Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Boston University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Boston University
The Micropolitics of Cultural Difference and Pluralism in Israel's Mental Health System

What can encounters between Israeli mental health care providers and patients tell us what it is like to live in a culturally and ethnoreligiously divided society, where the nature and implications of intercommunal differences are hotly contested? My research question approaches the problem of pluralism and coexistence by investigating the mental health treatment of patients from different cultural communities in Israel. Mental health settings are particularly privileged sites for such an inquiry because clinical encounters and narratives address multiple dimensions of difference, including race, nationality, religion, and ethnicity, in divergent and often contrasting ways. I aim to investigate the interplay between mental health care and pluralism from three distinct but interrelated angles: clinical encounters themselves; clinical narratives; and cultural competence training. In order to explore how differences along the main lines of division – between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, and between secular and religious Jews – may be reinforced, challenged, and temporarily transcended, I will combine participant-observation with semi-structured interviews, discourse analysis, and narrative analysis at five clinical and training sites in Israel. The data will be analyzed to elucidate how clinical knowledge and practice relating to cultural difference both reflect and are produced by conflicts in a heterogeneous society where the meanings of pluralism and tolerance are widely debated. At a larger level, my study can enrich anthropological and social theory by showing how the examination of the multiple lines of difference drawn, contested, and occasionally transcended during clinical encounters can inform our knowledge of the negotiation and perpetuation of difference in the larger sociopolitical arena in which they are embedded.