We would like to request abstracts for a panel to be presented at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) meetings in New Orleans, November 17-21 2010.
Panel topic: Circulating Psychiatry: Embodied Histories, Diagnoses, and Recoveries
Preliminary Panel Description:
As psychiatry has come to be dominated by advances in psychopharmacology, genetics, and neuroscience, categories, experiences, and representations of psychiatric illnesses are cast increasingly as neural activities occurring within one’s isolated body. In recent years, advocates for the study of patient-environment interactions and the intersections of sociocultural factors in the genesis and experience of psychiatric disorders have expanded their focus to include research on the subjective and phenomenological experiences of patients, the ways these modulate the course and outcome of psychiatric disorders. Despite advances in medical and psychiatric anthropology that dismantle disciplinary boundaries and epistemological barriers to expand our understandings of psychiatric disorders, much of this work remains at the periphery of mainstream psychiatric discourses. The debate must continue about how “culture gets under the skin” via individual and community histories to shape diagnoses, healing and hope for people experiencing mental distress.
This panel aims to move beyond mere critique of current psychiatric discourses and give voice to localized notions of mental distress and healing that circulate through the body of both the community and the individual. We encourage submissions that examine how socio-historical processes generate symptoms that are then locally understood and reinterpreted as diagnoses. How do localized notions and experiences of mental illness circulate through generations and communities? How might sociocultural and biomedical factors intersect to shape the experiences, conceptions, and representations of psychiatric disorders? How might Western psychiatry be disrupting or enhancing that process?
We are also interested in papers that explore the ways in which patients, relatives, and mental health professionals have responded to mental distress at the local level. We want to recognize and give voice to the flow of ideas and practices, healing techniques, and day to day clinical interactions that happen in communities and clinics. For example, abstracts might focus on the ways culturally-endorsed stress reduction techniques are utilized by local communities to prevent psychiatric diagnosis and enhance recovery. These techniques must be better understood both for their potential global utility, as well as their particular localized efficacy. In the move towards global mental health (for example, the World Health Organization’s current programme to export Western notions of psychosocial rehabilitation and pharmacological interventions), these techniques of local healing must be archived.
With these papers, we seek to add our critique and awareness to the sociocultural projects intended to reshape psychiatric knowledge. As knowledge about the mind and its ailments continue to circulate, with all the debates this entails, let us add localized understandings of diagnoses, treatments, and recoveries to the conversation.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words, along with your contact information (name, institutional affiliation, department, and email address) to Johanne Eliacin at firstname.lastname@example.org or Neely Myers at email@example.com by March 22nd.
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