ANGR 270C: ANTHROPOLOGY & PSYCHIATRY
Professor: Melford E. Spiro
For most of the seminar, we shall be concerned with two questions
-- first, how valid is the dominant anthropological claim that
psychopathology (alternatively, psychological abnormality, mental
disorder, mental illness) is an ethnocentric, Western concept?
second, how valid is the dominant anthropological claim that
psychopathology is culturally constructed? For both questions, we
shall be examining both ethnographic and theoretical materials.
Toward the end of the seminar, we shall be concerned with the
treatment of mental disorders, in a word psychotherapy, from a
cross-cultural perspective. Again, the readings will be both
ethnographic and theoretical.
Because contemporary psychiatric anthropology (alternatively
cross-cultural psychiatry) is heavily influenced by postmodernist
thought, and because as embryonic anthropologists you should be
abreast of current thinking, many of the assignments represent that
perspective with, however, some important dissenting voices.
Whether the one or the other, your task is to read these assignments
critically, i.e., to ask of each of them the following questions:
What is the argument? Is it logically developed? What data are
presented? Do they support the argument? Can these data support an
alternative argument (or arguments)? Are there other kinds of data
that are inconsistent with, or refute, the argument?
All members of the seminar will be responsible for reading the
weekly assignments prior to our weekly meetings. For each meeting
two members will present an oral report of approximately 30 minutes
(each dealing with half the assigned readings), following which the
reports and the readings will be open for group discussion. Among
other things, the reports should attempt to deal with the questions
In addition to oral reports, each member of the seminar will
write a critical term paper of approximately 25 pages, dealing with
one of the topics of the syllabus, or some other topic of his or her
interest. The topic and the bibliography should be discussed with
me prior to beginning work. Wherever possible, the paper should
also reflect the readings in psychiatry seminar.
The final grade will be based on the oral reports, participation
discussions, and the written paper.
SCHEDULE OF TOPICS
Introduction:Anthropology and Mental Illness: Concepts and
No assignment. Discussion by instructor.
WEEKS TWO & THREE:
Mental Illness, Cultural Relativism, and Cultural
- Kiev, Ari. Magic, Faith, and Healing, Ch. 1, 1964.
(For historical background, not for seminar discussion).
- Benedict, Ruth. "The Individual and the Pattern of Culture,"
In Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture, Ch. 8:251-278,
- Devereux, George. (1956) "Normal and Abnormal" In George
Devereux, Basic Problems of Ethnopsychiatry. (1980:
3-71).Translated by Basia Miller Gulati and George Devereux.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Kleinman, Arthur. (1988) Rethinking Psychiatry, Chs. 1-4.
- Murphy, Jane. (1976) "Psychiatric Labeling in Cross-Cultural
Perspective," Science 191:1019-1028.
- Spiro, Melford E. (1959) "Cultural Heritage, Personal Tensions,
and Mental Illness in a South Sea Culture," Ch. 6, in Opler (ed.),
Culture and Mental Health.
WEEKS FOUR & FIVE:
- Jamison, Kay Redfield. (1995) An Unquiet Mind (For
background, not for seminar discussion).
- Smith, Joel. (1997) "Depression: Darker than Darkness,"
American Scholar, autumn:495-499. (For background, not for
- Kleinman, Arthur. (1980) "Chinese cultural patterning of
affective experience and behavior," In Kleinman, Arthur.
Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture, pp. 133-151.
- Kawanishi. (1992) "Somatization: An artifact of Western
Medicalization?" Transcultural Psychiatry Research &
- Kleinman, Arthur; & Good, Byron J. (1985) Introduction, pp.
1-10, In Kleinman & Good (eds.), Culture and
- Lutz, Catherine. (1985) "Depression and the Translation of
Emotional Worlds," Ibid., Ch. 2: 63-100.
- Obeyesekere, Gananath. (1985) "Depression, Buddhism, and the
Work of Culture in Sri Lanka," Ibid., Ch. 4: 134-152.
- O'Nell, Theresa. (1996) Disciplined Hearts: History,
Identity, and Depression in an American Indian Community, pp.
WEEKS SIX & SEVEN
- Bourguignon, Erica. (1979) Psycholooical Anthropology,
- Wedenoja. (1990) "Ritual Trance and Catharsis," In Jordan
& Swartz (eds.), Personality and the Cultural Construction of
Society, Ch. 13.
- Obeyesekere, Gananath. (1981) Medusa's Hair, pp. 53-66,
- -----. (1990) The Work of Culture, pp. 3-24, 65-68 .
- Spiro, Melford E. Gender Ideology and Psychological
Reality, Ch. 6.
WEEKS EIGHT, NINE & TEN
- Levi-Strauss, Claude. (1963) Structural Anthropology Ch.
- Gottlieb, Phyllis. (1995) "Reflections on Chlibirth Observed and
Childbirth Experienced," Anthropology Today, 11(3): 10-11.
- Wall. (1995) "The Anthropologist as Obstetrician,"
Anthropology Today 11(6):12-14.
- Waxler. (1977) "Is Mental Illness Cured in Traditional
Societies," Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 1:233-253.
- Kleinman, Arthur. (1980) Patients and Healers in the Context
of Culture pp. 352-374.
- Spiro, Melford E. (1967) Burmese Supernaturalism, Chs. 9,
- Prince, Raymond. (1980) "Variations in Psychotherapeutic
Procedures," In H. Triandis & J. Draguns (eds.),
Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol..6, ch. 7.
- Frank & Frank. (1991) Persuasion and Healing, ch. 7.
(Do not use earlier edition.)
Created: 01 March 1999.
Last updated: 01 March 1999.
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