UCL Anthropology


María Ignacia Arteaga Pérez

UCL Email: maria.arteaga.13@ucl.ac.uk
Websites: https://ucl.academia.edu/IgnaciaArteaga 
Year of start: 2014
Supervisors: Sahra Gibbon and Joanna Cook 
Subject: Medical Anthropology
Fieldsite: London, UK

PhD Research

Care as a world-making project: Everyday experiences of colorectal cancer treatments in London (working title)

I look at care as a moral project through which patients, support networks (relatives and friends) and health professionals craft and stage environments for a comfortable living in London. Care understood as world-making offers a fragile albeit challenging perspective about the ways in which we cope and make sense of the suffering, frustration and anxiety of being confronted with death. It speaks of the various ways in which we approach a creepy and enigmatic experience that contains elements of care and compassion, pain and endurance, hope and the limits of our bodies. Care giving is a distinctive experience in which we directly confront our own limits.

My research project seeks to depart from the cancer exceptionalism that populates accounts of cancer care in social sciences. Instead, it looks at care practices understood as the continuous experiments in which values are put forward when lives have been unsettled by a cancer diagnosis. Those values - be they economic, clinical or ethical -  become negotiable, embodiable and potentially realisable. Drawing on 17 months of ethnographic fieldwork in London (UK), I analytically look at world-making practices as a moral project through which cancer patients and their support networks strive to re-configure bodies, selves and relationships according to values they consider worth living for.

My argument is built upon a careful examination of clinical dynamics, guidelines and infrastructures that structure a gastrointestinal cancer clinic in London that belongs to the National Health Care System (NHS). On the other hand, it also includes several perspectives about intimate and public contexts in which my research participants pursue the efforts of world-making through practices of care: homes, workplaces, cafes, shopping centres and churches: my participants' life-worlds. I examine the minute, relentless and sometimes desperate attempts of restoring and/or enhancing their life-worlds by following the articulation of care practices to create atmospheres of emotional containment and to repair leaky, achy and fatigued bodies for an ongoing life.

Research Interests

  • Anthropology of care
  • Anthropology of biomedicine
  • Critical medical anthropology
  • Multi-species ethnography


Peer-reviewed papers Risor, H & I. Arteaga (accepted, 2017). Disjunctive Belongings and the Utopia of Intimacy:  Violence, Love and Friendship among poor urban youth in neoliberal Chile. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power [Special Issue Youth, Subjectivity and Utopia - Ethnographic Perspectives from the Global South].
Book reviews Arteaga, I. (2017) [Review of the book An anthropology of lying: information in the doctor-patient relationship, by  Fainzang, S.] Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 23 (2), 426-427.
Edited books Arteaga, I. Cottin, G., Mella, B., Mella, C. (Eds). (2017) Ideas desde el Reino Unido: Críticas y Propuestas para el desarrollo de Chile. ISBN: 978-956-368-771-2  Available at http://ideasdesderu.cl/.

Presentations & Conferences

  • (2015, April) Towards an anthropology of care: the co-constitution of cancer treatments and familial experiences in the everyday. Paper presented at the Annual conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK (ASA), Exeter, UK
  • (2015, November) Ageing, care and everyday in Chile: The fear of being a burden. Paper presented at the 114th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Denver, USA
  • (2016, March) Logics of socioemotional support. Paper presented at the Anthropological Association of Ireland Annual Conference, Maynooth, Ireland
  • (2016, November) Everyday experiences of cancer treatments in London: Emergent themes. Talk given at the Qualitative Health Research Network Seminar Series. University College London, UK
  • (2017, May) 'You just need to get on': Care and commitment to the other during cancer treatments. Paper presented at the 10th Biennial Conference of the Association of Anthropology, Gerontology, and the Life Course (AAGE), Oxford, UK
  • (2017, June) Self-management and the post-cancerous body. Paper presented at the  Biennial Conference of the EASA Medical Anthropology Network, Lisbon, Portugal.

Facilitation of conference panels and seminars

  • (2014) ChileGlobal Seminars UK: "Poverty and Inequality in Chile", London, UK.
  • (2015) AAA Panel: "The intimate and the political: care as practices of subjectivisation and collectivisation", Denver, USA.

Teaching Experience

  • Fall term 2017 - Instructor of Medical Anthropology course at the Anthropology Program of the Catholic University of Chile
  • Summer 2016 and 2017 -  Navigator at Global Citizenship Programme, Outbreak strand of the University College London
  • 2007-2013 - Teaching assistant of several undergraduate courses at the Sociology Program of the Catholic University of Chile, including: Anthropology of kinship (2013), Anthropology of Migration and Transnationalism (2012), Anthropology of Violence (2011), Public Policy (2011), Methods and techniques of social research I (2011), Urban Sociology (2010), Sociology of Population (2009), Introduction to Macroeconomics (2008), Methodology of social research (2008).

Education History

University College London (London, United Kingdom): - PhD candidate in Anthropology (2014-2018): The care in the network: Experiences of colorectal cancer treatments in London (working title)
- Msc. in Medical Anthropology (Distinction): The social lives of assistance dogs: Exploring the worlds of human-animal companionship, fundraising and knowledge
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Santiago, Chile):
- Degree in Sociology (First class honours)
- Minor in Linguistics (Distinction)


  • PhD full scholarship: Becas Chile Doctorado en el Extranjero. CONICYT Chile. 
  • MSc full scholarship: Becas Chile Doctorado en el Extranjero. CONICYT Chile. 
  • Prize "Academic Excellence" Sociology Department, Cohort 2007. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
  • Chilean Security Research Fund's Award for the use innovative methodologies and excellence in research in the ethnographic project "Criminal career or not? Risk and protective factors of youngsters living in Santo Tomás neighbourhood".

Additional Information

Participation in reading groups running in the Department at UCL
- Medical Materialities (Academic year 2016-2017)
- Dirt, Excrement and Decay - DEAD (Academic year 2015-2016)
- Medical Anthropology (Academic years 2013-2015)

Volunteering Experience

I am a Postgraduate Student Representative in the Anthropology Department for the year 2017.  I have also been volunteering since 2016 vfor Macmillan Cancer Support, in the East London Buddies program offering one to one emotional support for people affected by cancer.

From 2016 onwards, I have been the contact person for London metropolitan area for the Christian Life Community in England and Wales, working in supporting roles as webmaster and newsletter designer.

For the academic year 2015-2016, I was elected President of the UCL Chilean Society.
Prior to my studies in the UK, I volunteered for seven years in diverse collaborative projects which addressed environmental issues, and challenges of social cohesion and wellbeing in disadvantaged areas of Santiago, Chile.