Towards an Anthropological Theory of Mind
Organizer: Tanya Luhrmann (Stanford University)
This is a conference that seeks to build a theory and a group of scholars invested in the theory, with the plan of producing a collective article and a plan for research. We believe that the model of mind developed within a social group will affect the mental experience of members of that group. The conference will be a small working-group conference in which we look together at the dimensions of models of mind that we think have significant consequences for mental experience.
Tanya joined the department of Cultural and Social Anthropology in Spring of 2007. Her interests include the social construction of psychological experience, particularly in the domain of what some would call the “non-rational.” Her current work looks at the way American evangelicals learn to experience God and at psychosis in psychiatric clients. These are very different projects, but both concern the way that social learning may affect even someone’s sensory experience. One of her research goals is to distinguish the different patterns of sensory experiences most commonly identified as divinely inspired and those most commonly identified as psychiatric symptoms, and to understand those patterns in historical and social context. Tanya trained at the University of Cambridge (PhD 1986), and taught for many years at the University of California San Diego. Prior to coming to Stanford she was Max Palevsky Professor and a director of the Clinical Ethnography project in the Department of Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. Her first project was a detailed study of the way reasonable people come to believe apparently unreasonable beliefs (Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft, Harvard, 1989). Her second project explored the apparently irrational self-criticism of a postcolonial India elite, the result of colonial identification with the colonizers (The Good Parsi, Harvard 1996). Her third book identified two cultures with the American profession of psychiatry and examined the way these different cultures encouraged two different forms of empathy and two different understandings of mental illness (Of Two Minds, Knopf, 2000).