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How are Suicide Bombers Analysed in Mental Health Discourse? A Critical Anthropological Reading

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This paper complicates the notion of the suicide bomber as represented in mental health literature. Most authors apply Western psychiatric concepts to understand suicide bombers without accounting for value differences around life and death or terrorism and martyrdom. Accordingly, these researchers replicate arguments to explain individual behaviour from a particular epistemological perspective. In contrast, critical approaches to this literature can expose the worldviews of the analysers and the analysed to devise sounder interpretations. This paper scrutinises mental health discourse on suicide bombing to ask: (1) What do we learn about the authors of suicide bombers in these articles? (2) How do their analyses demonstrate the relationship between knowledge and power? These conclusions can enable researchers to reduce biases and devise behavioural models that more accurately reflect the realities of their subjects.

Affiliations: 1: Yale University


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