Whitney L. Duncan

Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado
Chapter Member: Colorado SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Whitney

Duncan researches the sociocultural and political economic aspects of health with particular focus on globalization and migration. Duncan's book about globalizing mental health practice and cultural change in Mexico was published in 2018 by Vanderbilt University Press. Duncan is currently conducting a collaborative 3-year National Science Foundation research project on Latinx immigrant health and healthcare seeking. Duncan volunteers with and serves on steering committees for multiple immigrant-serving organizations and frequently serves as an expert witness for asylum cases.   


In the News

Whitney L. Duncan quoted on the unusual amount of attention that Cawthorn has gotten, including "non-stop media coverage," should continue to feed fundraising and interes by Joel Burgess and Shelby Harris, "Polarizing’ Republican Rep. Cawthorn Faces Historic Number of Challengers 19 Months Before Election" Citizen Times, April 19, 2021.
"Guest Post: Provide Colorado’s Immigrant Families Rental Relief," Whitney L. Duncan (with Sarah Bronwen Horton), The Colorado Independent, May 1, 2020.
"Serious Challenges and Potential Solutions for Immigrant Health During COVID-19," Whitney L. Duncan (with Sarah Bronwen Horton), Health Affairs Blog, April 18, 2020.
"Public Charge Provisions Hurt Citizen Children Too," Whitney L. Duncan (with Sarah Bronwen Horton), The Hill, December 9, 2018.
"Immigrant Communities and the Public Charge Rule," Whitney L. Duncan (with Sarah Bronwen Horton and Kristin Yarris), Anthropology News, October 29, 2018.
"Acompañamiento / Accompaniment," Whitney L. Duncan, Hot Spots, Society for Cultural Anthropology, January 31, 2018.
"Introduction: Im/migration in the Trump Era," Whitney L. Duncan (with Lauren Heidbrink and Kristin Yarris), Society for Cultural Anthropology, January 31, 2018.
"Protecting Undocumented Students Post-Election: From Meeting to Action. Working Together to Protect Our Students," Whitney L. Duncan (with Kristin Yarris and Lauren Heidbrink), Anthropology News, May 18, 2017.
"An Alternative Therapy Hits Home in Mexico," Whitney L. Duncan, Sapiens Magazine, March 15, 2017.


"Technologies of the Social: Family Constellation Therapy and the Remodeling of Relational Selfhood in China and Mexico" (with Sonya E. Pritzker). Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 43, no. 3 (2019): 468–495.

Investigates how an increasingly popular therapeutic modality, Family Constellation Therapy, functions both as a technology of the self (Foucault 1988) and a “technology of the social.”

"Dinámicas Ocultas: Culture and Psy‐Sociality in Mexican Family Constellations Therapy" Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 45, no. 4 (2018): 489-513.

Takes the ethnographic case of Family Constellations therapy in Oaxaca, Mexico, to demonstrate how a nonnative therapeutic practice articulates with local cultural frameworks to foster novel forms of therapeutic experience and sociality.

Transforming Therapy: Mental Health Practice and Cultural Change in Mexico (Vanderbilt University Press, 2018).

Explains the recent growth of Euroamerican-style therapies in the Oaxaca region. Analyzes this phenomenon of "psy-globalization" and develops a rich ethnography of its effects on Oaxacans' understandings of themselves and their emotions, ultimately showing how globalizing forms of care are transformative for and transformed by the local context.

"Facing Mexico’s Mental Health Fallout" (with Beatriz Reyes-Foster). NACLA Report on the Americas 52, no. 3 (2020): 282-288.

Discusses how the most vulnerable populations lack access to mental health services as the Covid-19 pandemic taxes the country’s already-stressed healthcare infrastructure.

"Transnational Disorders: Returned Migrants at Oaxaca’s Psychiatric Hospital" Medical Anthropology Quarterly International Journal for Analysis of Health 29, no. 1 (2014): 24-41.

Examines experiences of returned migrants seeking mental health care at the public psychiatric hospital in Oaxaca, Mexico. Discusses that approximately one‐third of the hospital's patients have migration experience, and many return to Oaxaca due to mental health crises precipitated by conditions of structural vulnerability and “illegality” in the United States.

"Psicoeducación in the Land of Magical Thoughts: Culture and Mental Health Practice in a Changing Oaxaca" American Ethnologist 1 (2017): 36-51.

Analyzes the role of culture in global mental health practice and the implications of understanding mental health promotion as an economic development strategy, especially in contexts of multiculturalism. 

"Gendered Trauma and its Effects: Domestic Violence and ‘PTSD’ in Oaxaca" in Culture and PTSD: Trauma in Global and Historical Perspective, edited by Devon Hinton & Byron Good (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), 202-239.

Shows how the concepts of trauma and PTSD are mobilized as responses to social and political disturbances in global mental health practice, as well as how the PTSD diagnosis is rooted in gender ideologies in the Mexican case.

"Migration and Mental Health in a Binational Mixteco Community" (with Regina Calvario, Diana Enríquez, Gilberto López, and Hugo Salgado), in The Wall Between Us: A Mixteco Migrant Community in Mexico and the United States, , edited by David Fitzgerald, David Keyes, and Jorge Hernández Díaz (Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UCSD, 2013), 117-146.

Draws on a community-wide study in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, and among Oaxacan migrants in California to examine migration’s impacts on mental health.