Hearing Voices in New Caledonia : Spirits from the Invisible World, French Settler Colonialism and the Evolution of Psychotic Disorder

My research involves examining the traces of colonialism and colonial history within experiences of mental disorders and their care in New Caledonia. In particular, I explore the ways in which persons with psychotic disorders experience auditory hallucination. Medical anthropological research has shown that people suffering from psychotic disorders tend to experience auditory hallucination differently in accordance with their sociocultural background: the experience of psychosis is shaped by the collective social environment which in turn impacts the clinical development of this particular mental disorder. Following this approach, my postdoctoral research strives to answer the following question: how can a society marked by the interaction of certain Pacific Islander cultures and French settler-colonialism shape individual and collective experiences of psychosis? To answer this question, I will draw on ethnographic materials I have collected within the framework of the multidisciplinary project ‘Voices and Silences of Oceania’, initiated by Institute of Research for Development, which aims at assessing and comparing the state of mental health in New Caledonia, Wallis-and-Futuna and Vanuatu. The France-Stanford fellowship will allow me to work with Tanya Luhrmann, an anthropologist working on comparative studies of psychotic disorders, as well as prepare my research for eventual publication.


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