Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Medical Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Health
Secondary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Muslim immigrants make a growing share of many Western countries' populations. Meanwhile, a growing body of research demonstrates that their varied experiences of marginalization and discrimination negatively affect their mental health. Anthropological research often conceptualizes mental distress as social suffering, pointing to the determinants and outcomes of Muslim disadvantages in labor markets, in the workplace, and within healthcare systems, as well as heightened insecurity in the context of resurgent exclusionary rhetoric and policies in the U.S. and in many European countries. This session aims to advance anthropological understanding of how Muslim immigrants socially suffer, resist oppression, and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, by bringing attention to similarities and differences across England, Scotland, the U.S., and Russia.
Themes covered include evolving immigrant languages of Islam, stress and suffering, and resistance; the phenomenology of dislocation, hate crimes, political-economic shifts, and effacement; similarities between the expectations and lived realities of immigrant women and their non-profit mental health clinicians; and therapeutic synergies involving Islam and psychotherapy.
Our first paper explores the deep personal predicaments of Afghan refugee migrants in England who have ceased to function, and how these predicaments are expressed through several Pashto terms for feeling ill and depressed. This evolving lexicon often suggests links to western psychiatric symptomology, but also points to attempts to reshape oppressive realities and the long-term burdens that war and exile have placed on Afghan families. A second paper addresses the mental health of Muslim immigrants in Scotland, exploring how Muslims continue to face structural disadvantages and discrimination in light of Brexit and recent terrorist attacks in the UK. This paper further conceptualizes social determinants of mental health and discusses how discrimination continues to affect the sense of wellbeing of Muslim immigrants.
Our third paper conceptualizes complex identities, marginalization and culturally embedded representations of stress and suffering among Central Asian immigrants in the U.S. This paper discusses the ways that Central Asian immigrants negotiate their identity in the context of marginalization, and its implications for mental health. An additional paper from the U.S. investigates how recent anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, policies, and violence at the national level are impacting both the everyday lives of Iraqi women and the work of people who provide them with mental health services in Portland, Oregon. Our final paper draws from research among pious Muslim women immigrants in Russia, examining the ways in which a particular migrant from Kazakhstan relied on psychotherapy and Islam to navigate her new life in Russia, framed by an ongoing economic crisis and political volatility.
Together, these papers employ the tools of medical anthropology to conceptualize experiences of Muslim immigrants across various destination countries, and to explore connections between immigration, the social and cultural context of reception in Western countries, and mental health at different levels, from individual perspectives and development of meaningful selves to broader structural factors that shape social suffering and distress among Muslim immigrants.