School of Social and Political Science

EDCMA Lecture: What is an Ethnographic Interview? Thoughts at the Intersection of Anthropology and Psychiatry

Seminar Series
11 March 2022
15:00 - 17:00





A portrait style photo of the speaker, Bhrigupati Singh


This lecture examines an essential and yet uncertain tool of ethnographic and mental health related clinical work, the interview. While there is a strong secondary literature on the important attempts to systematize narrative-based interview formats (in instances such as the McGill Illness Narrative Interview, and the DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview), and their adoption (or not) in clinical care, in this lecture we ask what an ethnographic interview might be in its non-systematized form, and what aspects of reality might exceed the form and tempo of questioning involved in an interview. Drawing on authors including Zora Neale Hurston, Cora Diamond, Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, Stefania Pandolfo, Charles Briggs, and others, we explore a genealogy of doubt around anthropological methods of questioning that stand alongside the attempt to render one’s method explicit, and possible reasons for the anthropological emphasis on singularity rather than regularity in eliciting narrative. Rather than claiming an inherent impossibility of methodological specification, drawing on ethnographic work in community psychiatry clinics in Delhi, this lecture examines how one elicits a claim on the reality of another, and the point at which we feel ready to convey some aspects of other minds, without a necessarily stable concept of culture or the capacity to narrate.


Key speakers

  • Bhrigupati Singh, Ashoka University and Brown University