Hinton, Devon E. and Byron J. Good., eds. Culture and PTSD: Trauma in Global and Historical Perspective. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
Culture and PTSD: Trauma in Global and Historical Perspective is a collection of essays in cultural psychology, specifically examining the juncture between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM) and different cultural connotations and practices. Edited by Devon E. Hinton and Byron J. Good, professors of psychiatry and the anthropology of mental illness, respectively, the book brings together eleven essays on trauma, leveling a challenge to the established definition and treatment of PTSD. These essays critically examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of common DSM style PTSD diagnoses, the relative cultural understanding of PTSD in terms of diagnostics and treatment, and ask whether the over-prevalence of PTSD is a possibly pernicious kind of diagnosis, one that is harmful to patients and the mental health field as a whole.
After their introductory chapter, Hinton and Good's second section provides three chapters on the historical background on PTSD. This part of Culture and PTSD provides a strong foundational knowledge for the reader on the history of PTSD as a diagnosis and, perhaps more importantly, the debates surrounding the concept of PTSD among the professional community. The third, and final, section is much larger than the first two. Consisting of eight chapters, it comprises the majority of the book. Each chapter is an essay examining trauma and treatment in radically different sociocultural contexts around the world. The third section is wide ranging, by necessity, and the chapters are quite disjointed as a result. This does not, however, detract from the quality of the book, and if anything, the highly varied nature of the case studies adds validity to the importance of part of the authors argument: that PTSD ought to be better understood in individual cultural contexts.
While all of the chapters in the final section are worthwhile, several stand out. Ball and O'Neills chapter on historical trauma among Native Americans, for example, is a much needed examination of an under-looked group. Ball and O'Neill argue that PTSD is an unsuitable diagnosis for the trauma that Native American groups face because their experiences have a much longer cultural time frame,...