Imagining Africa in Eastern Europe: Transcultural psychiatry and socialism
Ana Antic (University of Exeter)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores the image of Africa in socialist Eastern Europe by looking at Yugoslav transcultural psychiatrists in the Global South during the Cold War. It explores the global significance of Marxist psychiatry for debates on the 'African mind' and decolonisation.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the image of Africa and the Global South in socialist Eastern Europe by looking at Yugoslav transcultural psychiatrists and their missions to the Global South during the Cold War. It aims to decentre the history of global transcultural psychiatry by exploring the significance of Marxist psychiatry for debates on the 'African mind' and decolonisation. The paper looks at Yugoslav psychiatry's clinical and anthropological research in the Global South to shed light on its contributions to Western-dominated transcultural psychiatry. It also explores how Eastern Europe's intellectuals engaged with decolonisation and the notions of race, 'primitivism' and modernity. The paper argues that socialist global involvements were ultimately driven by domestic concerns - the implicit perception of the fundamental similarity between the decolonising world and Yugoslavia/Balkans as two 'backward' and rapidly modernising regions, additionally connected through their shared experiences of social revolution. Socialist psychiatrists' special position within the emerging discipline of transcultural psychiatry was marked by both their political/ideological background and the position of Yugoslavia on the cultural and political periphery of Europe, and the paper will explore how their involvement in Africa and the non-Western world transformed transcultural psychiatry and resulted in original theoretical and conceptual interventions. These global interventions demonstrated the inherent contradiction of Eastern European Marxist psychiatry: its quasi-colonial 'civilising mission' towards the subalterns in its own populations, and its progressive, emancipatory agenda. They also reveal that the socialist world's anti-colonialism was both revolutionary and ambiguous, bound up as it was with complex Eurocentric legacies.