SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Mind, Culture and Psychiatry

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1
This course is concerned with the ways the mind and mental illness are understood in different cultural contexts. The course starts with an introduction to psychoanalytical ideas and how they have been applied in different cultural contexts, then moves to consider more recent approaches to transcultural psychiatry. How can we understand altered states of mind, such as spirit possession? How do new technologies such as brain scans change the ways in which we envision the relationship between mind and body, nature and culture, self and society? Using ethnography to challenge the universality of psychiatric knowledge, this course examines how illness classifications are the result of political and epistemological struggles, both on local and global scales.


  • This Module is capped at 30 places
  • Priority is given to 3rd year students
  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The successful student will have a basic understanding of the different concepts that are used to understand the link between mind, culture and psychiatry. The course will foster a critical engagement with issues of global health and illness classification.

Scope and syllabus

Topics covered include neuroanthropology, the anthropology of dreams, psychoanalysis in Europe and Japan, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and gender dysphoria as conceptualised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Method of assessment

The written exam will count for 60%. Coursework will count for 40% towards the final mark.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules