Cultural syndromes: Socially learned but real

Filosofia Unisinos 17 (2) (2016)
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While some of mental disorders due to emotional distress occur cross-culturally, others seem to be much more bound to particular cultures. In this paper, I propose that many of these “cultural syndromes” are culturally sanctioned responses to overwhelming negative emotions. I show how tools from cultural evolution theory can be employed for understanding how the syndromes are relatively confined to and retained within particular cultures. Finally, I argue that such an account allows for some cultural syndromes to be or become mental disorders and also steers clear of some of the anti-realist trappings associated with a social constructivism of cultural syndromes.

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Marion Godman
Cambridge University


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