Border Children: Interpreting Autism Spectrum Disorder in South Korea Grinker 2013 Ethos Wiley Online Library

Border Children: Interpreting Autism Spectrum Disorder in South Korea Grinker 2013 Ethos Wiley Online Library.

The Culture of Mental Health in a Changing Oaxaca [dissertation]

Whitney L. Duncan, PhD (link to updated contact info at University of Northern Colorado)

Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology

University of California, San Diego, 2012

Professor Janis H. Jenkins, Chair

Abstract: This dissertation examines the causes and consequences of the recent growth in Euroamerican mental health practice in Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest and most ethnically diverse states with a thriving tradition of indigenous medicine. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in Oaxaca City and the Mixteca region, I explore how and why mental health services have grown so dramatically; what they consist of and what discourses they promote; for what problems they are being utilized; and what impacts they are having in the region.

In so doing, I advance a number of central claims. First and most broadly, I argue that Oaxaca is experiencing a shift in its culture of mental health, one in which globalizing conceptions and practices are taking hold and impacting understandings of illness, self, and social relations. Social problems such as migration and violence are increasingly dealt with in the clinical setting as matters of mental health, and concepts such as trauma, stress, self-esteem, and self-expression are gaining traction throughout the state. Secondly, I argue that mental health professionals themselves are integral to these broader shifts. As conduits of the global attempting to mold the local, practitioners’ enterprise goes well beyond the provision of treatment: I show how they are actively attempting to foment culture change in the region. Representations of ‘culture’—which practitioners view as incompatible with mental health and with modern forms of subjectivity—are central to this project. Finally, community members do not merely absorb these globalizing concepts; rather, they actively engage with and alter them on the ground. Thus the expansion of Euroamerican mental health practice is not simply a homogenizing process, but one in which globalizing concepts articulate with local meaning systems to generate novel social practices, experiences, and self-understandings.

As a fine-grained ethnographic analysis of social and cultural change, the dissertation (1) advances social scientific theory on the reciprocal relationships between global trends, cultural discourse, professional practice, and individual experience; (2) provides qualitative data on health ideologies, disparities, and access to treatment in marginalized communities; and (3) contributes to anthropological and cross-disciplinary scholarship on culture, mental health, and globalization.

“Redeeming diagnosis in psychiatry: Timing vs. specificity” (Lancet Viewpoint)

Patrick McGorry (University of Melbourne) and Jim van Os (Maastricht University) propose a clinical staging model for psychiatry in the Jan 26, 2013 issue of the Lancet (link).

2013 International Cultural Neuroscience Consortium Conference Program (May 10–12, 2013)

We’re looking forward to the first meeting of ICNC (May 10–12, 2013) at Northwestern. Speakers include two CBDMH affiliated faculty – Xavier Cagigas and Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang of the Culture, Neuroscience and Psychosis) research group. For more information about the conference visit

Tentative Program

May 10-12, 2013

Day 1 – May 10, 2013

Population health disparities and global mental health

    • Dr. Pamela Collins, NIMH Office on Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health
    • Prof. Joanna Asia Maselko, Duke University
    • Prof. Lawrence Yang, Columbia University
    • Prof. Kevin Wu, National Taiwan University

Welcome Reception and Poster Session

Day 2 – May 11, 2013

Methodological issues in cultural neuroscience

    • Prof. Malcolm Dow, Northwestern University
    • Prof. Todd Parrish, Northwestern University
    • Prof. Xavier Cagigas, UCLA
    • Prof. George Northoff, University of Ottowa
    • Prof. Jack van Honk and Dan Stein, University of Cape Town

Coffee Break

Cultural neuroscience of emotion

    • Prof. Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan
    • Prof. Mary-Helen Immordino-Yang, University of Southern California
    • Prof. Michio Nomura, Kyoto University
    • Prof. Tetsuya Iidaka, Nagoya University


Cultural neuroscience of cognition

    • Prof. Chuansheng Chen, University of California, Irvine
    • Prof. Angela Gutchess, Brandeis University
    • Prof. Steven Demorest, University of Washington
    • Prof. Judy Illes, University of British Columbia

Coffee Break

Cultural neuroscience of social cognition

    • Prof. Shihui Han, Peking University
    • Prof. Ying-yi Hong, Nanyang Technological University
    • Prof. Eva Telzer, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    • Prof. Beatrice de Gelder, Tilburg University



Day 3 – May 12, 2013

Cultural neuroscience of intergroup processes

    • Prof. Lasana Harris, Duke University
    • Dr. Bobby Cheon, Nanyang Technological University
    • Dr. Elizabeth Losin, University of Colorado Boulder
    • Prof. George Christopoulos, Nanyang Technological University

Coffee Break

Culture and genetics

    • Prof. Heejung Kim, University of California, Santa Barbara
    • Prof. Joni Sasaki, York University
    • Prof. Jamie Morris, University of Virginia
    • Prof. Turhan Canli, SUNY Stony Brook


NIH Funding Opportunities in Culture and Health

    • Dr. Bill Elwood (NIH Oppnet) and Dr. Pamela Collins (NIH Office of Disparities and Global Mental Health)

Coffee Break

Workshop Groups and Closing Remarks

Announcement: International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conference @UCLA

The next regional conference of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology will take place at UCLA on June 20–22, 2013 (the scientific organizing committee is co-chaired by Patricia Greenfield of UCLA and Steven Heine of UBC). The theme of the conference is “Culture in Psychology: Variation Within and Across National Borders.” For more information about the conference, please visit


Cultural Neuroscience
Jonathan Freeman, Dartmouth College
Shihui Han, Peking University
Eva Telzer, University of Illinois

Cultural Evolution
Patricia Greenfield, University of California, Los Angeles
Alex Masoudi, Durham University
Peter Richerson, University of California, Davis