Elizabeth Durham

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Princeton U.

Grant number

Gr. 9755

Approve Date

October 24, 2018

Project Title

Durham, Elizabeth A., Princeton U., Princeton, NJ - To aid research on 'The Post-Asylum Good Life: Patients, Families, Materia Medica, and the Pursuit of Wellbeing in Cameroon,' supervised by Dr. Joao G. Biehl

ELIZABETH A. DURHAM, then a graduate student at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, was awarded funding in October 2018 to aid research on “The Post-Asylum Good Life: Patients, Families, Materia Medica, and the Pursuit of Wellbeing in Cameroon,” supervised by Dr. Joao G. Biehl. In Cameroon, a country of 24 million people, there is one full-service psychiatric institution: Jamot Hospital, located in the capital of Yaoundé. Supported by Cameroon’s new National Mental Health Policy (2017-2027) and Global Mental Health, Jamot operates a psychoeducation campaign that teaches patients and families about biomedical frameworks of “mental illness” and “mental health” and associated practices of “mental hygiene,” including psychopharmaceutical use. This project interrogated this particular psychiatric vision of “a good life” by following patients and their families upon discharge from Jamot back to their homes and neighborhoods within the city. It asked: how do former patients and families think with, against, or otherwise in relation to these hospital experiences in their pursuit of affective stability and a good life after the disruptive experience of the asylum? How is the agentive work of delineating and nurturing wellness distributed among former patients, families, and materia medica? How do post-asylum life projects interpellate broader sociopolitical circumstances in Cameroon? Through such questions, the project conceptualized affective “wellbeing” in its own right — as more than the background counterpart to productively critical notions of affective distress and illness — and the place of health in a life well-lived.