Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, University of London / School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Science and Technology Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Alternative Genealogies of Psychiatric Selves

I propose to create datasets and analyze the dramatic rise in psychiatric discourses and formation of "psychiatric selves", both in self-understandings, and by the rebuilding of the profession of psychiatry in post-war Iran. Drawing on a genealogy of how psychiatry and psychiatric debates went from marginalized (by Islamists and Marxist ideologies of 1979 revolution) to rationalized and promoted in 1990s, I attend to the emerging psychiatric languages adopted in daily lives, artistic expressions, professional debates, and popular culture; also to psychiatrically informed ways of perceiving self, society, suffering, and modernity. Western theorists frequently focus on psychiatry's emergence in terms of institutions, or neuro-biological hegemonies. Instead, using anthropological concepts of biosociality and therapeutic and biological citizenship, I propose a theory of "psychiatric-consciousness," that explores and contextualizes alternative and discursive processes through which people internalize psychiatric discourses for articulating social disaffection and fashioning post-rupture subjectivities. Critically examining biopolitical explanations, and through ethnographic fieldwork with medical and non-medical communities, I hypothesize that war trauma, sanctions, sociopolitical restrictions, poor public/mental health infrastructure (hence over-medication), and generational gaps in emotional languages of suffering and selfhood, together with media that turned previously taboo mental health topics into everyday public speech, fostered this shift. Informed by anthropological and STS debates on medicalization, disciplinary formations, and post-traumatic subjectivity and suffering, this historically-informed ethnography suggests alternative genealogies for psychiatric selves. Using my situated knowledge as an Iranian doctor, writer, anthropologist, I develop an ethnographic understanding of these changes through interviews, participant-observation, and cultural analysis.