Prozàk diaries of Tehran: psychiatric subjectivities, medicalization from below, and possibilities for theory
Orkideh Behrouzan (SOAS University of London)
Paper short abstract:
An investigation into emerging psychiatric mindsets vis-a-vis sociopolitical change in post-war Iran.
Paper long abstract:
In this article I examine the emergence of public psychiatric discourses in 1990s Iran, and the epistemic and generational shift towards public discussions of psychiatric pathologies. I examine the linguistic and cultural shifts that underlie the normalisation of the term dépréshen in post-war Iran. I argue that psychiatrization of psychological distress in Iran was not simply the outcome of an authoritative biomedical discourse; but that the contemporary Iranian discourse of āsib-e roohi (distress of the soul) and āsib-e ejtémā'i (social distress) evolved from within Iranian clinical and non-clinical practices, and out of the "phantastic persuasion" of biomedical discourses. The term psychiatric subjectivity describes conditions where individuals performatively incorporate and articulate their desires, hopes, and anxieties as embodied in individual and collective brains and internalize psychiatry as a mode of thinking. Adding a trajectory to existing formulations of somatic individualities (Rose 2003), I suggest possibilities for theory from the heart of socio-historical ruptures, including the Iran-Iraq War and the 1980s Cultural Revolution. I underscore patients' historicization and medicalization at once, arguing that psychiatrically medicalized individuals are performative actors in the discursive formation of both biomedical and social truth. Generational memories of ruptures cannot be mapped onto biomedical diagnoses, nor orthodox debates on medicalization. Dépréshen, in the larger sense of the word, has become one way to navigate ruptured pasts, slippery presents and uncertain futures.
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