Aaron Matthew Neiman

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Stanford U.

Grant number

Gr. 9836

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Neiman, Aaron (Stanford U.) "Meeting the Black Dog's Gaze: New Ways of Knowing and Treating Depression in Australia"

AARON NEIMAN, then a graduate student at Stanford University, Stanford, California, received a grant in April 2019 to aid research on “Meeting the Black Dog’s Gaze: New Ways of Knowing and Treating Depression in Australia,” supervised by Dr. Duana Fullwiley. This ethnographic research project, conducted in the service of a doctoral dissertation, centered on the world of electronic mental health (“e-mental health”) programs in Sydney, Australia. Through embedded participant-observation with the researchers, administrators, and advocates who receive government funding to develop e-mental health programs, the purpose of this project was to understand the sociopolitical causes and effects of this new, automated “therapy without therapists.” The research sought to understand how digital mental health treatments attract public funding and awareness as viable, even desirable strategies for good medicine and good governance. Key themes of the project relate to potential complications that come from the outsourcing of this highly skilled form of human labor to a computer: how automated or digitally mediated therapy disrupts the hypothetical “therapeutic alliance” between doctor and patient, calls into question the authority of the “psy”-ences, and blurs the line between medical intervention and lifestyle adjustment. Unexpected events such as the Black Summer Bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic presented some methodological challenges, but ultimately served as a unique opportunity to investigate the use of computers to deliver psychological aid in periods of crisis. 


Neiman, Aaron. 2020. Have Some Mental Health: The Black Summer Bushfires, COVID-19, and the Governance of Psychic Retreat. Engagement: A Blog Published by the Anthropology and Environment Society, A Section of the American Anthropological Society.