Questioning the “Global” in Global Psychiatry

Short Seminar

October 7–9, 2014

Questioning the Global in Global PsychiatryQuestioning the Global in Global PsychiatryQuestioning the Global in Global Psychiatry

The goals of this SAR Short Seminar were to explore emerging trends and paradoxes in contemporary psychiatry, and to craft a complex and ethnographically grounded counter-narrative to that of the seemingly self-evident global ascent of neurobiological psychiatry. During three days of intensive discussion, participants examined a heterogeneous array of therapeutic practices and philosophies considering how they address and reflect the consolidation of psychiatry as a global science. In particular, participants focused on probing differences within global psychiatry, paying special attention to its cultural mediations and transformations, and in turn, to psychiatric conceptualizations of culture and its role in the genesis, expression, and treatment of mental illness.

Five central themes emerged from the discussions:

  1. The cultural articulations of the “global” through in-depth ethnographic research on mental illness and treatment.
  2. Questions were raised about the instruments of self-care and self-responsibility that have emerged in neoliberal societies.
  3. Relationships between care and cure, and between the political and the clinical dimensions of psychiatry.
  4. The exploration of precarity – a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare – that focused on violence as both a cause and a symptom of mental illness, as well, potentially, as a mode of treatment.
  5. The current state of global psychiatry, under the rubric of “market health” in terms of treatments using traditional and non-traditional methods and sources.

“Overall, our discussions sought to move beyond now… to ask what is novel and what is durable in health, pathology, and care,” write the seminar co-chairs, concluding, “We thus paid close attention to long-term historical and generational processes of dispossession and empowerment – processes that may foster vulnerability or resilience to trauma, violence, addiction, pain, despair, distress, and dysfunction in individuals and communities.”

Elizabeth Davis, Chair Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University Discussant
Li Zhang, Chair Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis Cultivating Therapeutic Self in Postsocialist China
Dominique P. Béhague Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, and Senior Lecturer, King's College, London Psychiatry, Adolescence, and Bioreductionism (or not) in Southern Brazil
Jocelyn Chua Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Fog of War: Pharmaceuticals, Violence, and the United States Military
Joseph Dumit Director and Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis CNS Marketview
Angela Garcia Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University The Violence of War and Recovery: Coercive Drug Treatment in Mexico
Cristiana Giordano Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis Political Therapeutics: An Italian Response to Global Mental Health
Bradley Lewis Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Philosophy, Gallatin School, New York University What to do with the Psychiatry's Biomedical Model?
Eugene Raikhel Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago Treatment by Proxy: Forensic Psychiatry, the Russian State, and the Psychic Life of Diagnosis
Natasha Schüll Associate Professor, Department of Science, Technology, and Society (STS); Massachusetts Institute of Technology The Digital Media of Mood: Self as Data

Follow us: