Racialisation of the schizophrenia diagnosis

Authored by: Suman Fernando

Routledge International Handbook of Critical Mental Health

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138225473
eBook ISBN: 9781315399584
Adobe ISBN:


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The term ‘race’ appears to have entered the English language in the early sixteenth century to indicate lineage (Banton 1998). Later, a vague racial awareness of people in Europe (for example, of Jews and Muslims as a special type of ‘other’) evolved into the modern conception of race with the rise of European power and its conquest of the Americas (Omi and Winant 2015). Major figures during the (European) ‘Enlightenment’, such as Hegel, Kant, Hume and Locke, expounded what today would be called racist views (see Eze 1997); and a pattern of ‘race thinking’ (Barzun 1965: ix) linked to racism was to engulf Western civilisation from then onwards (Omi and Winant 2015). Since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1950) declaration of 1950 (The Race Question), sociological theories of race have found favour. ‘Race’ is now seen as a social concept ‘that signifies and symbolizes social conflict and interests by referring to different types of human bodies’ (Omi and Winant 2015: 110); and the concept of ‘racialisation’ has developed, meaning that various groups of people are structured as ‘races’ in the manner that Europeans identified the people they enslaved and colonised as racially different. More recently, the ‘racialisation’ term has been applied not just to groups of people but to particular activities carried out by people. Thus we speak of the racialisation of identity whereby one’s identity is determined (at least in part) by the notion of ‘race’; or of citizenship or belonging where the group one belongs to is seen in terms of ‘race’; or (as in this chapter) when the process of making a diagnosis is determined wholly (or to a large extent) by notions of ‘race’.

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