Mad by the Millions: making mental disorders in the age of world citizenship, experts and technology
This presentation tells a story of transnational science making in an international organization. It is derived from the book he recently published: Mad by the Millions: Mental Disorders and the Early Years of the World Health Organization (MIT Press, 2021), focusing on WHO’s first international social psychiatry project, which originated from the post-WWII ideology of world citizenship, shaped by a group of visionary and trained individuals, and expedited by the quest of communication, visual and data technology. he argues that ways of understanding mental disorders are contingent upon the changing values, perceived nature of evidence, technological infrastructure, and collectively pursued scientific methods in the world we live in. Launched in 1965, WHO’s social psychiatry project recruited experts worldwide, aiming to establish the universal profiles of mental disorders and create a common language for psychiatric diagnoses. It was during this period when psychiatric epidemiology matured as a useful tool for the analysis of data collected internationally. By the end of the project, it successfully rewrote the fifth chapter of the ICD, 9th Revision. But at the same time, voices also appeared to critique the accountability of so-called golden standards. They included a series of discovery of culture-bound syndromes and disintegrated disease categories in countries which did not participate in WHO’s project. Developed along the revision of ICD, new initiatives to understand mental disorders emerged in 1970s onwards, such as the appeal of new cross-cultural psychiatry in and the current Global Mental Health initiative.