Diagnosing Disorder and Recognizing Difference: Training in Immigrant Mental Health and Social Services in Paris

Thursday 5 March 2015, 12.00PM to 1pm

Speaker(s): David Ansari - PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago


In France, the Republican ideal of equality has led to the lack of official acknowledgement of cultural difference within the country’s multicultural population. In the context of mental health services, France’s policies of inclusion have precluded the establishment of specific state-sponsored services for migrant and minority groups. However, previous research describes how clinicians have developed approaches to address the mental health needs of France’s migrant groups with varying degrees of state recognition and acceptance by other clinicians.

My dissertation project explores how clinicians and front-line workers, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, interpreters, and medical secretaries, manage tensions between state discourses of providing universal care for all citizens, expertise regarding the cultural and structural factors impacting mental illness, and popular sentiments about immigration in France. I examine how knowledge of immigrants’ experiences of mental illness is taught, contested, and applied in mental health and social care settings. I focus on the ways in which actors in these service settings disentangle knowledge about structural barriers to mental health from perceptions regarding cultural factors that impact care. 

My thesis involves an ethnographic project at a multilingual mental health center in Paris. I will build on previous research by examining how clinicians are trained to recognize culturally complex cases of mental illness and how protocols are developed to address the mental health needs of immigrant patients.

Please come along with your lunch for an invigorating discussion!

Location: Alcuin C Block Seminar Room AC/209