Course: NS-0217: Culture and Mental Health: Decolonizing the Psyche

  • Thursday, 2 September: Day One

  • Tuesday, 7 September: Diagnostics I

  • Thursday, 9 September: Special Guest (and brains reading)

  • Tuesday, 14 September: Crazy Like US?

  • Thurs., Sept. 16 NO CLASS, Yom Kippur

  • Tues., Sept. 21: Century of the Self

    So sorry! Thought I had posted these earlier.

    Please watch the first three sections of Century of the Self if you can! It's going to be three hours, but I think you will find it awesome.

  • Thurs., Sept. 23 NO CLASS (advising day)

  • Tues., Sept. 28: Violence and Carceral Logics

  • Thurs., Sept. 30: Violence and Carceral Logics II

  • Tues., Oct. 5: Diagnostics II

    Key Terms (be sure you try to understand these concepts):


    Objective-self fashioning


    Pharmaceutical self

    Guiding Questions

    Dumit contends that brain images and their labels “are part of the process of normalizing the assumption of difference.” What does this mean? Can you connect this with other ideas we’ve discussed so far?


    What are the pros and cons of difference marked by brain images?

    Also, from Prentis Hemphill:

    Street Somatics

    Regulate and co-regulate

  • Thurs., Oct. 7: Diagnostics II continued...

    Key Terms


    Mindlessness (mai mii sati)

    Idioms of distress (and DSM’s cultural concepts of distress)

    “thinking too much”


    Idioms of success


    Guiding Questions


    In what ways can idioms of distress manifest relate to structural inequalities ?


    According to Cassaniti, how is the cultural concept of “thinking too much” related to ideas of change and impermanence in Thailand?


    How do local understandings of a good life affect mental health treatment? When might they not?


    What does Cassaniti mean when she claims “All syndromes are cultural” ?

  • Tues., Oct. 12 NO CLASS, Oct. break

    Trying to come up with a topic you want to explore in a final project? Maybe these will help pique your interest.

    -       Csordas, Thomas and Janis Jenkins. 2018. “Living with a Thousand Cuts: Self-Cutting, Agency, and Mental Illness among Adolescents.” Ethos 46(2): 206-229.

    -       Kitanaka, Junko. 2012. “The Gendering of Depression and the Selective Recognition of Pain.” In Depression in Japan: Psychiatric Cures for a Society in Distress. 129-150. Princeton: Princeton University Press

    -       Nirmala Erevelles, Disability and Difference in Global Contexts

    -       Jina Kim, “Disability in an Age of Fascism”, American Auarterly

    -       Nicholas Long, 2018. “Suggestions of Power: Searching for Efficacy in Indonesia’s Hypnosis Boom.” Ethos 46.

    -       Andrew Wooyoung Kim, “How Should We Study Intergenerational Trauma?”:


    -       Psychiatry Beyond Fanon:


  • Thurs., Oct. 14: Pharma

    Key Words

    • DTC advertising
    • Cocktails
    • Graphic Medicine
    • Interoception

    Guiding Questions

    • Emily Martin thought she was going to find that drugs are marketed as having personalities, but that did not really play out. Instead, she sees more evidence of drugs being understood as precision instruments, with doctors and patients seeking the right combination for desired effects. In trying to understand this and find an appropriate metaphor, Martin tries out “teachers.” Do you see drugs as teachers, as Martin suggests on page 171?

    • Do you have a sense of marketing of drugs? Are you impacted at all? If not direct marketing, how?

    In what ways might the marketing of drugs lead to changes in diagnostic patterns globally?

    And here are a couple thought experiment questions:

    Might the lived experience of taking meds, and seeking to find the right cocktail, be part of the “symptom pool” of what is possible, permissible, expected today?


    How might graphic medicine be used to capture settler colonial subjectivity as part of a symptom pool?

  • Tues., Oct. 19: Language - Lacan and Fanon

    Key Words

    Mirror stage





    The Real

    Inferiority complex (see Fanon xiv and xv)

    Guiding Questions:

    What does Fanon mean when he says "a Black is not a man"? (see page xii and also 2)

    What does Lacan mean by saying organisms become captured in their environments?


    In what ways are we captured by language?

    (what sources do you draw from to make your points)

  • Thurs., Oct. 21: Psycho-Racio-Linguistics? Rosa

    Key Words

    Racial and linguistic over-determination

    “listening subject” and “perceiving subject”  (creating someone as something)

    Marley Hypothesis (see Salter and Adams, p. 308)

    “intention worlds” (see Salter and Adams, p. 311)

    normalizing racism perception (see Salter and Adams, p.307)

    denaturalizing racism denial

    prejudice problematic (Salter and Adams, p. 316)

    Guiding Questions

    What are Rosa’s proposed tenets of “raciolinguistc perspectives” ?

    How can a celebration of diversity obfuscate systemic racism?

    How do individualist constructions of persons – and the prejudice problematic in particular – afford the reproduction of violence? (see Salter and Adams, page 318)

    What is the difference between saying “Blacks are more likely to say race is a factor” vs. “Whites are less likely to say race is a factor” ?


    In what ways are we captured by language?

    (what sources do you draw from to make your points)

  • Tues., Oct. 26: Sylvia Wynter

    Key Words:

    Sociogenetic principle

    Ontogenetic and/or biocentric conception of the human identity

    (and maybe all these words if it helps: Phylogeny, Ontogeny, Sociogeny)

    First person perspective

    Third person perspective

  • Thurs., Oct. 28: Sylvia Wynter and Decolonizing Psychiatry

    passages for potential discussion

    sociogenic principle as: "the information-encoding organizational principle of each culture's criterion of being/non-being"

    18. “Meaning, negatively marked, has lawlikely affected matter (i.e. physiology), negatively”

    *26. “…how exactly is a ‘normal subject’ made to experience objects in the world, in the terms of its specific culture’s system of perception and categorization as being to its own adaptive advantage (good), or not to its own adaptive advantage (bad)?”

    27 “But do we, as humans, experience pleasure and satisfaction only from biologically appropriate behaviors?”

    Riffing off of page 31 – let’s talk about how intellectuals, Wynter claims, are often trapped as “guardians, elaborators, and disseminators” of the prevailing order’s categories, and how “the lived experience of the liminally deviant category of each order” that can be a powerful foil for understanding those categories in which we are imprisoned, so to speak.


  • Tues., Nov 2: Generational Shifting

    Reach chapter 4; don’t get caught up if the coda is relatively incomprehensible – I’ll try to explain.


    Floating population (103)

    Soul loss (107)

    Reciprocation (bao)

    Cross-class marriage

    Filial piety (120)


    Guiding questions:

    ·      What examples does Ng provide for gaps (of understanding, of meaning, etc.) between generations in Hexian, China? What are the consequences of such gaps?


    ·      On page 103, Ng writes: “The hegemonic potential of the psy-disciplines is to be contended with but not presumed, even within the clinic.” What else does she show to be co-present with psychiatric diagnostics on the ward in the psychiatric unit?

    This in direct conversation with Ethan Watters (remember that podcast?).


    ·      Think about Xia Peizhi (beginning page 111). What’s her story? Why did her father not satisfy her hopes? Why does her mother visit spirit mediums?


    ·      What are some of the ways people in Ng’s book feel cared for? What are some of the ways people in Ng’s book care for others?


    ·      Why is Wang Weihong focused on buying his son a house?


    ·      What does Ng mean by a “sense of personhood beyond the boundaries of the atomized individual” (p.124) in theory and practice?

  • Thurs., Nov 4: Thick Solidarity

    How do the authors define “thick solidarity”?

    (in particular, check out definitions offered on page 190 and page 196)


    What do they mean by “thin empathy”? What are the consequences of such?


    The authors mention the 1955 Bandung Conference. Do you know about this? Look it up, along with the Non-Aligned Movement!


    Maybe it would be worthwhile to return together of our discussion this week about gaps (of understanding, or meaning, etc.) between generations -- and the consequences of such gaps. Is there evidence of such gaps in this article?


    I want you to use this piece to think more globally about intersecting histories and to think about what motivates people to care

  • Tues. Nov. 9: Schizophrenia and Psychosis

    What effects do you think these materials have in the world? (TedTalks, published interviews)…

    What effects do you think the speakers want them to have?

    What effect did they have on you?

  • Thurs., Nov 11: Schizophrenia and Psychosis

  • Tues., Nov 16: Naikan




    Practitioner (mensetsu-sha ­– the person who interviews)


    Ki (see p. 12 to start)



    Guiding questions

    *What are the three themes of Naikan?

    *What are the key aspects of Noriko’s confession tapes?

    • This week are reading "Psychotherapy and Religion in Japan: The Japanese Introspection Practice of Naikan," by Chikako Oxawa-de Silva.


      *Read introduction

      *Start with the conclusion of chapter 2 - you may want to go back and home in on the comparisons with psychoanalysis, Catholic confession, and Foucault in that chapter

      * Read chapter 3 for its "confessions"

      See how far you can get - we will read more for Thursday too, but this is the bulk of it - check out Thursday reading list to plan.
      NOTE: if at any point you feel bogged down, move on to reading the confessions in chapter 3 - getting the stories might help you be able to digest the framework the author provides.

  • Thurs., Nov. 18: Naikan


    Static memory

    Experience of the present

    Guiding questions

    *In what ways is memory social?

    *In what ways is memory key to the healing process in Naikan?

    Consider Chikako Ozawa-de Silva's description of the goal of Naikan:

    [[Note: This paragraph is written in relation to Ian Craib (1994) "who has argued that the fallacy at the root of much contemporary psychotherapy is the belief that total happiness, integration, and psychic harmony can indeed be achieved” – Craib says it cannot... now, to the text:]]

    “Interestingly, Naikan follows Buddhism in believing, like Craib, that there is a value in facing directly the unavoidable aspects of life, such as death, separation and so forth, and yet it proposes this as a very means toward the happiness, integration and harmony that Craib discounts as impossible. This is because, unlike Craib, but in line with Buddhist thought, it recognizes the difference between an object or event (sickness, ageing, death, a past trauma, another person) and the attitude one takes towards it. Happiness does not come from removing such events or persons from one’s life, but through transforming one’s attitudes towards them” (117)

    Think about this, perhaps we can discuss it!

    • Continue reading the book on Naikan

      *Read 79 -81 of Chapter 4

      *Read page 107, the first page of Chapter 5

      Chapter 5 is on interdependent selfhood, please read if you are interested and bring details to class!

      Skim the section headings of the other chapters and perhaps read the Epilogue, allowing yourself to read more to follow your interest.

  • thanksgiving break!

  • Tues., Nov. 30: resiliance



    -transformative justice

    -call out culture


    Guiding Question:

    The author asks, “How can we pivot toward practicing transformative justice? How do we shift from individual, interpersonal and inter-organizational anger toward viable, generative, sustainable systemic change?” How does adrienne maree brown move toward answering that question?

    Might the TJ processes brown advocates for do a disservice to survivors (particularly re: drawing moral boundaries around what is “right” reactions in the face of abuse)? Why or why not?

  • Thurs., Dec. 2: PTSD



    Post traumatic stress syndromes  (PTSD as one cluster of symptoms therein)


    “remainders of violence”


    Guiding questions:

    What are some critiques of PTSD? Which do you understand, which do we need to discuss to clarify?

    What do the authors mean when they ask whether PTSD is a “good enough” concept?

    What’s the difference between a clinical and a public health perspective?


  • Tues., Dec 7: Psychopolitics



    Immaterial mode of production


    Authenticity / “authentic self”




    In what ways do you practice voluntary self-exposure?


    In what ways have you felt, witnessed, or conceptualized healing as killing? Can you more easily think about this theoretically or personally?


    Byung-Chul Han writes “Neoliberal psychopolitics is a technology of domination that stabilizes the perpetuates the prevailing system by means of psychological programming and steering. Accordingly, the art of living, as the praxis of freedom, must proceed by way of de-psychologiziation. This serves to disarm pyschopolitics, which is a means of effecting submission.” How might Michael Puett suggest we could learn from ancient Chinese forms of ritual for tools for de-psychologizing as a means of liberation?


  • Thurs., Dec. 9: Last Day!