Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Contrary to stereotypical images of Native American people as stoic, victimized or chronically depressed, joking and storytelling is an important component of everyday life as well as spiritual traditions in “Indian Country”. A key site which Native people use to share jokes are social media, first and foremost Facebook with its wide networks and rapid circulation of images. However, this activity is not without its risks. Some of the images circulating on social media reinforce the ignorance, stereotypes and racism still prevalent in a non-Indian public. Thereby, social media images can be seen to also perpetuate the circumstances that contribute to stress-related health problems, in the first place. However, Native people have found ways of dealing with these kinds of pictures, especially when it comes to matters of nutrition, sickness, health and healing. Drawing on media and medical anthropological theorizing of agency and well-being, and based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in Native North America, this presentation analyzes how Native people use social media images to humorously comment on and make sense of issues otherwise considered insurmountable problems. Combining a pointed critique of colonialism as the ultimate source of most health-related problems with a courageous ability to laugh at themselves, Native people succeed at turning victimizing media images of Native poverty, diabetes, obesity, alcohol and drug use into markers of a shared sense of survival and regeneration.