MH Conversations and Connections Series – Lunchtime Seminar
Title: “Pandemic-Era Counselling in Shanghai: Viral Absurdity, Affective Dysphoria, and Mental Health in Crisis”
Date: 25 October, 2023 (Wednesday)
Time: 12:30 – 1:45 pm
Venue: Seminar Room 2 (Room 401), 4/F, Academic Building, 3 Sassoon Road
Mode: In-person and Online via Zoom
At the height of the pandemic in China, local mental health services providers had their hands full. In this talk, we will journey through the affective landscapes of Shanghai’s middle-class urbanites, as narrated by local psychological counsellors who operate in the country’s vibrant and loosely regulated therapeutic milieu. Pandemic policies hit Shanghai hard, which culminated in the infamous two-month lockdown. While the authorities managed to temporarily contain the spread of the virus, negative affects proliferated in the city with a truly viral force. As gloominess spread, state propaganda and official media circulated enthusiastic reports on fighting the pandemic with “positive energy” (zheng nengliang), generating dysphoric feelings among citizens mentally worn out by the draconian anti-pandemic policies.
This study is an anthropological investigation into the frictions generated in the clash between state-constructed affective regimes that promote positive thinking and disseminate politics of hope and various tribes of “affect aliens” among Chinese urbanites that resist performative positivity by embodying gloominess. The accounts of psychological counsellors contest the dominant narrative of pandemic-induced anxiety and depression as primarily marked by withdrawal and passivity. Instead, such affects can be re-imagined as modes of resilience that question the censoring impact of the politics of “positive energy.”
Dr Anna Iskra
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Culture and the Mind, University of Copenhagen
Anna Iskra is an anthropologist interested in the intersections between state power, psy-sciences, and selfhood. She conducted research in different field sites across China, where she explored local psy-spiritual networks. Anna is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Culture and the Mind, University of Copenhagen. She can be reached at email@example.com.
This study is part of a larger project “Covid-19 and global mental health: The importance of cultural contexts” (Principal Investigator: Dr. Ana Antić), hosted by the Centre for Culture and the Mind at the University of Copenhagen and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Welcome to join us!
Enquiry: Please contact Ms Rachel Suen (firstname.lastname@example.org).