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What anthropology can teach psychiatry about psychosis – the problem of hallucinations

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jan- Jonathan Bock.

Professor Tanya Luhrmann of the Department of Social Anthropology at Stanford University.

Her interests include the social construction of psychological experience, and the way that social practice may affect even the most concrete ways in which people experience their world, particularly in the domain of what some would call the “irrational”.

Her current work looks at the way American evangelicals learn to experience God and at psychosis in psychiatric clients. These are very different projects, but they share an interest in the way subjective experience is interpreted and the way that socio-cultural expectations can override ordinary sensory processing and produce what an observer might call “hallucinations”.

Tanya received her PhD here at Cambridge in 1986, and taught for many years at the University of California San Diego. Prior to coming to Stanford she was Max Palevsky Professor and a director of the Clinical Ethnography project in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago.

Her projects have included work on: 1. The way reasonable people come to believe apparently unreasonable beliefs (“Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft”, Harvard, 1989). 2. The apparently irrational self-criticism of a postcolonial India elite, the result of colonial identification with the colonizers (“The Good Parsi”, Harvard 1996). and 3. Two cultures with the American profession of psychiatry and examined the way these different cultures encouraged two different forms of empathy and two different understandings of mental illness (“Of Two Minds”, Knopf, 2000).

She was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003, president of the Society for Psychological Anthropology for 2008. She has received numerous awards for scholarship, including the AAA President’s award for 2004 and a recent Guggenheim award in 2007.

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This talk is part of the CU Social Anthropology Society series.

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