Nikki  Henderson

PhD


Research Interests

I earned a BS in Anthropology and Human Biology from Emory University in 2014 and a M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Alabama in 2016. Broadly, my research focuses on stigma surrounding drug use and misuse, from the ​perspectives of both members of society and individuals receiving treatment for substance use disorders. I utilize cognitive anthropological methods to conceptualize and visualize how people think about the etiology of addiction. This collection of ideas about the causes of a particular mental illness are referred to as “folk psychiatry” or “ethnopsychiatry,” and these have been shown to be guiding factors behind public attitudes of individuals with mental illness. In my Master’s research, I demonstrated that individuals who have a medical understanding of substance use and misuse stigmatize less than individuals who conceptualize addiction as moral moral deviance.

With my dissertation work, I seek to continue this research in urban Brazil, where rates of addiction and stigma are high, but treatment utilization is incredibly low.The project has two main objectives: first, to construct a culturally specific model of what people believe makes individuals susceptible to addiction (i.e., personal flaws, genetics, poverty?); and second, to use this model to explore experiences of stigma among people withsubstance use disorder and stigma attribution among people without substance use disorder in Ribeirão Preto. I argue that stigma must be understood as a relational and active phenomenon, and therefore the project focuses on both the perspectives of the stigmatizer and the stigmatized. This multidimensional approach is one that is rarely utilized by global mental health researchers, but is critical to fully understanding the scope of public health crises like substance use in Brazil.