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"I feel I am a bird without wings": Discourses of sadness and loss among East Africans in Western Australia

Tilbury, F. (2007) "I feel I am a bird without wings": Discourses of sadness and loss among East Africans in Western Australia. Identities, 14 (4). pp. 433-458.

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Using data from a qualitative study of understandings and experiences of "depression" among a number of East African communities in Western Australia, this article explores the dimensions of sadness and loss expressed by migrants and refugees. After discussing the parameters and cross-cultural (ir)relevance of the Western biomedical notion of "depression" (Kleinman and Good 1985) and its relationship to the hegemony of the Western "happiness" imperative (Wierzbicka 1999: 249), the article discusses methodological challenges involved in exploring understandings of "depression" among migrants. It then examines the ways in which sadness is expressed and the causes to which it is attributed, using extracts from interviews and focus groups with over 100 people from Ethiopian, Eritrean, Sudanese, and Somali backgrounds. The article argues that individualizing these concerns and reading them within the dominant Western biomedical framework of "depression" reinforces pathological representations of migrants and refugees, ignores structural disadvantage that produces negative emotional responses, limits settlement service responses, and may be recruited for the negative end result of arguing against immigration.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Gordon & Breach
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