Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of North America
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Health
The rhetoric around Trump’s presidency overlaps with and mimics much of the language that has been historically employed to exclude or deem immigrants unworthy of formal belonging, especially in the United States. Incendiary words and phrases grounded in the notions
of “unfit” and “undesirable” that we often associate with poor physical or mental health status of individuals, communities, and entire societies are reminiscent of the language used by nativists and racists in the early 20th century against Eastern and Southern
Europeans and Asians.
Accusations of mental instability waged at both the current U.S. presidential administration (e.g., “deranged dotard,” “unfit for office,” “crazy,” “malignant narcissist”) and large segments of the population that it governs (e.g., “savage sicko,” “dangerous,” “wacko,”
“unstable”) have engendered moral and material effects about the ways which we collectively perceive and address mental health. Such vernacular highlight broader social concerns about the pervasiveness of negative connotations related to an individual or group’s
out-of-the-ordinary behavior or mental state. These modes of expression perpetuate the social stigma that people with mental illness are inferior and unworthy of care and compassion.
Concomitantly, the policies enacted and proposed by this current administration have translated to very real mental distress within the population at large, and especially among individuals with precarious legal status or those who may be targeted by detention and deportation
(i.e., immigrants and refugees with temporary legal status, individuals with DACA, unauthorized immigrants, and immigrants from one of the banned countries). In this panel, we seek to explore how this psychosocial distress might be silenced or overlooked given
the everyday abstractions of U.S. national politics, the normalization of mental illness as it may undergird the current American political landscape, the medicalization of social response (i.e., anger, anxiety, frustration), and the concurrent sense of immobilization