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Open Access Mental Health Research and Cultural Dominance: The Social Construction of Knowledge for International Development

La recherche en santé mentale et la domination culturelle: la construction sociale de la connaissance à des fins de développement international

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This institutional ethnographic work uses the first author's experience as an international development worker, educator, and community mental health nurse in West Africa to illustrate how official research and policy on mental health services reflect Western academic, corporate, economic, and cultural dominance. Focusing on a critical textual analysis of a survey intended to support funding applications to international aid/lending agencies, the authors show how official processes privilege Western policies/research approaches and subordinate local perspectives. If nurses, researchers, and policy-makers are to be effective in carrying out development work in Africa, they must learn to appreciate the subtle exertion of dominance inherent in Western approaches. The authors propose that understanding local knowledge be foregrounded rather than backgrounded to the complex global interpretive frames for international research and international development policy.

Ce travail ethnographique institutionnel s'appuie sur l'expérience de la première auteure en tant qu'intervenante en développement international, éducatrice et infirmière en santé mentale communautaire en Afrique occidentale, pour illustrer comment la recherche officielle et les politiques portant sur les services de santé mentale reflètent la domination occidentale sur le plan académique, corporatif, économique et culturel. S'appuyant sur une analyse textuelle critique d'un questionnaire utilisé dans le cadre de demandes de subvention adressées à des agences d'aide internationale et de prêts, les auteures démontrent comment les processus officiels privilégient les politiques et les approches de recherche occidentales et supplantent les perspectives locales. Pour être efficaces dans leur travail de développement en Afrique, les infirmières, les chercheurs et les décisionnaires doivent apprendre à reconnaître les attitudes de domination subtiles inhérentes aux approches occidentales. Les auteurs proposent que la recherche internationale et les politiques de développement international mettent en priorité la compréhension des connaissances locales plutôt qu'une approche privilégiant des cadres d'interprétation complexes et généraux.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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