Shaping the Global Psyche: Colonialism, Transcultural Psychiatry and Global Mental Health

The aftermath of the Second World War resulted in the development of transcultural psychiatry, the shaping of a global psyche and new languages and terminology for speaking about suffering and mental illness. This workshop will explore the origins and development of the global psyche and global mental health (GMH). It examines historical, sociocultural and political aspects of the internationalisation of psychiatry. Specifically, the workshop focuses on mutual collaborations, interactions and frictions between psy-disciplines and local systems of healing, encouraging a broad debate on diagnostic categories and interventions and the role of experts and social actors. 

India will be regarded as a model site for investigation and experimentation in both colonial and postcolonial periods. After gaining political independence, India became a vital participant in the rapidly developing global networks of psychiatry and psychotherapy, and it remained an important site of global psychiatric research. For this workshop, India is an entry point to invoke discussions on the Global South.  It explores how India’s role as a laboratory of knowledge production has changed from the colonial to post-colonial periods. It will position India as a site of innovation and research in the field of mental health and examine the role played by Indian experts and institutions in negotiating bilateral dialogues between the Global North and South.

In this workshop, we will address broad questions such as:

  • What is the role of colonial frameworks in the emergence of (post-colonial) transcultural psychiatry and the global psyche? How can historians and ethnographers of colonial psychiatry help us understand the role of decolonisation in the development of psy disciplines?
  • How does the colonial past affect contemporary practices and experiences of illness, healing and care? How do  psy-disciplines and practitioners co-exist with or contest their colonial heritage? and how does this inform their expertise and understandings of self, culture and the mind?
  • What was the role of experts and knowledge producers from the Global South in the making of modern mental health sciences? How did local practices, contexts and networks shape, change and challenge the universalising language of modern psychiatry?
  • How did Western psychiatry deal with variegated cultural concepts, language and diagnosis in the non-Western setting? How were Western psy-narratives negotiated, contested, debated and appropriated in the diverse cultural and geographical locations?
  • What role did India's colonial past, strategic growth, and political stance play in the development of modern Indian psychiatry? Is it due to the network of exchange between men, material, and methods that India became an imperative site for South Asian investigation?
  • What was the role of global networks and connections and exchanges,  in the emergence of the GMH movement? How did psychiatrists and psy professionals negotiate their positions with the hegemonic frameworks of Western psychiatry?

We welcome and encourage transdisciplinary approaches to the questions asked, as well as interventions from anthropology, literary studies, mental health practice  and medical humanities, among others.  


Day 1

10:00-10:15 Introduction: Ana Antic (University of Copenhagen), Shilpi Rajpal (University of Copenhagen), Aparna Vaidik (Ashoka University). 

Panel 1

10:15-12:15 Global mental health: Tensions, challenges and reflexivity

Chair: Alok Sarin (Sitaram Bhartia)

  • Doerte Bemme (King’s College), Contingent universality in Global Mental Health; How techniques of malleability and mutuality make and re-make “mental health”
  • Claudia Lang (Universitat Leipzig), Encoding the global psyche: Digitization, universalism, agency
  • Manuel Capella (University of Guayaquil), Necropolitics and the limitations of hegemonic mental health ideology: making sense of the past to re-imagine the future

12:15-13:15 Lunch (IIC)

Panel 2

13:15-15:15 Therapeutic alternatives: Local concepts and challenges to the global psyche

Chair: Sanjeev Jain (NIMHAHS)

  • Debjani Das (Vidyasagar University), Locating Unmāda in Ayurveda during the Early Twentieth Century India
  • Anjana Bala (London School of Economics), Divine Trauma: Schizophrenia and Embodiment in South India
  • Cristian Montenegro (University of Exeter), Psychiatric rehabilitation between dictatorship and democracy: The case of the "protected commune" inside the El Peral Hospital, 1983-1989.

15:15-15:30 Coffee break

Panel 3

15:30-17:30 Localizing the global psyche: Psychiatric standardisation and reform in India 

Chair: Amar Farooqui (University of Delhi)

  • Sarah Ann Pinto (Victoria University, Wellington), ‘Carrying on with ‘Common-Sense’: Rebuffing reform in Bombay’s Lunatic Asylums, 1894-1933’
  • Shilpi Rajpal (University of Copenhagen), Psychiatry, Mental Hygiene and Colonisation in British India

19:30 Dinner TBA

Day 2

10:00-12:00 Walk in Shahjanabad

13:30-14:30 Lunch (IIC)

Panel 4

15:00-16:45 Globalising psychoanalysis 

Chair: Gabriel Abarca-Brown (University of Copenhagen)

  • Jonathan Sadowsky (Case Western Reserve), Repression, Resistance: Colonial and Anticolonial Currents in Psychoanalysis
  • Akshi Singh (University of Glasgow), Freud in the Colony

16:45-17:00 Coffee break

17:00-18:00 Round table: Community and mental health: Local voices and perspectives
Chair: Lamia Moghnieh (University of Copenhagen)
  • Neeraj Kumar (Ambedkar University)
  • Sanjoni Sethi (Clinical Psychologist)
  • Henna Faqrudheen (Psychotherapist)
  • Kavita Arora (Children’s First)

18:00-18:30 Concluding Remarks