reading Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche.
I finally got around to Ethan Watters’s 2010 Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, an exposé of the exporting of American concepts of mental illness.
Watters writes with justified outrage about the corporations, humanitarian organizations, and mass media which have acted as pushers of both drugs and therapies. He depicts charities descending on post-tsunami Sri Lanka, ignoring local cultural practices and basic needs in order to promote PTSD diagnoses, in a kind of “voluntourism” for grown-ups. The NGOs assumed that their understanding of trauma could be easily transplanted to other cultures, so they sent volunteers who didn’t even speak the local languages. Sri Lankans lacked water and medicine; they got puppet therapy and coping bracelets. Meanwhile Hong Kong media made anorexics into celebrities, leading to an increase of this deadly behavior. And American drug companies used heavily-massaged research and shady advertising practices to turn Japanese melancholy into medicalized, Western-style depression.
more–this is actually a set-up for a piece next week, which will get into my own ultra-American identities & whether/how to deconstruct them.