chapter
ethnopsychiatry Origins and history
Pages 3

From its origins in the late eighteenth century, clinical psychiatry recognized that mental illness might be influenced, sometimes even caused, by a society’s mores, roles and sentiments. Generally, the patterns of severe illness (psychosis) identified in European hospitals were taken as universal, whilst it was accepted that wide variations existed in everyday psychological functioning which could be attributed to *‘race’, *religion, *gender and *class. In the first explicitly cross-cultural comparison, the German hospital psychiatrist Emile Kraepelin (1904) concluded after a trip to Java that the illnesses which were found universally probably had a biological origin which determined their general form whilst local culture simply provided the variable content through which they manifested. He noted that local understandings could allocate the illness to categories quite different from those of Western medicine such as spirit *possession or a call to a *shamanic role; yet, like the military doctors of the European colonies (Littlewood and Lipsedge 1989), he was confident he could distinguish the universal from the particular when attributing atypical illness to ‘a lower stage of evolutionary development’.