Externalized Pathology and Internalized Identity « Flexner Book Club Blog

Below, I link to an article by Jessica Lee that relates to refugees and mental health. I think this is a huge issue and I applaud Lee for the challenge that she is issuing to health care providers who find themselves treating refugees. I certainly believe she is on the right track. Typical Western psychological diagnoses probably miss the mark in refugee cases. Lee suggests insights derived from Freud which effectively pushes back against a overly simplistic diagnosis such as anxiety or depression. However, Freudian analyses should be expected to likewise fall short as they too arise from a specifically Western cultural context. Western sociologists and psychologists will have a hard time fully grasping what’s going on with refugees as long as they don’t wrestle well with the specific anthropological and diasporological dynamics relevant to their cases. For example, Lee's article doesn’t make mention of survival and dependency issues and the male-emasculating effects of camp life. There is no mention of the influence of folk Hinduism, high-context communication, or social collectivism on Bihan’s situation. So again, I think she is on to something and I applaud it. Health professionals must be challenged to go deeper and think more critically about these cases if wellness is truly desired. Of course, as is often the case (wink, wink), getting a missiologist to weigh in on things can just really help everyone all around.

Externalized Pathology and Internalized Identity « Flexner Book Club Blog: "Externalized Pathology and Internalized Identity
by Jessica Lee
I work with refugees in Philadelphia. Butler’s chapter Melancholy Gender/Refused Identification makes me reconceptualize my clients’ struggles in the resettlement process. Butler expands on Freud’s idea of melancholia into a discussion of melancholic incorporation, arguing that identity results from disavowed grief. She states, “the lost object is, in that sense, made coextensive with the ego itself” (p. 247). Many of the refugees I encounter exhibit melancholia—where they are “unwilling to avow and hence grieve” the loss of their homeland. For these refugees, perhaps melancholia is what enables them to internalize their national identity."

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