Skip to main content

First-Year Seminar (101-6-21)


Madness and Media: Culture and Mental Health in Fi


Rebecca A Seligman
1810 Hinman Ave., Room #204, EV Campus
Rebecca Seligman is a medical and psychological anthropologist who focuses on transcultural psychiatry, or the study of mental health in cross-cultural perspective. Her past research has explored the connection between mental health and religious participation in a spirit possession religion in Northeastern Brazil. Seligman is an expert in the study of ritual trance and altered states of consciousness. Her current research focuses on mental and physical health among Latino youth in the U.S. This project examines how sociocultural influences on the ways in which Latino youth conceptualize and experience their emotions, relationships, and ultimately, their sense of self, affect help seeking and the experience of mental health care. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and her work has appeared in Discover Magazine.

Meeting Info

ANTHRO Sem Rm B07 - 1810 Hinmn: Tues, Thurs 12:30PM - 1:50PM

Overview of class

In an age of unprecedented global distress, what is the role of media in shaping discourses, representations, and experiences of mental illness? Western psychiatric frameworks are increasingly defining mental health/illness around the world via multilateral health organizations that intervene across cultural contexts to treat mental distress, and are also circulated via Western media narratives that shape the meanings people associate with mental health and illness. What other narratives of mental health might be told? What experiences of distress and resilience are obscured by these dominant frameworks?
In this course, students will learn about the ways in which cultural meanings and social structures shape mental distress and how it is expressed and experienced by people across time and context. We will critically examine dominant U.S. models of mental health and illness, and trace the global spread of these models. We will ask what underlying cultural assumptions and expectations about self, personhood, emotion, mind, body, well-being and success are embedded in these narratives and explore how representations in film and television serve to reflect, reinforce, or re-imagine such assumptions. Through a combination of engagement with scholarship on culture and mental health, media studies, and our own critical analyses of media objects from film and television, we will explore these questions and work to generate creative and collaborative ideas about how to rewrite media narratives in order to better reflect the broad spectrum of experience.

Evaluation Method

Short and medium length writing assignments

Class Materials (Required)

Readings and films on Canvas;

Book "Madness, Power and the Media" by Stephen Harper ISB-13:978-0-230-21880-2

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only