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Psychogeographies: Counselling in a Himalayan Disaster Zone

Title: Psychogeographies: Counselling in a Himalayan Disaster Zone

Speaker: Aidan Seale-Feldman (Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame)

Date: Friday, 4 November 2022

Time: 1-2:30 pm

Mode: Online

Join Zoom Meeting: https://cuhk.zoom.us/j/94621893802

Meeting ID: 946 2189 3802

Passcode: 327521

Abstract:

In the Spring of 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and 7.3 magnitude aftershock struck Nepal. Over 9,000 people died and half a million lost their homes. In response to the seismic rupture, humanitarian psychosocial projects arrived with funding to mitigate an emergent “mental health crisis.” As psychosocial counselors flooded the 14 affected districts, over 300,000 “beneficiaries” received psychiatric and psychosocial support services, many for the first time in their lives. This talk explores the desires, risks, and ambivalences that counselors carried as they crossed a landscape in ruins to provide care for others in the aftermath of disaster. Based on collaborative ethnographic research alongside a Nepali NGO, it follows three psychosocial counselors as they navigated rough and unstable terrain of the Himalayan foothills to reach clients. Walking to reach the clients was not a peripheral aspect of counseling, but a central element and form of solidarity that shaped the therapeutic work. By expanding the spatial frame of the therapeutic encounter from the bounded session into the crisscrossing mountain paths that lead up to it, it becomes possible to trace psychogeographies of care that emerge at the intersection of a trembling earth and the counselor’s internal psychic landscape.

 

Bio:

Dr. Aidan Seale-Feldman is an Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Grounded in ethnographic explorations of disaster, mental health, and mass hysteria, her research asks how to approach forms of affliction that are not bound within the individual but instead move across bodies, environments, and generations. Based on two years of fieldwork in Nepal, her first book project is an ethnography of the psychic life of disaster. Dr. Seale-Feldman’s research has been published in Cultural AnthropologyEthos, HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, and South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies.

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