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Pearl Katz

Anthropologist / Writer / Speaker / Photographer / Glass Artist

I am an anthropologist on the faculty of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, since 1985: I teach psychiatrists about doing therapy with people of other cultures, and I consult to multiple inpatient and outpatient programs.

I have been listed for over ten years in Who’s Who in The World; Who’s Who in America; and Who’s Who of American Women, and I received the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

My book, The Scalpel’s Edge is frequently cited in the popular and academic press, and has been favorably reviewed in JAMA and other journals.

I have conducted anthropological field work with Taos Pueblo Indians, undergraduates (about their sex lives), Army drill sergeants, surgeons and other physicians in hospitals and offices, psychiatric hospitals, people living with HIV and AIDS, and immigrants in the United States and Israel, and a Yemenite village in Israel.

I have been on the faculties of George Washington University (Anthropology), The University of Maryland School of Medicine (Psychiatry), The Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences (Psychiatry), Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (Military Psychiatry), The University of Toronto Medical School (Medical Education), and Tel-Aviv University (Anthropology). I worked for the federal government as a Scientific Review Officer for the National Institute of Mental Health and as a Public Health Analyst for the Health Resources and Services Administration.

I have published and given talks on a truly wide variety of topics to lay and professional audiences. Some of my published works have been cited hundreds of times, republished in anthologies, and used in undergraduate and graduate classes in anthropology and in medical schools, especially the article, “Ritual in the Operating Room.”

I paraglided from 5,700 feet in Southern Turkey:

Everyday Rituals: The Liberating Power of Our Routines

by Pearl Katz

Everyday Rituals: The Liberating Power of our Routines, vividly illustrates how rituals can transform lives of Americans — how our daily routines can paradoxically bring us freedom, creativity, and mental well-being. It describes in detail how routines of family dinners, getting up in the morning, and going to bed, are so automatic that they leave our minds free to think, feel, imagine, and even reflect on the rituals themselves.

Everyday Rituals is based on my fieldwork in the U.S., including hospitals and operating rooms, drill sergeants, immigrants, doctors’ offices, Taos Pueblo Indians, mental hospitals, and with undergraduates’ detailed discussions about their sex lives.

I describe how undergraduates’ hookups have few rituals, resulting in confusion and disappointment, in contrast to those many rituals of everyday life that give freedom.

In Everyday Rituals I describe how some of the greatest creative artists, scientists, and athletes practiced ritually for years so that they don’t have to think and can perform creatively. At the same time that rituals repeat actions from the past, they encourage thinking that is creative and contribute to innovation and change.

Also by Pearl Katz

The Scalpel’s Edge: The Culture of Surgeons

My book, The Scalpel’s Edge: The Culture of Surgeons describes in detail what surgeons actually do in and out of the operating room.

Based on my following six surgeons throughout their day for several weeks each, it describes how they make decisions, how they keep secrets from patients and colleagues, how they think about disease, patients, and other physicians, and how their thinking is often unscientific. It illustrates how surgeons’ active posture and absence of doubt influence decisions which affect patients.

Selected Publications

“Emotional Metaphors, Roles, and Socialization of Army Drill Sergeants” Ethos

– “Violence and Social Structure in Mental Hospital Units,” Psychiatry

– “Traditional Thought and Modern Western Surgery” Social Science and Medicine

– “Combat Readiness and the Army Family” Military Review (with F. Kirkland)

“Ibsen’s Norwegian Identity Expressed in his Life and Works” Proceedings: IX International Ibsen Conference, Bergen, Norway

– “Adaptation to Crowded Space: The Case of Taos Pueblo“ The Human Mirror: Material and Spatial Images of Man


– “How Surgeons Make Decisions” Physicians of Western Medicine

– “Acculturation in a Hebrew Language Class” Anthropological Quarterly

Initiation and the Status of Women in Taos Pueblo,” Anthropos

Mourning, Ritual and Recovery after an Airline Tragedy“ Omega (with P. Bartone)

– ”Symbols as Charters in Culture Change: The Jewish Case” Anthropos

“Emotional Responses and Coping Strategies for Survivors of a Tsunami”

– “Conflicts of Culture in State Mental Hospital Units,” Ethnopsychiatry

Selected Talks

I have given over 300 talks on various topics, including leadership, policy, surgical education, psychiatry education, violence, coping strategies, AIDS in Cuba, Henrik Ibsen, and cultural competence and prejudice, in addition to many anthropological topics. These include:

– To annual meetings of :The American Anthropological Association; The American Sociological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychoanalytic Association; and The Association of Surgical Education.

    To Military Personnel: The Air Force Academy, CO; The Naval Academy, MD; Walter Reed Army Medical Center, DC; Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, MD; Fort Dix, NJ; Patrick Air Force Base, FL; Great Lakes Naval Training Center, IL; Lackland Air Force Base Boot Camp, TX. I developed and conducted a multi-day training course for all-service military, for the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI).

    To People with HIV/AIDS & their Medical and Social Service Providers: including Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, Kansas City, MO, New Orleans, LA, Palm Springs, CA, Dallas, TX and Fort Worth, TX

    To AIDS Policy Makers: The National Institutes of Health, and at the Indiana Governor’s AIDS Conference

    To Staff of Violent Units in Manhattan Psychiatric Hospital: on preventing violence.

    To Surgeons: in seven cities

    To Ibsen Scholars: at the Biannual International Conference of Henrik Ibsen, in Bergen, Norway

    To Staffs of Numerous Mental Health Organizations: on cultural competency and prejudice–years before the topic became acceptable.

    To Many Bookstores: to promote The Scalpel’s Edge: The Culture of Surgeons.

Please Contact Me