Psychic Intervention: The Crisis of Mental Health in Times of Disaster

- Aidan Seale-Feldman

Discussion Type: Research Seminar Series | Date: 10 Jul 2022 | Time: 03:00 PM


Research Seminar Series

Psychic Intervention: The Crisis of Mental Health in Times of Disaster

Aidan Seale-Feldman, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

Date, Time and Venue:
Sunday, July 10, 2022 (असार २६, २०७९)
03:00 – 04:30 PM (NPT)
Martin Chautari Seminar Hall, Thapathali, Kathmandu

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In the Spring of 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and 7.3 magnitude aftershock. Over 9,000 people died and half a million lost their homes. In response to the seismic rupture, humanitarian psychosocial projects arrived with funding to mitigate an emergent “mental health crisis” in a country where mental health had not yet been fully incorporated into the health care system. While many organizations focused on providing short-term psychosocial interventions, some humanitarians, inspired by the World Health Organization’s “Building Back Better” framework, used the crisis as an opportunity to imagine what the future of Nepal’s mental health system could become. This talk draws on ethnographic and archival research to place the emergence of a new “mental health crisis” and calls to “build back better” in the context of a longer history of donor-driven mental health governance in Nepal and elsewhere. Instead of taking the crisis of mental health as an unquestioned point of departure, I follow the ways in which crisis claims have been used to justify specific visions of mental health development in Nepal, and consider what other forms of care might be possible beyond biopolitical imaginaries.

About the Speaker:
Aidan Seale-Feldman is an Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on health and culture, biopolitics, psychic life, and planetary health. Grounded in ethnographic explorations of disaster, mental health, and mass hysteria in Nepal, her research asks how to approach forms of affliction that are not bound within the individual but instead move across bodies, environments, and generations. Her work has been published in Cultural Anthropology, Ethos, and HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, as well as in public venues such as Somatosphere, The Record Nepal, and Cultural Anthropology online. Dr. Seale-Feldman received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Bioethics at the University of Virginia.


- Aidan Seale-Feldman

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