Debating the first principles of transcultural psychiatry

Exploratory Award

Project Team:

Principal Investigator:

Dr Gavin Miller, University of Glasgow


Prof. Kamaldeep Bhui, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London

Dr Simon Dein, Mental Health Sciences Unit, University of London

Dr Glòria Durà-VilàSurrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Stefan EcksSchool of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Dr Chris Harding, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Dr Cheryl McGeachanSchool of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow

Dr Matthew SmithCentre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, University of Strathclyde

Professor Tim Thornton, School of Health, University of Central Lancashire

Dr Ross White, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow

Award Information:

Transcultural psychiatry deals with cultural factors in the cause, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. It is a field in which medical science and the humanities have collaborated since the post-war period, and it is growing in importance because of the encounter, diffusion, and mingling of cultures through globalizing forces such as migration and the mass media.

The project brought together eleven collaborators from different backgrounds, including social anthropology, geography, history medical humanities and philosophy, and asked them to discuss what they saw as fundamental questions for the field. They did so via face-to-face workshops, and extensive discussions within an online forum.

The debates opened clear lines of interrogation, thematically identified by the PI as pertaining to: a) the post-colonial, globalizing problematic of the field, and consequent limitations; b) the cultural specificity, or otherwise, of mental illness; c) the overlap of transcultural psychiatry with identity politics, including new “illness identities”; d) the border disputes, and traffic, between psychiatric and religious ideas and practices; e) the unity of transcultural psychiatry, and its wider social and political commentary; f) the clinical aptitudes motivated by cultural accounts of mental health.

Further information:

A Case Study (PDF) of this AHRC Science in Culture Theme Exploratory Award is available to download here.

Is Transcultural Psychiatry ‘corned beef’ to the humanities? AHRC Science in Culture Theme blog post

Project dates: February- August 2012