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Although there is some research being conducted on mental health practices in formerly Soviet spaces, this work has been limited to the Soviet psychiatric system on one hand, and post-Soviet indigenous healing practices on the other (Penkala-Gawęcka, 2019). Little research has been done from a person-centric perspective in which the individual and the particularities of circumstance, including personal experiences of illness are foregrounded (Pritchard, 2014). In emphasizing medical diversity and syncretism in therapeutic practice, little attention has been paid to the processes through which narratives of illness are made, or the ways in which these narratives engage with larger global understandings of illness and health. Even as certain individuals and narratives are marginalized, relegated to zones of social abandonment (Biehl, 2005), others are supported by the state, and by non-state actors who have aligned with the state in their promotion of ethnic-based nationalism. In as much as formal and informal mental health systems and their associated therapeutic practices provide healing for participants, so does the failure of these bureaucracies play out like a crime scene, contributing to social trauma as it becomes mapped upon individual minds and bodies.
In gathering scholars and direct service providers engaged in mental health work in Central Asia, this panel seeks to address these gaps. In attending to the person and to questions of mental health, this panel seeks to humanize life in Central Asia, to ask new questions and to provide fresh and innovative theoretical frames. In attending to individuality, through absence and through presence, panelists will also engage the cultural representations, collective experiences, and subjectivities that Arthur Kleinman has found inseparable from illness (Kleinman and Seeman. 2000).