Dr. Harry Yi-Jui Wu of National Cheng Kung University will discuss his book Mad by the Millions: Mental Disorders and the Early Years of the World Health Organization
The present COVID-19 pandemic and climate disasters triggered a new-found transcultural “commonality of mental suffering.” This shared distress mimics communal suffering under the devastation of World War II and its aftermath, when psychiatrists at the World Health Organization were committed to the idea of human universalism. Impacted by the notion of “world citizenship,” the zeal of standardization, and the promise of modern technology, the International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia emerged as the representative project in constructing the universality of mental illness. Their approach, however, ignored the culturally varying contents of suffering. While experts proposed to scale up mental health services under the new concept of Global Mental Health, Dr. Wu’s presentation will examine how culture was imagined and treated in transnational psychiatric research. It will also examine how unconscious biases could influence objectives or interpretations of concrete evidence, and in what ways evidence deemed persuasive might one day become questionable again when values changed.
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