In other publishing news, I've had another research paper accepted and published in Area. This is a great little journal that publishes shorter pieces on research and conceptual interventions. This piece reflects on global mental health and I make the case that we need to broaden our perspectives of mental health to a series of spaces (largely in the Global South) that exist outside the mainstream perspectives of geographical theory to-date. The empirical work is drawn from some work conducted in 2014 with health practitioners from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I have subsequently been developing some further research on the geographies of global mental health with a PhD student and colleagues from the QMUL Wolfson Institute. The title and abstract are copied below and Wiley have very kindly made the piece open access (find the full paper here).
Making space for restoration: epistemological pluralism within mental health interventions in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Global health policymakers have recently begun to focus their attention on high levels of untreated mental illness in low- and middle-income countries. They have, in turn, initiated a series of interventions intended to reduce the global ‘treatment gap’ that has emerged between those requiring treatment and those able to access it. Yet critics have challenged the questionable epistemological assumptions embedded in these interventions and have decried the lack of attention given to the translation and implementation of such projects in resource-limited contexts. In this paper, I focus on ongoing attempts to diminish the mental health treatment gap in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo to illuminate how dominant thinking about ameliorating the global treatment gap remains rooted in a reductive biomedical paradigm. Drawing on interviews conducted with 16 psychiatrists in the city, I show how a series of epistemological assumptions about treatment have affected the success of treatment delivery in two donor-funded interventions. I then contrast the dominant biomedical approach with the perspectives of three younger voices in the city's psychiatric community. I reveal how an alternative epistemological framework, similar to that of the phenomenological tradition, informs their own successful treatment expansion efforts. This alternative perspective, I propose, challenges practitioners and geographers alike to cultivate new ways of approaching global mental health that acknowledge the value of patient experiences and make possible more responsive forms of treatment and care.
This morning I woke to the good news that I had a paper accepted for publication in Journal of Geography in Higher Education. It's a departure from the traditional journals that I target for my research, but this paper is something different: the manuscript is actually two PGCAP essays mashed together. For the uninitiated, PGCAP is a compulsory teaching qualification in higher education involving quite a few essay submissions. I finished the course last year and designed my assignments with publication in mind. The assignments looked at how module convenors can practically facilitate interdisciplinary learning in the classroom, and the paper mixes some conceptual work on communication with some reflections on how successful certain changes to module design were. The title and abstract are copied below and I'll add a link to the CV section when the publisher version is online.
To understand and be understood: facilitating interdisciplinary learning through the promotion of communicative competence
Whilst interdisciplinarity has become a central concern of research and learning in geography, few from the discipline have considered the practical facilitation of interdisciplinarity in the classroom. Module convenors, I argue, must pay greater attention to how learners engage and negotiate with peers and perspectives from other disciplines. In this paper, I focus on my own efforts in designing and teaching a second year undergraduate course on health, biomedicine, and society, to illuminate the opportunities and challenges facing teaching staff who seek to provide opportunities for interdisciplinary learning in the classroom. Drawing upon theories of communication, I demonstrate the significance of developing “communicative competence” as a pathway to successful interdisciplinary learning. Unless learners from one discipline can understand, and be understood by, peers from other disciplines, the accomplishment of interdisciplinary learning is undermined. Interdisciplinary modules should include learning outcomes that facilitate student development in this area. Approaching interdisciplinary learning through the lens of communicative competence casts critical attention upon the central abilities and cultural sensitivities that are the hallmarks of interdisciplinary collaboration – from negotiating meaning to critical disciplinary awareness – and highlights the lessons that interdisciplinarity poses for disciplines, such as geography, tasked with preparing students for interdisciplinary learning.