Article written by 2008 DPDF Muslim Modernities Fellow and 2009 IDRF Fellow Orkideh Behrouzan:
I explore the historical and cultural shifts that underlie the normalization of the term dépréshen and the emergence of public psychiatric discourses in 1990s Iran. I do this by investigating the cultural sensibilities of a particular generation, the self-identified 1980s generation, and the ways they situate what is perceived as dépréshen in social anomie and the memories of the Iran–Iraq war. I argue that psychiatrization of psychological distress in Iran was not simply a de-politicizing hegemonic biomedical discourse, but that the contemporary Iranian discourses of psychological pathology and social loss evolved in public, hand-in-hand, through the medicalization of post-war loss. Psychiatric subjectivity describes conditions where individuals internalize psychiatry as a mode of thinking, and performatively articulate not only their desires, hopes, and anxieties, but also historical losses as embodied in individual and collective brains. I underscore my interlocutors’ simultaneous historicization and medicalization of their dépréshen, arguing that psychiatrically medicalized individuals are performative actors in the discursive formation of both biomedical and social truth. Dépréshen, in the larger sense of the word, has become one way to navigate ruptured pasts, slippery presents, and uncertain futures.