Medicine, Culture, and Mental Health in East Asia

Emily Baum
UC Irvine

Howard Chiang
UC Davis

This working group investigates the interrelation between medicine, culture, mental health, and wellbeing in contemporary East Asia. In recent decades, East Asian societies have witnessed the passage of new legislation intended to promote psychological health, the resurgence of psychoanalysis and related mental health strategies, and an increased effort on the part of psychiatric experts to align their profession with international standards of care. Meanwhile, the publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (2013) suggests a deeper attention to the cultural dimensions of illness and health, posing new challenges and possibilities for communities across China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. 

Through a series of workshops that will culminate in a public conference, we will address this overarching question: What can a view from East Asia offer to the critical study of mental health? One response is to revise dominant understandings of the role that colonialism has played in the production of psychiatric knowledge. Another is to examine the ways that the circulation of people and ideas across borders contributes to new formulations of wellbeing.