STS.S91 Special Topic: Madness and Globalization

Madness and Globalization
Tuesdays, 12pm-3pm at Harvard: Peabody Museum, room 12

Prof. Byron Good
Prof. Michael Fischer
Dr. Alasdair Donald

Register for 12 units of credit

While the term ‘mental illness’ evokes aseptic technical categories and medical nosologies, ‘madness,’ in its deliberate murkiness, embraces broader and deeper meanings, including ‘post-colonial disorders’ of individuals and societies. This course will analyze the ways in which diverse aspects of globalization impact, intersect and shape personal experiences of ‘madness’ – both mental illnesses and social disorders. Largely based on readings of ethnographic and cross-cultural literature, the course will examine, among other issues: the process of colonization, which racialized psychiatric interpretations of the individual’s behavior and suffering; colonial and postcolonial engagements with psychoanalysis; the postcolonial standardization of nosologies and treatments, based mostly on biomedical categories, and the complex negotiations of the meanings of modernity; the resulting cases of ‘globalization’ of approaches to mental health/illness in non-Western contexts; the attempt at the decolonization of anthropology and psychiatry alike; the impact of violence, forced migration and displacement on the the psychological equilibrium and mental health of individuals, and the globalization of PTSD; and the impact of neoliberal economic policies and ideologies, as well as the global mental health movement, on the world of the mentally ill.