Rethinking Resilience

The Discourses of Resilience, ‘Enculturation’ and Identity in Aboriginal Mental Health Research

Dr. Tara L. Holton (McGill University)
Gregory M. Brass (McGill University)
Dr. Laurence J. Kirmayer (McGill University)

Resilience, a construct connoting the ability to adjust positively or recover easily in the face of adversity, is increasingly applied to mental health research and practice regarding Aboriginal populations. Such research seeks to identify protective factors involved in resilience, such as culture, family, and personal characteristics, as well as how these factors contribute to an individual’s positive adaptation. Prevention strategies are aimed at promoting and sustaining resilience among Aboriginal youth and within Aboriginal communities though increasing the proportion of Aboriginal peoples who experience factors deemed protective. While the concept of resilience has received a variety of criticisms in the general literature in recent years (Luthar, Chicchetti and Becker, 2000), there has been little critique of the construct of resilience as it is applied to Aboriginal populations. As part of a larger project examining concepts of resilience among indigenous peoples, this paper focuses on the use of the concept of ‘enculturation,’ in recent literature on resilience among Aboriginal peoples. The view of culture implicit in the concept of enculturation is at odds with current anthropological thinking and has specific implications for thinking about the role of identity in the challenging situations faced by many indigenous peoples.


Back to top