Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism

By Suman Fernando | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Racism and cultural diversity

Racism exists in many societies in many different guises: as antiSemitism in Europe, in the caste systems in India, within some aspects of Zionism in Palestine, etc. Even the conflict between people identified as 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' communities in Ireland is essentially based on the perception of people in racial terms as 'born' Catholics or Protestants. What Barzun (1965) calls 'race-thinking' appears to underpin many different conflicts today that are designated as 'ethnic conflicts'. But racism based on skin colour is the type of racism that predominates today in western Europe and North America.

The word 'culture', traditionally applied to an individual, usually refers to a mixture of behaviour and cognition arising from 'shared patterns of belief, feeling and adaptation that people carry in their minds' (Leighton and Hughes 1961:447). The allusion to family culture or the culture of whole communities extends the meaning of the word further. Therefore, referring to a multiplicity of cultures (say in a multicultural society) implies cultural differences between groups of people-communities with different backgrounds, traditions and world views. Over recent years there has been an outpouring of literature on the topic of 'culture' and cultural studies (see bhabha 1994; Said 1994; Eagleton 2000). The understanding of the term 'culture' has changed. Culture is no longer seen as a closed system that can be defined very clearly, nor something that is composed of traditional beliefs and practices that are passed on from generation to generation, but as something living, dynamic and changing-a flexible system of values and world views that people live by and create and re-create continuously. It is a system by which people define their identities and negotiate their lives. So, understanding culture, training in cultural understanding or

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Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figure, Tables and Boxes x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Background 9
  • Chapter 1 - Racism and Cultural Diversity 11
  • Chapter 2 - Responding to Racism, Addressing Culture 46
  • Part II - Underlying Themes 87
  • Chapter 3 - Psychiatry and Mental Health from a Transcultural Perspective 89
  • Chapter 4 - Psychiatric Stigma and Racism 146
  • Part III - Changing Practice 169
  • Chapter 5 - Moving Forward 171
  • Chapter 6 - Future Prospects 208
  • References 218
  • Index 243
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