned vineyards in central California, harvested corn in the mountains of Oaxaca, accompanied migrant laborers on clinic visits, and trekked across the border desert into Arizona. An article from this work has been awarded the Rudolf Virchow Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, and the book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States received the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award, the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award, and the James M. Blaut Award from the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. In addition, Dr. Holmes received the Margaret Mead Award for “bringing anthropology to bear on wider social and cultural issues.” In addition to academic articles and the book, Dr. Holmes has written about this research for Salon.com, The Huffington Post, and Access Denied, as well as been interviewed on multiple NPR, PRI, Pacifica Radio, and Radio Bilingue shows.
Concurrently, he is conducting research into the processes through which medical trainees learn to perceive and respond to social difference; the perceptions and responses to refugees in Europe; and the means by which Mexican American youth in California navigate race, citizenship, education, health care, violence, and borders. Along with other faculty, students, practitioners, activists, and artists in the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Holmes is imagining and experimenting with alternatives to the current health care and racialized policing systems in the U.S.