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October 2021

Is there an ethnopsychiatric approach to desire

Journal/Book: Evol Psychiatr. 1999; 64: 15 Rue Gossin, 92543 Montrouge Cedex, France. Dunod. 69-78.

Abstract: Whatever its designation - ethnopsychiatry, transcultural psychiatry, psychiatric anthropology or any other terms-, confrontation between ethnology and psychiatry in clinical practice assumes that various notions relative to one or the other field must be questioned. Usually cultural features will be described before subsequent specific theorization. This approach admits at once specificity (sometimes irreducible) of certain cultural features that overdetermine theorization without, however, assurance of the relevance of selected features evidenced by the description. To avoid these pitfalls, the author calls for a reverse approach which would first address, in the specific cultural field, the significance of various concepts issued from clinical practice. In this regard, desire is an appealing introduction to the debate, as it is a basic psychoanalytic notion which, however, lacks in the field of anthropology. As it must at least be hypothesized that desire is beyond the scope of universality to be able to question its potential disadvantages in other cultures, relationships between desire and cultural variability were analyzed. If, at structural level and according to psychoanalytic concepts, desire assumes radical exteriority with respect to culture, obviously this exteriority soon becomes relative when it is contextualized within the area of its manifestation, i.e., clinical practice. When battling against objects peculiar to his/her culture, the subject will inevitably express his/her desire according to his/her culture proposals. This contradiction suggests that cultural diversity is not without effect on the organization of desire, but that the place where this effect occurs is still a matter of debate for both psychoanalysts and anthropologists. To further illustrate this issue, a brief case report shows how language and culture combine, thus masking the subjective stakes of desire.

Note: Article Rechtman R, CHS Verriere MGEN, Inst Marcel Riviere, F-78321 Le Mesnil St Denis, FRANCE

Keyword(s): pyschic cause; desire; ethnopsychiatry; translation; Cambodian refugees; TOTEM; TABOO

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