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A Cultural Approach to Emotional Disorders


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Permission has been granted to include this book chapter in DigitalCommons@Molloy First published 2016 by Routledge. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.


In her latest contribution to the growing field of emotion studies, Deidre Pribram makes a compelling argument for why culturalist approaches to the study of emotional "disorders" continue to be eschewed, even as the sociocultural and historical study of mental illness flourishes. The author ties this phenomenon to a tension between two fundamentally different approaches to emotion: an individualist approach, which regards emotions as the property of the individual, whether biologically or psychologically, and a culturalist approach, which regards emotions as collective, social processes with distinctive histories and meanings that work to produce particularized subjects. While she links a strong preference for the individualist construct in Western culture to the rise of the psychological and psychiatric disciplines in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Pribram also engages with a diverse set of case studies tied to psychological and aesthetic discourses on emotions.