2017 Advanced Study Institute

Division of Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University

Advanced Study Institute in Cultural Psychiatry

Pluralism and Polarization:
Cultural Dynamics of Extremism and Radicalization

June 20 - 22, 2017
Montreal, Québec

The Division organizes an annual one week institute for advanced study of current issues in cultural psychiatry. The program is directed to scholars, researchers and clinicians currently working on a specific theme which changes each year.

Advanced Study Institute Conference and Workshop (June 20 - 22, 2017)

PDF icon 2017 ASI Conference Program

Recent years have seen an increase in ideological extremism in many countries around the world. There is widespread concern about increasing levels of politically or religiously motivated violence. In some cases, this involves a deliberate process of radicalization and recruitment designed to attract youth to join ongoing conflicts or carry out destructive acts in their regions. In other cases, individuals who are socially marginalized or struggling with mental health problems are impelled toward violence by images and ideologies circulating through popular or social media. Efforts are underway in many countries to address the problem of radicalization to violence. Some have advocated for public health approaches to understanding and intervening to prevent radicalization, but medicalizing social and political problems carries its own risks. Others have focused on building relationships within communities to reach marginalized groups and individuals. The impact of anxieties about radicalization goes far beyond the response to specific conflicts. In Europe and North America, concerns with security have fuelled the rise of authoritarianism and the polarization of political debate on immigration and multiculturalism. This international conference and workshop will bring together scholars from cultural psychiatry, psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology to consider the role of psychopathology, social dynamics, and cultural contexts on political radicalization to violent extremism. Participants will address four broad themes: 1) current meanings and uses of the term radicalization; 2) social determinants, origins and dynamics of violent radicalization and extremism, including individual psychology, family dynamics, microsocial and macrosocial structural and historical forces associated with colonization, globalization and contemporary political, economic and security issues; 3) radicalization in social and cultural context, with cases studies from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas; and 4) community prevention and clinical intervention to reduce the risk of violent radicalization and promote pluralism and social integration.

Guest Faculty
Neil Krishnan Aggarwal, Kamaldeep Bhui, Gilles Bibeau, Heidi Ellis, Ghayda Hassan, Sushrut Jadhav, Abdelwahed Mekki-Barada

McGill Faculty
Jaswant Guzder, Myriam Denov, G. Eric Jarvis, Laurence J. Kirmayer, Myrna Lashley, Ronald Niezen, Cécile Rousseau, Daniel Weinstock

Selected papers from the ASI will appear in a thematic issue of Transcultural Psychiatry: http://tps.sagepub.com

Selected recordings and abstracts below:


Introduction: Pluralism and Polarization

Laurence J. Kirmayer - Pluralism and Polarization: Antinomies of Mind and the Eclipse of Human Rights in a Globalizing World


Muhammad Fraser-Rahim - The Making of American Islam and the emergence of Western Islamic Intellectual Thought to Prevent Violent Extremism: A Case Study of American Muslim Revivalist, Imam W.D. Mohammed (1933-2008)

This paper explores the intersection of Islamic reform, identity and religious pluralism in the West. Imam W.D. Mohammed led the largest mass conversion of indigenous American Muslims to mainstream Islam, and rejected his fathers divisive teachings to develop a global Muslim movement. In this 50 year counter-radicalization effort in America, Imam W.D Mohammed channeled real and/or perceived frustrations based on the racial climate in America, and channeled resentment through the legal and political institutions of the country. Furthermore, the communities innovative techniques articulated by the late Imam W.D Mohammed rooted in classical Islam, has created immunity within its membership and has not produced a single member who has joined a transnational terrorist movement. Lastly, the model employed by this Imam can serve in other Western democracies throughout the world, and continues to produce members who are doctors, sports figures, entertainers, military veterans, congressmen and ordinary law abiding citizens who promote pluralism and inter-faith dialogue.


Carola Tize - To be ‘Tolerated’ for Decades: The Intergenerational Effects of Temporary Protection Amongst Palestinian Refugees in Berlin

This paper examines the intergenerational effects of long-term ‘toleration’ (Duldung), the temporary protection status given to a large population of Palestinian refugees in Germany. On the one hand, the status provided important humanitarian relief for Palestinians escaping the dismal conditions of the refugee camps, as well as the civil war in Lebanon in in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. On the other hand, Duldung subjected young families seeking safety to continuous and long standing insecurity through constant threats of deportation and detention. This paper highlights how parents’ fears for the safety of their family has affected how second generation children view and socially navigate their environment. Nineteen months of ethnographic research contextualize the story of one ‘typical’ family in their quest to find security amidst the large Palestinian communities in Berlin - all sharing the same fate of long lasting liminality, and constant wavering between hope and disillusionment. The intergenerational perspective provides insight into how structural elements influence everyday life and parenting, and sub- sequentially, how youths negotiate and view their futures. For the youths, the effects of Duldung contribute to distrust, fear, and feelings of rejection from their host country. The paper concludes that the simmering discontent in a large refugee collective with a lack of future perspective and feelings of hopelessness, has left a possible pool for reactive ethnicities, and fertile grounds contributing to polarization.


Gilles Bibeau & Keira Mecheri - Theopathology at the Interface Between Extreme Ideologies and Religious Fanaticism: Psychic and Social Defenses in the Face of Hate Discourses and Practices

In a globalized world in which the figure of the other tends to be erased as a principle of differentiation, extremist ideologies tend to interweave religion with politics, and appear to be more and more enmeshed in discourses/practices of fanaticism. Clinicians and social scientists have disclosed the destructive effects of violent engagements in the psyche of certain individuals and in the functioning of societies. They have also demonstrated that extreme ideologies infiltrate the thinking of both the dominant and the excluded, and constitute a trap from which nobody can escape. Two sets of data will serve as a basis for thinking about psychic and social defense mechanisms: first, the results of field studies conducted in Middle East, Maghreb and Europe among violent groups of youth: and second, the discussion of a few clinical cases of youngsters who have engaged in violent activities. The notion of theopathology will serve as a key category for understanding both the anthropological and psychological data.




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