What is transcultural psychiatry?
Transcultural psychiatry deals with cultural factors in the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. It is also called “cultural psychiatry” or “cross-cultural psychiatry”. It is a field in which medical science and the humanities (particularly anthropology) have collaborated since the post-war period, and it is growing in importance because of the encounter, diffusion, and mingling of cultures through globalising forces such as migration and the mass media.
What are we asking?
The project collaborators are reflecting upon a number of fundamental questions in the theory of transcultural psychiatry. For instance, do the expectations of Western psychiatric culture mould the shape of mental illness in Western European and North American contexts? Why are certain kinds of behaviour or experience (for example, hearing voices, seeing dead loved ones) understood as harmless in certain culture contexts, and as a sign or symptom of mental disorder in others? If unusual or peculiar behaviour is understood as normal or healthy for a particular culture, then is psychiatry also taking part in the contemporary politics of identity, in which cultural difference is recognised and validated?
What are we doing?
The project involves a number of clinical and academic collaborators, from a variety of institutions and disciplines. They debate via a on-line forum hosted within this blog, and they also contribute content to it. They also meet in person at two project workshop events. The results of their debates will later be hosted on the blog in a variety of media. The blog also has a moderated public online forum for anyone who is interested in the project, and wishes to start a discussion.