The notion of culture has been under attack in anthropology during the last decades. People have
particularly denounced what appears as a double process of objectification: internally, when
cultures are presented as coherent and homogeneous entities; externally, when societies and
cultures are presented as well-bounded and clearly separated from one another. These critiques
have been formulated against a double horizon: (i) a historical one where colonization is analyzed
as having produced a certain vision of the Otherness of the alien cultures: a vision built on
processes of exoticization that facilitated the colonizer’s domination and the play of power
relationships; and (ii) a transversal horizon with the current awareness of the power of
globalization forces including the importance of large-scale movements of populations, the
circulation of images and products through trade and the media, and individuals’ concrete and
imaginary travels throughout societies and cultures where they can live and imagine themselves
as participating in multiple worlds. It is striking to see that at the very same moment when
anthropology was criticizing the notion of Culture, mental health clinicians and researchers
seemed to have discovered Culture. However, most of them seem unaware of the traps that this
notion entails. Cultures are generally heterogeneous, plural and paradoxical; they are infused and
modulated by power relationships at the global and local levels. Individuals circulate between
various cultural worlds and often belong simultaneously to several of them. This paper will
discuss the implications of a critical medical anthropology for global mental health.

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