Advanced Study Institute Videos


The Situated Brain: Culture, Context and Ecologies of Mind

Psychiatry has invested in neuroscience research in the hopes that brain research will provide better understanding and more effective approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Precision psychiatry aims to harness multi-omics, systems neuroscience and big data to generate predictive models that can advance psychiatric theory and clinical practice. To date, however this has continued to yield reductive approaches based on molecular, physiological or neural circuit dysfunction and corresponding pharmacological interventions. Recent work in cognitive science provides an alternate view of brain function as mediated by embodied, enacted, contextually embedded, and environmentally extended processes that constitute a social and cultural ecology of mind. What are the consequences of this ecological view of the brain for cultural psychiatry? Can these views help us rethink the place of neuroscience in an integrative, person-centered psychiatry? This Advanced Study Institute will explore the impact of these new views of mind, brain and person on our sense of self, psychiatric disorders, and processes of healing and adaptation. An interdisciplinary group of scholars will address questions at the intersection of cultural psychiatry, cognitive science and neuroscience, including: (1) ecological and 4E cognitive science views of the mind, brain and person; (2) impact of variations of culture and context on brain functioning and psychopathology; (3) incorporating social context and process in neuroscience research; and (4) translating neuroscience research into culturally informed mental health policy, systems and clinical practice.


Pluralism and Polarization: Cultural Dynamics of Extremism and Radicalization

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 and between 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 pluralism. This international conference and workshop will bring together scholars from cultural psychiatry, psychology, political and social sciences to consider the role of social dynamics, cultural contexts and psychopathology in 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.


Psychiatry for a Small Planet: Ecosocial Approaches to Global Mental Health

The view of earth from space provided by the Apollo mission in 1968 offered a new way of thinking about the planet as our shared home—a beautiful blue-green orb floating in space. In recent years, climate change, urbanization, mass migration, and the violence of global geopolitics have created new challenges and a more acute sense of the vulnerability of our planet. This planetary view exists in some tension with the perspective of globalization, which tends to focus on economic growth and development. This international conference and workshop will examine the implications for global mental health of the “anthropocene” in which our context of adaptation is dominated by human effects on the environment. Questions to be discussed will include: What ways of thinking about current global or planetary issues can promote empathy, equity and effective action? Does the notion of “planetarization” offer an alternative to globalization for thinking about geopolitical and ecological crises? What are the links between care of the planet and care of the self? What cultural values and practices can contribute to adaptation, flourishing and well-being in the face of the massive environmental and social changes that are on the horizon? Sessions will explore topics related to four themes: (1) rethinking the ethics, politics, and governance of global mental health “from the bottom up” to ensure the voice of diverse communities and stakeholders in addressing global health inequities; (2) the impacts of migration and urbanization on mental health; (3) the effects of climate change on the mental health of populations and communities; and (4) ecosocial approaches to mental health promotion of populations and communities. These interconnected processes are changing the configuration of social worlds, presenting new challenges to mental health and affording new possibilities for intervention. Presenters will examine the ways that ecosocial and ecosystemic approaches to health and illness can inform policies and practices that contribute to the treatment and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health and well-being.


The Arts in Cultural Psychiatry: Identity, Creativity and Transformation

Art plays a unique role in human experience both as an individual and social mode of expression and communal activity. All societies have traditions of fashioning objects, language, and performance in ways that serve to transmit culture, explore the world, entertain, and edify. Active engagement with the arts can transform suffering, give meaning to affliction and support recovery. This ASI will bring together artists, scholars, researchers, and professionals involved in mental health to discuss the role of the arts in cultural psychiatry. Art can be used to build and express individual and collective identity, as a creative process that yields new ways of experiencing the world, as a social and political intervention to critique or challenge existing frameworks, and as a modality for therapeutic interventions.  Sessions will explore topics related to several broad themes: (1) the nature of creative processes of invention, enactment and improvisation; (2) the role of the arts in constructing and expressing individual and collective identities; (3) art as a medium for articulating, understanding and coping with the experience of mental health and illness; (4) public, social or political uses of art to raise awareness and challenge marginality and oppression; (5) art making as a creative medium for therapeutic exploration, growth, and transformation; and (6) the uses of art in conflict resolution and mental health promotion.


The Politics of Diversity: Pluralism, Multiculturalism and Mental Health

Globalization is bringing new tensions and challenges to efforts to build multicultural and inclusive societies. In the name of secularism, neutrality or security, policies are being enacted that target the cultural, linguistic and religious identities and practices of minorities. Policies of multiculturalism and interculturalism that promised greater engagement with others are being challenged by appeals to the vulnerability of dominant groups and the need to reduce the threats of minorities who are portrayed as radical and divisive. This international conference and workshop will bring together scholars from cultural psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, political science, sociology and philosophy to explore basic questions including:

  • How does diversity contribute to mental health and well-being for individuals and communities?
  • How is the “other” constructed and what are the consequences of “othering” for recognition or discrimination and suppression of cultural values and practices?
  • What are the implications of recent challenges to multiculturalism and attacks on diversity in the public space for the health and well-being of populations?
  • How can mental health research, policy and practice address the challenge of social integration in culturally diverse societies?

Sessions will consider: (i) the social and political construction of the other; (ii) the psychology of “othering” and alterity with particular attention to gender; (iii) the relationship between diversity and mental health well-being; and (iv) strategies in mental health policy and practice to address the impact of social exclusion and respond to health disparities.


Mindfulness in Cultural Context

Recent years have seen the enthusiastic embrace of mindfulness meditation and other techniques drawn from Buddhism as therapeutic interventions in psychiatry. Buddhism is portrayed as a psychology closely akin to cognitive psychology. However, in the societies where it originated, Buddhism is a system of practice that has strong ethical and moral dimensions. How does extracting techniques like meditation from the tradition and social context in which they originate change the nature and effects of the practice? What is the relationship of these practices to everyday Buddhism as lived in Asian countries or by migrants to the West? How has the Westernization and psychologization of Buddhism and other contemplative traditions altered their meaning? What does contemporary cognitive neuroscience tell us about the nature of meditation and allied techniques? What are the implications of a cultural/contextual view for the continued dialogue between Buddhist thought and psychiatry? This workshop and conference will explore the nature of mindfulness meditation in cultural context. Sessions will address: (1) the varieties of mindfulness and its location in religious, spiritual and moral traditions including Buddhist philosophy and psychology; (2) cognitive neuroscientific research on meditation and mindfulness; (3) the meanings of mindfulness, meditation and related practices in cultural contexts both globally and in migrant populations; and (4) the uses of mindfulness as a therapeutic intervention in contemporary psychiatry and psychology.


Global Mental Health: Bridging the Perspectives of Cultural Psychiatry and Public Health

The emerging field of global mental health aims to address the enormous disparities in mental health outcomes that beset low and middle-income countries. A growing body of research has established mental health as a priority for global health research and intervention. Significant advances have been made in identifying targets and strategies for intervention. However, there continues to be controversy and debate about the appropriate methods for establishing priorities, research themes and approaches, and modes of developing and/or adapting interventions in global mental health. In particular, there are tensions between a public health approach grounded in current evidence-based practices (which are still largely produced in high-income countries) and a culturally-based approach that emphasizes starting with local priorities, problem definitions, community resources and solutions. The cultural critique of global mental health has raised basic issues that will be explored in this workshop and conference: (1) the priorities of global mental health have been largely framed by mental health professionals and their institutional partners located in wealthy countries, and therefore reflect the dominant interests of psychiatry and may give insufficient attention to local priorities; (2) global mental health tends to assume that the major psychiatric disorders are biologically determined and therefore universal; (3) in focusing on existing evidence-based treatments, global mental health assumes that standard treatments can be readily applied across cultures with minimal adaptation; and (4) global mental health tends to emphasize mental health interventions and may marginalize indigenous forms of helping, healing, and social integration that can contribute to positive outcomes and recovery. This workshop will bring together experts in cultural psychiatry and global mental health to consider ways of bridging these perspectives. Sessions will address four broad themes: (1) setting the agenda in global mental health; (2) understanding the relationship between local and universal aspects of mental health problems; (3) developing culturally and community-based interventions; and (4) implementing and evaluating culturally and community-based interventions to foster resilience and recovery. The aim of the workshop is to develop some consensus on a research program that integrates social, cultural, primary care and public health perspectives. The one-day conference will focus on ways to generate an ongoing constructive critique of the global mental health movement to insure its goals and methods are responsive to diverse cultural contexts and communities.






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