SEED Seminar and Book Launch: China Mills Seminar, Feb 24 (University of Manchester)

Tuesday February 25th, 3 – 4:45
SEED Seminar and Book Launch
‘“Maps that precede the territory”: Simulacra and the global ‘reality’ of mental health’

China Mills (OPHI),
with a Discussion led by Suman Fernando
Room B4.3, Ellen Wilkinson Building, 3-4.45pm (with refreshments), School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester.

To ‘make mental health for all a reality’ is the aim of the Movement for Global Mental Health and the World health Organization, as they call to scale up access to psychiatry, and the medications it prescribes, to countries of the global South. This sits alongside an increasing focus within international development on the subjective experiences of, and psychosocial dimensions of, poverty. In this talk I explore how ‘mental illness’ is made a reality in countries of the global South, via a particular focus on India, through the mapping of prevalence of ‘mental illness’ globally, and through the everyday work of non-governmental organisations – quietly, on the streets. How do these maps, as part of the move to visualise ‘data’, divert our attention from who made the map, from where that data comes from, from whose worldview is at the centre of the map, and from what knowledge lies at the edges?

This talk will explore how this mapping entangles with the mapping of other hemispheres, in the ever hopeful search for ‘mental illness’ inside brains, and how the trope of the brain enables psychiatry to embark on a biosocial journey across geographical borders, deep inside populations of the global South. As diagnostic tools developed in the global North are transposed onto countries of the global South, other maps could be drawn, of the erasures of ‘other’ and local ways of knowing, and the projections, inscriptions and encodings of local idioms and socio-economic contexts in which distress is embedded, into psychiatric diagnoses of ‘illness’ treatable by drugs. Like the maps these tools are used to create, I suggest theyproduce a chemical reality for the pharmaceutically ‘untapped markets’ of the global South.

Join us for the launch of China’s new book Decolonizing Global Mental Health: The Psychiatrization of the Majority World (Routledge, 2014). All very welcome!

Dr China Mills is a researcher at Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), at the Oxford Department of International Development. China is interested in exploring the increasingly global entanglements of colonialism, psychiatry, poverty and the pharmaceutical industry.


Suman Fernando is Visiting Professor, in the Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities, London Metropolitan University. Now mainly retired, he was formerly Senior Lecturer in Mental Health, European Centre for Migration & Social Care (MASC), University of Kent, and Consultant Psychiatrist, Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield, Middlesex. He was Consultant to the Trauma and Global Health Programme (1998-11), Consultant to the World Health Organisation Mental Health and Substances Dependence department (1986-95) and Chair of the Mental Health Act Commission’s standing committee on race and culture. A key figure in the Transcultural Psychiatry Society (UK), his current focus is on co-ordinating an inquiry into the ‘schizophrenia’ label.


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