Transcultural psychiatry deals with cultural factors in the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. It is a field in which medical science and the humanities have collaborated since the post-war period, and it is growing in importance because of the encounter, diffusion, and mingling of cultures through globalizing forces such as migration and the mass media.
“Debating the First Principles of Transcultural Psychiatry” brought together a number of collaborators from different disciplines and backgrounds, and asked them to generate and reflect upon what they saw as fundamental questions for the field of transcultural psychiatry. The project had a total of eleven collaborators, both clinical and academic. The collaborators were invited to an initial Launch Workshop (24 March 2012) and a concluding Stocktaking Workshop (18 August 2012), both held at Glasgow University. Between these two events, the main work of the project took place in multiple threads of discussion on a private online forum hosted within the project’s website. In all, around 22000 words of forum content were generated by the collective activity of the collaborators.
The debates opened clear lines of interrogation, thematically identified by the Principal Investigator as pertaining to: a) the post-colonial, globalizing problematic of the field, and consequent limitations; b) the cultural specificity, or otherwise, of mental illness; c) the overlap of cultural mental health with identity politics, including new “illness identities”; d) the border disputes, and traffic, between psychiatric and religious ideas and practices; e) the unity of transcultural psychiatry, and its wider social and political commentary; and f) the clinical aptitudes motivated by cultural accounts of mental health.
The project has generated the following discrete outcomes:
A summary of the project’s debates and discussions is available. This lengthy document (8500 words), compiled and authored by the Principal Investigator, also contains an anticipation of possible future foci for research, a technical account of the project’s blog and forum, and a reflection upon online forums as a tool for academic collaboration.
Project Summary: DebatingTCP-summary
Many of the collaborators generously authored position papers containing a written account of their response to the project’s debates and discussions. The following, typically briefer, documents are available:
Simon Dein, “A Position Statement on Religious Delusions and Hallucinations”:
Chris Harding, “Religion and Mental Health: Democratizing Responsibility”:
Cheryl McGeachan, “Moving Across and Beyond the Landscapes of Transcultural Psychiatry”:
Gavin Miller, “Identity and Critique: Two Hidden Logics in Transcultural Psychiatry”:
Matt Smith, “The Social Determinants of Mental Health and Transcultural Psychiatry”:
Tim Thornton, “Transcultural Psychiatry: a Position Paper”:
Ross White, “Global Mental Health – Friend or Foe?”:
Angela Woods, “Debating the First Principles of Transcultural Psychiatry”:
Four collaborators also recorded podcasts based on their position papers. The mp3 files of these podcasts are available from the following links: