Accepted paper:

Children on the Verge of Crisis: Global Humanitarian Psychiatry and the Street Child in Egypt

Authors:

Rania Sweis (University of Richmond)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I draw upon over two years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Egypt with one popular French-based transnational medical humanitarian organization. I analyze the bureaucratic and medical practices of this organization within their Cairo-based clinic and homeless children’s shelter. Drawing on interviews with homeless children and medical experts, the research reveals how new relations of care between humanitarian doctors and children are shaped by a psychiatric examination form—its creation, archiving and transnational circulation. As the object through which childhood trauma and mental illness is demonstrated and rendered legitimate for a global audience (Fassin and Rechtman 2009), I suggest this examination form both produces new categories of subjectivity in Egypt, such as the young psychiatric patient or ‘problem’ street child, and new figurations of potential political crisis, which street children are believed to embody.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I draw upon over two years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Egypt with one popular French-based transnational medical humanitarian organization. I analyze the bureaucratic and medical practices of this organization within their Cairo-based clinic and homeless children's shelter. Drawing on interviews with homeless children and medical experts, the research reveals how new relations of care between humanitarian doctors and children are shaped by a psychiatric examination form—its creation, archiving and transnational circulation. As the object through which childhood trauma and mental illness is demonstrated and rendered legitimate for a global audience (Fassin and Rechtman 2009), I suggest this examination form both produces new categories of subjectivity in Egypt, such as the young psychiatric patient or 'problem' street child, and new figurations of potential political crisis, which street children are believed to embody. The implications of this research for the field of global mental health point to how a) child subjects in Cairo consume psychiatric care and come to understand their bodies and health through that care, and b) how global processes engage in local places in the contemporary Arab/Muslim Middle East through the daily work of trained, local humanitarian mental health experts.

panel LD36
Ethnographic perspectives on 'global mental health'