January 22, 2019 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Room 1.01, 21 Buccleuch Place
Buccleuch Pl
Edinburgh EH8 9LN

with Ayesha Ahmad

Talk Title: Approaches and Responses to Psychological Sufferings from Conflict: Clearing the debris of western-centred ‘traumatizations’


In this talk, I parallel the notion of traumatization, as conveyed through biomedical paradigms of understanding trauma, to medicalization. Through the reduction of trauma to a psychiatric disorder, conflict-related experiences of suffering are understood through a personal narrative, rather than a collective narrative that reveals epistemic injustice. In this sense, I argue that the dominant western approach to understanding and responding to psychological suffering from conflict is a form of silencing. By reducing lived experiences of war to a framework of symptomology, diagnosis, and treatment, the denial of the consequences of war is legitimized. Given that western-centred and biomedical frameworks of trauma govern the mental health status of conflict-affected populations that are typically non-western, the issue of race and ethnicity must be factored in. This critique is essential if we are to actually respond and receive the experiences of psychological suffering from individuals in, during, and following conflict/s. Currently, I conclude, the smokescreen of traumatization prevents the lived experiences of war from being known in ways other than a psychiatric disorder – namely, gross violations of human rights.

Respondent: TBC

About Ayesha:

Dr. Ayesha Ahmad (PhD) is a lecturer in Global Health at St. George’s University of London and Honorary Lecturer at the Institute for Global Health, University College London. She specialises in transcultural psychiatry with a focus on mental health and gender-based violence during conflict and humanitarian crisis with a  focus on cross-cultural notions of trauma. She is the Co-investigator on an MRC/AHRC funded 2-year project called Story-Telling for Health: Acknowledgement, Expression, and Recovery (SHAER) bringing together collaborators from Kashmir, Afghanistan, Turkey, Tunisia, and South Africa. Her work also includes providing expert reports for asylum seeker cases. She has published widely in academic journals and national and international media outlets as well as speaking at conference and public events worldwide. Her book Humanitarian Action and Ethics co-edited with James Smith was published in 2018 (Zed Publishers).

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MI Lunch Seminar with Ayesha Ahmad