Aidan Seale-Feldman

Bioethics Postdoctoral Research Associate & Lecturer

Brooks Hall, 307


I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Lecturer in Bioethics at the University of Virginia. Trained as a psychological and medical anthropologist, my research explores emergent health movements, intersubjectivity, and the ethics of care through a critical study of global mental health, disaster, and psychosomatic disorders in the Nepal Himalayas. When I’m not teaching courses on biopolitics and engaged anthropology, I enjoy writing about ethnographic cinema and the anthropology of images for a public audience.


In 2014, I began dissertation fieldwork in Nepal with a project focused on the phenomenon of “mass hysteria” and the transfer of affect among adolescent girls in rural schools. Such cases were a contested object of psychosocial intervention in rural communities–while counselors drew on theories of “conversion disorder” and somatization, communities and afflicted girls often insisted that the affliction was a form of ghostly haunting. For anthropology, “mass hysteria” poses interesting challenges to how we think about a form of affliction and experience that is de-centered from the individual, and instead transfers through a group or arises in relation to the environment. 


On April 25, 2015, halfway through my fieldwork, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The event radically reconfigured the therapeutic landscape and my understanding of the field. Faced with the challenge of making anthropology immediately useful, I began to work in a collaborative mode as an ethnographic consultant with a local NGO on a post-disaster psychosocial intervention program. In this part of my fieldwork I followed the public articulation of a “mental health crisis” in the aftermath of the disaster; its strategic uses, ethical demands, and unexpected consequences. Out of this experience I developed a second strand of research on the critical study of crisis, humanitarian care, and worldbuilding in the wake of disaster.


I am currently working on my first book project The Work of Disaster: Crisis, Care, and Worldbuilding in the Himalayas, and have published articles in Ethos and Cultural Anthropology (forthcoming). I have also written blog posts and organized virtual forums for digital publications on topics such as visual anthropology, ethnographic cinema, global mental health, humanitarianism, and critical pedagogy.


In 2016 I was a visiting doctoral scholar at the Centre de Recherche Médecine, Sciences, Santé, Santé Mentale, Société (Cermes3) in Paris and in 2018 I became an Affiliate Fellow at the Centre d’Anthropologie Culturelle (CANTHEL), Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France where I collaborate with researchers studying global mental health and medical pluralism in South Asia. My research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the UC Chancellor’s Prize, the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, the UCLA International Institute, the Lemelson/ Society for Psychological Anthropology Pre-Dissertation Fellowship, and the Foundation for Psychocultural Research.


I received my PhD in Anthropology from UCLA in 2018, my MA in Anthropology from UCLA in 2012, and my BA in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 2009.


Psychological anthropology; medical anthropology; anthropology of ethics and morality; critical phenomenology; subjectivity and intersubjectivity; psychosomatic disorders; care; critical global mental health; biopolitics; humanitarianism; disaster; experimental ethnography. Ethnographic Areas: South Asia, especially Nepal Himalayas.

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

Seale-Feldman, Aidan. 2019. “Relational Affliction: Reconceptualizing ‘Mass Hysteria’” Ethos 47 (3): 307-325.


Editor-Reviewed Articles:

Seale-Feldman, Aidan and Upadhaya, Nawaraj. 2015. "Mental Health after the Earthquake: Building Nepal’s Mental Health System in Times of Emergency." Fieldsights–Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology website, October 14, 2015.  


Book Reviews:

Seale-Feldman, Aidan. 2017. “Jackson, Michael and Albert Piette (Eds.) 2015. What Is Existential Anthropology? Berghahn Books. 248 Pp. Hb.:$95.00, ISBN: 9781782386360.” Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 25 (2): 256–58. 


Public Scholarship:

Seale-Feldman, Aidan. 2018. “Images.” Correspondences, Cultural Anthropology website, March 2, 2018.

Faculty and Staff

Rebecca Stangl

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy

Jarrett Zigon

Director of the Bioethics Program, William & Linda Porterfield Chair in Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Anthropology

James F. Childress

Professor Emeritus, University Professor and John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, and Professor of Religious Studies

Nichole Flores

Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Margaret E. Mohrmann

Professor, Department of Pediatrics

China Scherz

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Aidan Seale-Feldman

Bioethics Postdoctoral Research Associate & Lecturer

Sylvia Tidey

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Global Studies