Episode 23 Psychiatric Culture Clashes with Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster

Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster (photo courtesy of Dr. Reyes-Foster)

Medical Anthropologist Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster returns, this time to discuss her experiences researching a psychiatric hospital in Mexico, looking at how culture shapes the diagnoses, care, and outcomes of mental illness.

How is mental illness cultural? Medical Anthropologists have long demonstrated how a phenomenon categorized as a disorder, like schizophrenia, is understood and experienced very differently from culture to culture. How the illness is viewed in society, what support structures are available, and which ideologies dominate, such as individuality or the importance of family, all play roles in how a person with illness is treated. When these circumstances are situated in a location where the history of colonialism continues to dominate the lives and identities of indigenous patients, what is often narrowly defined as mental health becomes an issue of national economic, race, and identity systems.

Dr. Reyes-Foster documents how staff at a mental hospital in the Yucatan in Mexico struggle to be human in inhumane conditions, which are set from on high at a governmental level, the results of contemporary politics and the long-standing impacts of colonialism.


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For more information on Dr. Reyes-Foster:

Dr. Reyes-Foster’s university bio and cv: https://sciences.ucf.edu/anthropology/person/beatriz-reyes-foster/

Dr. Reyes-Foster’s previous podcast episode with AOTS: Episode 2 Breast Milk Sharing and “Good” Mommies with Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster

For more information on materials referenced in this episode:

Dr Reyes-Foster’s book:Psychiatric Encounters: Madness and Modernity in Yucatan, Mexico

A blog post series on Trauma and Resilience co-organized by Dr. Reyes-Foster and Rebecca Lester for Anthrodendum: https://anthrodendum.org/author/trauma-and-resilience/

Podcast episode with Dr. Reyes-Foster and Rebecca Lester for Anthropod about mental health in and of anthropology: https://culanth.org/fieldsights/anthropology-and-of-mental-health-1

Anthropology of Mental Health Interest Group website: http://amhig.medanthro.net

Other works referenced in this episode:

Yucatan, Mexico (Image by aiworldexplore from Pixabay)

Frantz Fanon’s “zone of being and non-being” in Black Skin, White Masks.

Orin Starn’s book on Ishi and his legacy: Ishi’s Brain: In Search of Americas Last “Wild” Indian

Byron Good’s summation of the Anthropology of Biomedicine: Medicine, Rationality and Experience: An Anthropological Perspective

Tanya Luhrmann Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry

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