Spring 2024

Culture, Affect, and Psychiatry

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as ANTH-310


Christopher T. Dole (Section 01)


This seminar draws on readings from medical and psychological anthropology, cultural psychiatry, and science studies to examine mental health and illness as a set of subjective experiences, social processes, and objects of knowledge and intervention. The course invites students to think through the complex relationships between categories of psychiatric knowledge, techniques of clinical practice, and the subjectivities of persons living with mental illness. The course will take up such questions as: Does mental illness vary across social, cultural, and historical contexts? How does the language of psychopathology, and the clinical setting of its use, affect people’s experience of psychological and emotional suffering? What novel forms of care, as well as neglect, have emerged with the “pharmaceuticalization” of psychiatry? How does contemporary psychiatry articulate a distinctive relationship between affect and power? These questions, among others, will be examined through richly contextualized ethnographic and historical writings, literary accounts, clinical studies, and films. The course will emphasize a comparative approach, as it explores the ways that anthropologists have struggled to examine mental illness and mental health in a cross-cultural perspective.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor C. Dole.

How to handle overenrollment: Priority will be given to seniors and majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on readings, written work, and independent research.

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Vita Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, Updated with a New Afterword and Photo Essay Biehl Amherst Books TBD
The Pastoral Clinic Addiction and Dispossession along the Rio Grande Garcia Amherst Books TBD
A Time of Lost Gods Mediumship, Madness, and the Ghost after Mao Ng Amherst Books TBD
Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power Han Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.