tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
The NY Times Magazine has a great article today about cross-cultural understandings of mental illness and how the US-led push to globalise and standardise mental health research has not only changed how other cultures understand mental illnesses, but how they actually experience them: The Americanization of Mental Illness.

I was particularly interested to see a discussion of anorexia in Hong Kong (which ties in with recent discussions about Liz Williams' 'Snake Agent'-- and in fact actually supports that novel's Western-centric use of anorexia in a future Asian city!), and schizophrenia in Zanzibar (which has definite parallels to how mental illness in general is perceived in East Timor). But the whole thing is fascinating-- I strongly recommend it, and I'm putting the book version of the essay (Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, by Ethan Watters) on my shopping list right now.

Less pleasingly, I see that Elizabeth Gilbert (she of 'Eat, Pray, Love' fame) has a new book out. Where apparently she takes yet another tour through Asia, briefly interacting with a very limited number of local people but yet somehow able to write all about them. And yes, Curtis Sittenfeld, there's probably a reason 'Eat, Pray, Love' hasn't yet 'hit it big' in South-East Asia*. If I may hazard a guess, might a possible reason be that Asian readers aren't so interested in a fairly wealthy white woman's post-divorce schlepping through their countries to find, you know, spiritual enlightenment?

*Although as I did read the book in a (very poor) Indonesian translation, there must be some demand. And the quality of the translation does have some bearing on my attitude towards the book, given other people have said one of its strongest points is Gilbert's self-deprecating sense of humour (which I either didn't pick up on due to comprehension issues, or the translator didn't manage to convey satisfactorily. I suspect the latter-- not because my Indonesian is flawless, but because the rest of the text is peppered with mistranslations).


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