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Queensland Aborigines, multiple realities and the social sources of suffering: Psychiatry and moral regions of being (Part 1)

Cox, Leonie (2009) Queensland Aborigines, multiple realities and the social sources of suffering: Psychiatry and moral regions of being (Part 1). Oceania, 79(2), pp. 97-120.

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Abstract

This two part paper considers the experience of a range of magico-religious experiences (such as visions and voices) and spirit beliefs in a rural Aboriginal town. The papers challenge the tendency of institutionalised psychiatry to medicalise the experiences and critiques the way in which its individualistic practice is intensified in the face of an incomprehensible Aboriginal „other‟ to become part of the power imbalance that characterises the relationship between Indigenous and white domains. The work reveals the internal differentiation and politics of the Aboriginal domain, as the meanings of these experiences and actions are contested and negotiated by the residents and in so doing they decentre the concerns of the white domain and attempt to control their relationship with it. Thus the plausibility structure that sustains these multiple realities reflects both accommodation and resistance to the material and historical conditions imposed and enacted by mainstream society on the residents, and to current socio- political realities. I conclude that the residents‟ narratives chart the grounds of moral adjudication as the experiences were rarely conceptualised by local people as signs of individual pathology but as reflections of social reality. Psychiatric drug therapy and the behaviourist assumptions underlying its practice posit atomised individuals as the appropriate site of intervention as against the multiple realities revealed by the phenomenology of the experiences. The papers thus call into question Australian mainstream „commonsense‟ that circulates about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which justifies representations of them as sickly outcasts in Australian society.

Impact and interest:

5 citations in Scopus
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4 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 31521
Item Type: Journal Article
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Australian Aborigines, Spirituality, Suicide, Psychiatry, Christianity, Ethnography, Phenomenology
ISSN: 0029-8077
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (111701)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > ANTHROPOLOGY (160100) > Social and Cultural Anthropology (160104)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > OTHER STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (169900) > Studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Society (169902)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Deposited On: 29 Mar 2010 07:42
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2012 12:08

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