Dr Orkideh Behrouzan
- Department of Anthropology and Sociology Senior Lecturer in Anthropology Department of Anthropology and Sociology Director of MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health Centre for Iranian Studies Member
- Department of Anthropology and Sociology
- MD, PhD (MIT)
- Russell Square: College Buildings
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Orkideh Behrouzan is a physician, medical anthropologist and the author of Prozak Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran (2016, Stanford University Press). She is a 2021-2022 Fellow of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) and a 2015-2016 fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). Behrouzan received her PhD in History and Anthropology of Science and Technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). For more please visit OrkidehBehrouzan.com.
Orkideh Behrouzan is an anthropologist of medicine, science, and technology. Her research focuses on the relationship between socio-historical and psychological processes, primarily in relation to health, social ruptures, memory, and subjectivity. She is a 2015-2016 fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a 2021-23 fellow of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), and has received fellowships from several foundations including Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Wellcome Trust.
She is the author of Prozāk Diaries: Psychiatry and Generational Memory in Iran (Stanford University Press, 2016), an ethnographic analysis of emerging psychiatric discourses in post-1980s Iran. Combining anthropological and psychoanalytical frameworks, the book is an interdisciplinary exploration of language and memory among youth in the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution and the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In asking how psychiatric dialect became a language of everyday, the book analyses the cultural, generational, and political meaning of medicalisation in various sites, from clinical encounters and psychiatric training to intimate interviews, works of art, media, and Persian blogs. Investigating the grey areas between individual symptoms and generational remembering, the book reveals how historical experiences are negotiated and how particular generational identifications are formed. This project led to the creation of the collaborative initiative 'Beyond ''Trauma', which Behrouzan founded in 2014. This interdisciplinary project aims to approach mental health in the Middle East from both individual and social perspectives, and bring together scholars, artists, practitioners, and policymakers, towards an inclusive approach to psychological wellbeing. It also aims to challenge prevailing assumptions about the notion of mental health as well as the region that we have come to call the Middle East.
Her current book project is a reflection on the psychological and social experiences of the Coronavirus pandemic, and investigates how, like bodies, societies too can become immune-compromised. Beginning with Iran’s experience of one of the highest mortality rates among health workers and young people, the book provides an account of the moral/psycho-political injuries that underlie clinical outcomes and the specific forms of immuno-deficiency that can inflict the social body. Finding parallels in other contexts like Black Lives Matter, the book analyses the notion of immunity in the interplay between political oppression, collective memory, and illness itself. Providing an intimate account of a social body’s chronic immersion in themes of war (military, economic, psychological) and loss (of people, of justice, of values, of resources, of freedom), it asks: What does it means to be human inside a morally compromised and politically dis-ordered social body? What are the underlying social vulnerabilities in which pandemics emerge, operate, and are managed? What interventions are imaginable for mitigating the immune-deficiency that a society has endured prior to a pandemic? Proposing “moral immunity” as a framework for capturing this lived experience of vulnerability, the book aims to explore the possibility of hope, recovery, and healing.
These areas of research are also explored in Behrouzan’s creative writing, poetry and short stories in Persian and English. She is a member of the editorial collective for the Otherwise Magazine. In 2015, her short story 'Binazeer' was adapted into a theatrical performance by director Mehrdad Seyf and was taken to the stage as part of the EAST15 World Performance. The play Binazeer is a love story and a story of remembering, focusing on the psychological afterlife of wars and the lived experience of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its socio-cultural implications beyond the individual. It combines themes of memory, belonging, medicalisation, and the therapeutic encounter.
Behrouzan also works as an insight and strategy consultant in the areas of healthcare, patient-centricity, and behavioural and social implications of medicine and biotechnology. She leads research and advises pharmaceutical and biotech ventures in relation to capacity building and patient engagement. Behrouzan also provides consulting in the areas of refugee health, mental health, and health education. She has previously served as expert adviser for Medact’s Health Impact Assessment (HIA) report on the health consequence of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). Since 2018, she has served as regional and/or mental health expert witness for asylum court cases.