11. April – 14. April 2023
Panel at the ASA 2023 conference „An unwell world? Anthropology in a speculative mode” in London
Please note that this call for papers closes on 3rd January 2023.
Convenors: Liana Chase (Durham University) and David Mosse (SOAS)
This panel explores some of the tensions inherent in efforts to harness the therapeutic benefits of human sociality within mental healthcare systems. It invites ethnographic work on models of care that emphasize human connection over psychiatric expertise (e.g., lay counselling, peer support).
Uncertainty over the medical model of mental illness continues to grow, including scepticism that distress is best handled by medical experts through the treatment of discrete diagnosable disorders. The importance of the quality of therapeutic relationships in explaining outcomes is increasingly well established, supporting models of care that give primacy to fostering human connection within – and beyond – the clinical setting. In recent years, this recognition of relationships as an ‘active ingredient’ in mental health treatment has intersected with global shortages of trained clinicians to open up more space for ’non-medical’ and ’non-professional’ interactions within care delivery. In the Global North, this has involved the introduction of peer and lay roles as well as (re)training clinicians to cultivate more mindful, empathetic, and ‘human’ relationships with clients. The Global South has seen a proliferation of interventions relying on lay counsellors and community workers, whose social embeddedness within the neighbourhoods they serve is recognized as a therapeutic asset.
This panel explores some of the tensions inherent in efforts to harness the therapeutic benefits of human sociality within mental healthcare systems, considering the ways the ‚human’ and the ‚clinical’ come to be defined in relation and juxtaposition to one another. How does the operationalization of relationships as therapeutic tools with measurable outcomes alter the terms and qualities of relatedness? What codified rules come to bear on such relationships, and how do these interact with everyday social norms? What relational ethics is implied, and what kinds of moral laboratories are brought into being?
Dr Liana E. Chase (she/her)
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Durham University
Co-Investigator, Transformation in Mental Healthcare: An Anthropological Study of Supported Open Dialogue (http://anthropology-opendialogue.org/)