Dear colleagues,

We invite abstracts for a proposed AAA panel on "Anthropology Matters in
Mental Health: Advancing Psychological Anthropology through Engagement with
Global Mental Health." Please see below for full panel abstract.

*Submit abstracts by email to Dr. Bonnie Kaiser (
<>) by Thursday, March 30.*

*Anthropology Matters in Mental Health: Advancing Psychological
Anthropology through Engagement with Global Mental Health*


Bonnie Kaiser, PhD, MPH, Duke University

Lesley Jo Weaver, PhD, MPH, University of Alabama

This session asks how global mental health can serve as a tool for the
advancement of psychological anthropology, and vice-versa. In the present,
these two fields sit at critical and related junctures, where the rate of
policy development and implementation of psychological interventions has
outstripped the production of culturally attuned scholarship. On one hand, p
sychological anthropology has become somewhat mired in debates such as the
universality or particularity of human suffering, and whether the global
spread of biomedical psychiatry is motivated by a concern for human
wellbeing or by profit motives of psychopharmaceutical producers. On the
other hand, the relatively new field of global mental health is
experiencing unprecedented attention from academics, policy makers, and
funders alike, but it has involved woefully little attention to local
cultural context. Global mental health practice stands to benefit from a
greater appreciation of local resources and concerns, while psychological
anthropology would benefit from new focal points through which to advance
theoretical debates. Although this juncture has great potential for both
psychological anthropology and global mental health, it requires concerted
effort in order to come to fruition; we imagine this panel as an early step
in this process.

The panel will advance emerging theoretical approaches in psychological
anthropology by (a) exploring key anthropological questions in relation to
the rapidly globalizing phenomenon of global mental health, (b) using
ethnographic work to directly address the shortcomings in biomedical
psychiatry and global mental health practice, and (c) promoting the very
important assertion of an applied position for psychological
anthropologists as valuable stakeholders in the rapidly-changing field of
global mental health. The spread of global mental health discourse and
interventions provides an ideal case study of globalization in action,
opening doors for psychological anthropologists to study how the
circulation of psychiatric technologies shapes subjective experiences of
distress, health, (ab)normality, meaning-making, and identity, and in turn,
how these technologies reposition individuals within moral and biomedical
spheres. Global mental health provides an ideal avenue for psychological
anthropology to make a bold statement that anthropology matters, and the
global upsurge of international psychological interventions adds urgency to
this endeavor.

In their papers, session participants will address one or more of the
following key questions: (1) How does the spread of global mental health
practices interrupt, complement, conflict with, or actively shape
conceptions of self, identity, and community in specific cultural contexts?
(2) How do psychiatric categories and global mental health interventions
reposition individuals within political, biomedical, and moral spheres -
such as de/legitimizing particular conceptualizations of “professional”
through efforts at task-shifting to “non-professionals”? (3) How does
global mental health shape notions of normality, morality, and healing -
such as repositioning certain categories of persons as “patients” who were
previously deemed (ab)normal according to non-biomedical systems of
categorization? (4) How can psychological anthropology inform global mental
health interventions in ways that value indigenous practitioners, enhance
acceptance, reduce stigma, and are consistent with local belief systems?

Contact Info

Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
c/o Karli Whitmore
125 rue Jean de la Londe, #301
Baie d'Urfe (Québec) H9X 3T8