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The role of culture in a theory of psychiatric illness


, : The role of culture in a theory of psychiatric illness. Social Science & Medicine 35(1): 91-103

A medical theory of phenomena thought of as psychiatric would rely on concepts and seek explanations that pertain to the concerns of biomedicine. A social theory of the psychiatric needs concepts and seeks explanations that pertain to concerns of the social and cultural sciences. Some of the requirements of such a social theory are reviewed with an emphasis on why and how the concept of culture is important. The Western medical bias of psychiatric illness needs to be faced as well as the problem of cultural relativism. The paper discusses the heuristic usefulness of a concept of human behavioral breakdowns. The many ways in which culture influences knowledge and practice of biomedical psychiatry are examined critically. The scope of a social theory of the psychiatric is also outlined.

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PMID: 1496416


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