That language is inescapable is an idea widely explored by seminal philosophers, semioticians and anthropologists. Freud was evidently inspired by some of them when he developed psychoanalysis at the turn of the 20th century. Vygotsky, in the Soviet Union, conceptualized language as being inherently linked with socially-constructed human though. Many decades later, Watzlawick and his colleagues rightfully argued that it is impossible not to communicate. These, and many other theoretical and methodological contributions have emphasized the key role of language to understand mind and behaviour, both at individual and collective level. Language is key, for example, to understand the workings of ideology: hegemonic symbols and meanings, and their potential for naturalization and normalization of oppression.
Author: Manuel Capella
Violence and ill-health are inherently related concepts, especially when it comes to the experiences of marginalised population. My recent visit to India contributed to my reflections around this idea. I travelled there to participate in “Difficult Dialogues”, an event co-organized by UCL in Goa, and to give a lecture on “violence in post – colonial contexts” at the SNDT Women´s University, in Mumbai. While in the country, I also tried to travel around a bit, and to experience the local culture first-hand (although the only thing a couple of days could grant me was a short “taster” of the local landscape). After my trip, my perspective on health and illness as contextually shaped was enriched. In fact, a fundamental idea remains salient: structural and cultural violence are a crucial underlying cause of ill-health across cultures.
I have crossed over, and there is no coming back from that. I have crossed oceans and national borders, going from Ecuador to the UK and back. But I have also navigated through cultures and subcultures, guided by the idea that human wellbeing (what my formal training taught me to call “mental health”) cannot be separated from social context. Months ago, I returned to London after doing one year of fieldwork in my hometown of Guayaquil, in the coastal region of Ecuador. There, I spent most of my time-sharing the daily lives of psychology students, both undergraduate and graduate. I also witnessed how they diagnose and intervene locally, dealing with pervasive experiences of violence, particularly in urban neighborhoods labeled as “marginal”, “vulnerable” and “dangerous”.