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Care with Aloha: Preventing Suicide in Oahu, Hawaii

Krishnamurti, Lauren Sealy (2020) Care with Aloha: Preventing Suicide in Oahu, Hawaii. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines iterations of care in preventing suicide in Oahu, Hawaii. Rates of suicidal ideation among young people in Hawaii have been high over the past decade, peaking in 2009 at nearly double the U.S. average for this age demographic. My fieldwork (2014—2019) follows the efforts of prevention workers in Honolulu, Hawaii and shows that a majority of those involved in (predominantly unpaid) prevention work share affective connections to the cause of prevention, with many having personally lost someone to suicide. In this dissertation, I position suicide prevention workers’ care with aloha as an alternative to depersonalizing approaches of Western suicide prevention efforts, which rely on protocol. I examine aloha’s many contested meanings and (mis)uses in and beyond Hawaii and draw on ethnographic examples to reveal how care workers in Hawaii describe a type of “watchful” (Garcia 2010) care and explicitly aim to personalize their interactions with aloha. And yet, my ethnography reveals that there are troubling inconsistencies when putting this type of care into practice.

In this dissertation, I ask whether care as the primary tool of suicide prevention workers in the United States must be viewed as being either helpful or harmful, productive or nonproductive. Through examining suicide care in Hawaii, I ask whether these dualistic concepts might be better evaluated as coexisting rather than competing. Regarding the forms of care that are produced in prevention work in Hawaii, care seems to be simultaneously loaded with and empty of meaning—a statement that, my dissertation reveals, shares similarities with the word and concept of aloha—and is complicatedly both effective and ineffective, regulated and unregulated. In this ethnography, I understand care as a practice, an ethics of the self, an action, a form of (exploitable) labor, a (bio)political endeavor that produces and reinforces inequalities—but fundamentally, I view care as something that is relational, that is produced out of a desire to relate with others. This dissertation suggests that rather than relying on these dualities, we might instead view care as a kind of open-ended concept: as something on a flexible spectrum, open to possibility.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Krishnamurti, Lauren Sealykrishnamurti@pitt.edulas263
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMatza, Tomastomas.matza@pitt.edutomas.matza
Committee MemberLukacs, Gabriellalukacs@pitt.edulukacs
Committee MemberBrush, Lisa D.lbrush@pitt.edulbrush
Committee MemberMusante, Kathleenkathleen.musante@pitt.edukathleen.musante
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 November 2019
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 16 March 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 229
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: suicide prevention, care, Hawaii, mental health, United States
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 16:34
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 16:34


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