Culture and the Clinic

The aim of this optional single module is for students to develop an understanding of anthropological and social scientific work on the cultural basis of western psychology and psychiatry. This will provide foundations for students to embark on research in this area, and/or to practice clinically in a way that is informed by anthropological research and concepts. 

The module runs in Term 2, ten Thursdays 2.00pm - 4.00 pm, January - March 2017

Sushrut Jadhav_Profile-Pic-List

Dr Sushrut Jadhav

Senior Lecturer in Cross-cultural Psychiatry, University College London, UK (s.jadhav@ucl.ac.uk)

Sushrut Jadhav, M.B.B.S., M.D., MRCPsych., Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Cross-cultural Psychiatry at University College London (UCL); Consultant Psychiatrist, Camden Homeless Outreach, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK; Co-director, UCL Cultural Consultation Service; Founding Editor of the international journal, Anthropology and Medicine (Taylor & Francis); & Fellow & Member, Medical Anthropology Committee, Royal Anthropological Institute, UK. Dr Jadhav graduated from Grant Medical College, Mumbai, & completed his MD postgraduate training in psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Bangalore. He obtained his PhD at UCL researching white British natives of London. His current interests include mental health dimensions of marginal groups across cultures; examining cultural encounters in the clinic and higher education, using the Bloomsbury Cultural Formulation Interview developed by himself. Dr Jadhav has chaired, examined, and taught on Phd/MPhil/Masters courses on medical anthropology & cultural psychiatry at several national and international Universities universities. He was also an advisor to DSM 5 Task Force for Cultural Formulation. Dr Jadhav currently supervises UCL doctoral candidates conducting research on the cultural appropriateness of mental health theory and clinical practice in low income nations with a specific focus on India. Web links: Academic: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychiatry/people/profiles/jadhav UCL Cultural Consultation Service: www.ucl.ac.uk/ccs Journal: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/canm

Nilisha Vashist Profile Pic

Nilisha Vashist

I have been trained in social anthropological methods of research at University of Delhi, India with a specialisation in medical anthropology. My MPhil research focussed on faith healing of spirit-possession in a Hindu temple wherein I studied spirit-possession as understood by sufferers and their care-groups across sociological and mental health domains. Continuing my interests in the field of mental health, my current research aims to explore the role of marginality (caste-identities in the present case) in effecting psychological distress among University students in India. The research is designed to be an ethnographic study of a University campus (University of Pune), Maharashtra, India.

Apart from my academic interest in mental health, I have also briefly explored other research fields, major of which are gender and power relations (fieldwork in Himachal Pradesh), health seeking behaviour and medical pluralism in an urbanizing village of Delhi, revisiting anthropological studies (Rampura, studied by Oscar Lewis) and unorganized labour in global garment supply chains (in association with GoodWeave, India).

Research Interests

  1. Medical anthropology, cultural psychiatry
  2. Mental health and Marginality
  3. Caste, Gender and Power relations
  4. Race, Ethnicity and Identity politics
  5. South-Asia (more specifically India)

In this ten week long module students will be introduced to anthropological and social scientific work on the cultural basis of western psychology and psychiatry. This will include consideration of historical, contemporary, theoretical and applied issues. The class will understand principles underpinning the 'new cross-cultural psychiatry', and consideration of concepts including relativism and the universality of mental disorders across cultures, cultural validity, category errors, culture bound syndromes, and the consequences of applying a minority Euro-American psychiatry to the majority world.

Based on literature from anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and health policy, students will gain knowledge on how mental health and illness are constructed and enacted in different societies, with a particular focus on South Asia. Students will learn how to unpack presumed universal mental categories such as emotion and cognition. Phenomena such as psychologisation, somatisation, possession, stigma, and insight will be examined in-depth. Through illustrative case studies and clinical vignettes, the course will critically examine and attempt to reformulate received theories in the field of adult psychiatry, child and adolescent development, psychotherapy, policy and service delivery, and locate these in a cultural context. The course will also critique national, cross-national, and cross-cultural research, and address the challenge of developing innovative culturally valid methodologies that aim to capture local suffering and address outcomes of relevance to both clinicians and the communities concerned.


The module will be taught in a seminar format, with an emphasis on critical and reflective class discussion. Full participation is class discussions is expected and will enhance students' learning experiences. Student teams will present a critical review of allocated papers in seminars, followed by a discussion on the topic, facilitated by the course tutor.

  • Knowledge of conceptualization, expression and management of mental distress across cultures
  • Knowledge of key research methods in anthropological psychiatry
  • Skills in critically evaluating published literature in cultural psychiatry
  • Skills in conducting anthropologically applied research projects in the clinical and public health domain.
  • Understanding the application of the research principles of medical anthropology to mental health across cultures