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August 2019

Cult Med Psychiatry. 1993 Mar; 17(1): 99-132.

A cultural analysis of human behavioral breakdowns: an approach to the ontology and epistemology of psychiatric phenomena.

Fabrega H.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute, PA 15213.

This paper explores the usefulness of a concept of "human behavioral breakdowns" for studying psychiatric phenomena from a cross-cultural standpoint. The kinds of conceptualizations that are available in the English literature about human behavioral breakdowns across societies are reviewed. The way these breakdowns have been handled in the Western European Tradition of medicine is given special emphasis. Attention is focused on schizophrenia as one of the modern "disease" concepts of psychiatry that is a variant of human behavioral breakdowns. The essay then looks at "schizophrenia" using contemporary ideas about cultural relativism as these apply to the study of psychiatric phenomena in relation to society. Perspectives about the variable as versus the invariant in schizophrenia are reviewed.


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