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Mental Health and the Brain: Working Group, August 3rd

Mental Health and the Brain Working Group:

August 3rd, Medical Anthropology
Synopsis and forum for continuing discussion

Thoughts welcomed in the on-line forum below.


Background for discussion
N. Scheper-Hughes and M.M. Lock (1987) The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 1(1):6-41.





Brie Stark's picture

I thought that the discussion

I thought that the discussion was very interesting, and it brought up several questions in my mind about the change of the correlation between labeling the individual as disabled and labeling the relationship.  If disability were a property of relationships, how would our society change?  In the individual model, if society influences “disabled” people (whereas our culture ‘cases’ autism or mental health disorders because those people cannot fit in with the culture) and vice versa (whereas society constructs a world which labels individuals, rather than relationships, as disabled), what plausible changes would come to be if we accepted this view of disabilities applying to the relationship and not the individual?  I believe that we would never completely free ourselves of the loop of needing to classify certain people as different; in the case of applying this new notion to relationships, I can only imagine that we would too place certain classifications upon relationships that we tend to not understand.  It is a common conception of humanity that we classify what we are ignorant to, in order to either feel more knowledgeable about the subject or to make it simpler to think about.  Even with this new change of labeling the relationship rather than the individual, I believe that there would always be new classification and a new “norm.”  The norm would change, since the concept changed from individual to relationship, but there would always be a “norm” because of the human tendency to classify differences (now in relationships) as flaws.

I wonder if it is easier to classify an individual rather than a relationship, which is why the classification of the individual has become so prevalent.  I tend to think that we prefer simplicity over gathering information or looking further, and with an individual, the concept is simpler than with an interacting relationship. 

On page 14, the authors say, “We think it reasonable to assume that all humans are endowed with a self-consciousness of mind and body, with an internal body image, and with what neurologists have identified as the proprioceptive or “sixth sense,” our sense of body self-awareness, of mind/body integration, and of being in the world as separate and apart from other human beings.”  How, then, did we come to differ in this way?  Do we place different emphasis on our conscious thoughts – ie, maybe we focus on the conscious as being a very individual entity while a more collectivized culture would tend to emphasize that their conscious thoughts revolve more around everything except themselves.  Why/hw were theses subjective outlooks created over the course of time?  Was it the concept of an idea that possibly spread throughout the culture?  If that is the case, it could’ve been the individual idea of one person that created a distinct “individual” culture and the voice of one individual that ultimately created a distinct “collectivized” culture.  It seems strange to think of this occurrence, but ultimately, an idea had to have formed and been acted upon to make these wide changes in how we perceive our conscious.


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