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SfAA 2014 Call for Papers: “Measuring Mental Health Across Cultures: Insights from Anthropology”

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce a session for the upcoming Society for Applied Anthropology annual meeting in Albuquerque, March 18-22, 2014, on anthropological contributions to global mental health research. We seek session participants whose work addresses diverse methodological and theoretical aspects of measuring of mental health around the world. The session abstract is pasted below. If interested in participating, please submit an abstract of 100 words (SFAA’s limit) to: BEFORE OCTOBER 1. Submissions will receive a decision by October 7.

We look forward to your contributions!

Lesley Jo Weaver and Bonnie Kaiser

Department of Anthropology
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322



SFAA 2014 Annual Meeting
March 18-22, 2014, Albuquerque

Do people around the world experience distress differently?

The recent emphasis on global mental health within public health research, policy, and practice has been heralded as a great step toward ameliorating global health inequities. Yet, the path toward this destination is not without obstacles. In particular, critical health scholars from a range of disciplines have drawn attention to the ethical and practical dangers of “medical imperialism” inherent in many efforts to apply Western-derived psychiatric measurement tools in cultural contexts where such diagnostic categories have limited meaning. In response to this critique, medical and psychological anthropologists have developed methods to measure mental health in locally relevant ways. This session explores the myriad challenges associated with cross-cultural measurement of mental health and illness – with its attendant tensions between local relevance and international comparability – and explores potential solutions from an anthropological perspective.

Drawing on examples from original research in a wide range of global contexts, the papers in this session critically explore the process and outcomes of global mental health research. Papers will showcase a range of theoretical approaches and methods that anthropologists have used to understand mental health and illness across cultural contexts. Collectively, presenters will explore the following:  1) The longstanding debate in global mental health research about the importance of locally relevant measures versus globally comparative measures; 2) The historic development of global mental health as a field of research and policy concern; 3) Novel methods for measuring mental health cross culturally; and 4) Policy implications of social scientists’ work in global mental health.

This session aims to advance applied anthropology by addressing, in a constructive fashion, the challenges associated with cross-cultural comparison of the deeply personal and inevitably cultural experiences of distress. With time for discussion and debate, this session welcomes participation from audience members on questions about the nature of human distress, the benefits and drawbacks of global mental health interventions, and the cross-cultural validity of psychiatric disease categories.

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