2022 | Culture & Community Mental Health Speaker Series


Date Speaker Title
December 8 Marc Winz, PhD Urban stress and physiological arousal in early psychosis: a biosocial approach
October 13 Les Sabiston, PhD “He has the ‘look’”: The social meanings and political effects of an FASD diagnosis
March 17 Patrick Bieler

Urban mental health beyond social relationships?

Encountering as a heuristic for co-laborative interdisciplinary engagements between anthropology and psychiatry

March 10

Roy Richard Grinker, PhD

Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness

February 24 Grégoire Hervouet-Zeiber, PhD

“Finding Oneself in Civilian Life”: The Homeless Laughter of a Veteran of the Second Chechen War




Marc Winz 


Marc Winz is a Junior Lecturer in the Institute of Geography at the University of Neuchâtel.




Leslie Sabiston


“He has the ‘look’”: The social meanings and political effects of an FASD diagnosis  

In this presentation I will provide some ethnographic descriptions on how Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is diagnosed within a gamut of clinical, legal, and other social fields in order to try and make sense of how and why this diagnosis is tied almost exclusively to Indigenous peoples in Canada. With anthropological attention to relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, this presentation will focus on the ways that this diagnostic travels between different social and institutional registers through shared cultural and political forms of apprehension – from the scientific measurements of facial and physiological dysmorphia, to legal and criminological modes of categorizing and accounting for abnormal behavior, to anthropological discourses on what constitutes Indigeneity, to everyday social forms of recognition in which Indigenous youth are both captured and expelled by domestic desires and familial fantasies of love. By exploring the social, structural, epistemic, and phenomenological harmonies that enable this diagnostic mode of apprehension to travel so seamlessly between different social registers and spaces, this paper also explores the implications of these anthropological claims for thinking about the forms of recognition and apprehension in contemporary projects of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.  


Les Sabiston is Métis from Selkirk, Manitoba, which is also known in Cree as Aswahonanihk (Place where you cross the river). He is an assistant professor of Anthropology at McGill University, teaching at the discipline’s juncture with Indigenous Studies. In his research and teaching, Les seeks to develop new anthropological frameworks from which to think of European-Settler encounter with peoples of the Western hemisphere, and to develop ethnographic tools and sensibilities that can perceive how this complex historical-political event is continually rehearsed and structured within various social forms of relation, individual embodiments, practices and patterns of reason, and habits of emotion and affect.



Patrick Bieler 


Against the backdrop of increasing worldwide urbanization, the need for interdisciplinary joint work between psychiatry and the social sciences has become ever more apparent. Psychiatric research has established a causal relationship between urban life and mental illnesses (especially schizophrenia) (Lederbogen et al. 2011; Vassos et al. 20112). This has motivated anthropologists, sociologists and human geographers to simultaneously draw on and move beyond Foucauldian inspired deconstructive critique of psychiatric institutions and knowledge production to establish modes of collaboration in which social scientists connect meaningfully to psychiatric questions while participating equally with their core competences (Bieler/Niewöhner 2018; Fitzgerald et al. 2016; Rose 2019; Söderström et al. 2016). In this presentation, I will substantiate these methodological developments with anthropological concept work to establish the conditions for a productive engagement between the disciplines.

Psychiatry is increasingly interested in how urban environments ‘get under the skin’ (Galea/Link 2011; Winz 2018), thereby going beyond a strict biomedical focus on individual biology and lifestyle. Yet, contrasted with theoretical reflections in anthropology, the variable-based approach is characterized by a distinction between humans and environmental ‘factors’, and a focus on ‘the social’ (Manning 2019), understood as broad social processes that shape and are mediated by mostly meaningful, tight-knit social relations between humans. Neither simply discarding nor reifying these findings, I take them as starting points to unpack questions that have been so far unanswered: How is ‘the urban’ constituted in practice, how important are seemingly ‘absent’ social contacts, how do humans embody emergent environments in everyday life, and which more-than human aspects are central to these processes?

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with mental health care clients and providers in Berlin, Germany, I have introduced and refined the notion of the encounter as an analytic that sensitizes the research focus to everyday activities, fleeting relations, ephemeral moments and intangible atmospheric conditions in and of urban life (Bieler 2021). This concept work does not simply aim at filling psychiatric blind spots with ethnographic means, however, but pose more fundamental questions regarding the ontology of mental health and the city as well as the relations between nature and culture, the ’biological’ and ‘the social’, human and environment. These imply consequences not only for psychiatric research, but also demand shifts within ethnographic practice and anthropological reasoning. Currently, I am translating these sensitivities into a more systematically structured, coherent research design in the co-laborative research project “Mind the City!”. In the remainder of the presentation, I will present the basic ideas of the design, discuss preliminary research findings from a first round of interviews and reflect on the possible routes future research in the domain of urban mental health might take as well as what challenges need to be further addressed.


Patrick Bieler is a postdoctoral fellow in the Institute of European Ethnology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where he has recently defended his PhD thesis. Currently, he is conducting research in one Berlin neighborhood as part of the co-laborative research project “Mind the City!” (funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – 427092996). His main interests are Social Anthropology of Science and Technology, Medical Anthropology, Urban Anthropology and Human-Environment Relations.




Roy Richard Grinker 


In this presentation on his new book Nobody’s Normal (W.W. Norton), Roy R. Grinker argues that stigma is a social process that can be explained through cultural history, a process that began the moment we defined mental illnesses and disabilities. But because stigma is not grounded in nature we have the power to eradicate it. Though the legacies of shame and secrecy are still with us today, Grinker argues that we are at the cusp of ending the marginalization of those who have for so long been deemed "abnormal." Grinker infuses this lecture with the personal history of his family’s four generations of involvement in psychiatry, including his grandfather’s analysis with Sigmund Freud, his own daughter’s experience with autism, and his own research on neurodiversity.


Roy Richard Grinker is Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Grinker was born and raised in Chicago where his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father worked as psychoanalysts. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1983 and received his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at Harvard University in 1989. He is the author of Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness (NY: W.W. Norton, January 2021), Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism (NY: Basic Books), In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin M. Turnbull (Chicago: University of Chicago), Korea and its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War (NY: St. Martin’s), and Houses in the Rainforest: Ethnicity and Inequality among Farmers and Foragers in Central Africa (Berkeley: University of California). He is co-editor of Perspectives on Africa: Culture, History, and Representation (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell) and Companion to the Anthropology of Africa (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell). Grinker was a 2008 recipient of the National Alliance on Mental Illness KEN award for “outstanding contribution to the understanding of mental illness” and the 2010 recipient of the American Anthropological Association’s Anthropology in the Media award for “communication of anthropology to the general public through the media.”





Grégoire Hervouet-Zeiber


Grégoire Hervouet-Zeiber is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. Before joining McGill, Grégoire earned a PhD in anthropology from Johns Hopkins University. His work focuses on the ethical and political commitments of veterans of war and active combatants in contemporary Russia.



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