Current Institutional Affiliation
Project Coordinator, National HIV Behavioral Surveillance, NO/AIDS Task Force

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1998
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Harvard University
Ethnography of Trauma, Shock, and Stress in Vietnam

I intend to conduct a multi-site comparative ethnographic investigation of mental illness in Vietnam, principally focusing on three categories of experience: psychological trauma, shock and stress, which are commonly grouped together and have emerged as significant causal factors of mental illness during the past four decades in Vietnamese culture. I will investigate how mental illness associated with the above categories is conceptualized and treated within both Vietnamese institutional psychiatry as well as in noninstitutional popular culture. My research in psychiatric wards and in a rural village community will examine the interaction between institutional psychiatry and local communities as revealed through lived experiences of individuals suffering from mental illnesses in which trauma, shock, and stress are implicated in Vietnam, referred to in the institutional setting as the neurotic illnesses and locally by a variety of names such as love sickness and hysteria. My resulting dissertation will be a multi-faceted cultural account of trauma, shock, and stress that reflects local, institutional, and international histories that tell the story of Vietnamese psychiatry from its founding to the ethnographic present in the context of worldwide expansion of psychiatry. In my dissertation, institutional and noninstitutional narratives will provide landscapes that reflect the blending of local notions of mental illness based in Eastern medicine, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and animism with international psychiatric theories and classifications. My work will reveal a whole other perspective on the longstanding effects of war and other critical events on the psyche, in a culture with a very different moral, political, religious and economic context from America.