Mental Health in the War on Terror : Culture, Science, and Statecraft
Neil Aggarwal's timely study finds that mental-health and biomedical professionals have created new forms of knowledge and practice in their desire to understand and fight terrorism, and in the process, psychiatrists and psychologists have either worked uncritically to protect state interests or labored to protect undesirable populations from state control.
Professional interpretation, like all interpretations, is subject to cultural forces. Drawing on cultural psychiatry and medical anthropology, Aggarwal analyzes the transformation of definitions for normal and abnormal behavior in a vast array of sources: government documents, professional bioethical debates, legal motions and opinions, psychiatric and psychological scholarship, media publications, and policy briefs. Critical themes emerge on the use of mental health in awarding or denying disability to returning veterans, characterizing the confinement of Guantánamo detainees, contextualizing the actions of suicide bombers, portraying Muslim and Arab populations in psychiatric and psychological scholarship, illustrating bioethical issues in the treatment of detainess, and supplying the methods employed to deradicalize terrorists. Throughout, Aggarwal explores the fascinating, troublesome transformation of mental-health practice into a potential instrument of counterterrorism.