Psychiatry in Papua New Guinea: a critique

by Goddard, Michael B.

Abstract (Summary)
Restricted Item. Print thesis available in the University of Auckland Library or available through Inter-Library Loan. A critical sociological examination of psychiatry in Papua New Guinea is attempted in this dissertation, drawing on the historiography of European psychiatry and on ethnographic data from personal fieldwork in the Papua New Guinea highlands. It is argued that the nature of psychiatry has been determined not by problems of mental illness but, historically, by social conditions arising from the development of capitalism. Consequently, the historical relationship between psychiatry and Western capitalist social formations, and the political conditions of the extension of psychiatry into Papua New Guinea, are regarded as constituting the context in which transcultural psychiatric discourse and practice should be considered. The development of a psychiatric service in Papua New Guinea is analyzed in relation to the programmes and attitudes of the colonial government and post-colonial policy modifications, thus extending the political analysis of psychiatry beyond its generative capitalist social context. The discourse of psychiatry, and specifically of "transcultural" psychiatry, is examined in relation to psychiatric practice in Papua New Guinea, informed by clinical case material and field research in a highland community. Indigenous attitudes to madness and madpeople are investigated, as well as attitudes to and utilization of the psychiatric service, and a comparison is made between psychiatry's self-understanding and the way it is regarded by indigenous societies. A critical argument is developed that the disjunction between psychiatric and indigenous apprehensions of madness is a manifestation of the contradiction between capitalist political structures and the non-capitalist social formations of Papua New Guinean societies. Preoccupation with cultural influences on mental illness and with problems of cross-cultural diagnosis is consequently viewed as false consciousness, veiling the political relationship between psychiatry as a social control agency and indigenous communities to which it sees itself providing a medical-therapeutic service. By inference, the themes developed in this specific examination could contribute to a general political critique of psychiatry in the Third World.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Auckland / Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau

School Location:New Zealand

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1988

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