A CRITICAL-COMPARATIVE STUDY OF SUICIDE EPIDEMICS IN TWO PACIFIC ISLAND SOCIETIES

Talk by Edward D. Lowe. Place: 4206-121

2016.06.07 | Martin Damgaard Larsen

Date Wed 22 Jun
Time 09:15 11:00
Location Moesgaard, AU

Abstract:

This paper presents a critical-comparative analysis of well-documented suicide epidemics in the Pacific Islands of Chuuk and Samoa. To contextualize the experience-near dimensions of the phenomena of suicide in these islands, the analysis begins with an incommensurate or “disjunctive” mode of comparison by examining the ethnopsychologies of emotion and the management of anger as these contrast with dominant understandings in Western academic “psy-sciences.” The second phase of the comparative analysis involves making critical-processual comparisons at two levels. The first level involves “drilling down” from the general discussion of shared ethnopsychology to compare the organization of everyday social and material reproduction in each site. This analysis can provide insight into the local political-economic processes that create the social-structural disparities in terms of the risks and resiliencies associated with self-harm as a strategy of the management of emotions and social-relational protest.  The second level involves, “scaling up” and engaging in a case-oriented comparative study of the particular historical intersections that contributed to the sharply increasing suicide rates in Chuuk and Samoa in the 1970s and 1980s. The inclusion of the insights from scaling-up with those gained by the incommensurate comparison of ethnopsychologies and the drilling-down comparison of local political-economic processes provide a much fuller middle-range explanation for the suicide epidemics in Samoa and Chuuk in the last decades of the 20th century.  The author argues that the ethnographically-grounded critical-comparative study of suicide can offer a more context sensitive and therefore more valid account than the “modernizing social-cultural change” explanations that have been used to explain these suicide epidemics as well as others in the past.

Time:  9.15-11.00

Venue: 4206-121

Meeting