Claudia Lang & Eva Jansen
The appropriation of biopsychiatric concepts such as depression, and their reframing in clinical and academic discussions, are important parts of the revitalization of bhūt vidyā as Ayurvedic psychiatry. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Kerala from 2009 to 2011, in this article we explore the process and the controversies of translating and correlating the biopsychiatric notion of depression, as a discrete and biologic pathological entity, with Ayurvedic notions of body, mind, and mental distress. Depression, conceptualized as a neurochemical imbalance, is, we argue, relatively compatible with Ayurvedic notions of a fluent body and mind, and so is easier to correlate with Ayurvedic concepts of dosic imbalances and blockages of channels than the former psychoanalytically dominated model of depression. The appropriation of depression within Ayurvedic discourse challenges the dichotomy of universal and culture-specific disorders, and this has a significant impact on mental health programs in Kerala.