A Review on Christiana Giordano's Book

Published: 2021-09-10 09:45:11
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“Migrants in Translation: Caring and the Logics of Difference in Contemporary Italy” was written by Christiana Giordano and published in 2014 by University of California Press. Due to the publisher, subject matter, and heavy use of references to other anthropological and sociological researchers it can be assumed the intended audience are students, peers in the field of medical anthropology/general anthropology/sociology, or others heavily invested in the subject matter. Int he introduction, Giordano promises an analysis of the ideas of recognition and of acknowledgment when it comes to other cultures, as well as an analysis and critique of the techniques of ethno-psychiatric care of immigrants. In the introduction through chapter two, an analysis of recognition vs. acknowledgment is provided, and the techniques of ethno-psychiatry are shown and explained though not exactly analyzed. As it criticizes both government immigration institutions and traditional psychiatry it is likely to earn enemies in those fields.
The anecdotes provided in the book take place in the Piedmont region of Italy from 2002 to 2004; but the findings in the book apply to Italy’s immigration system as a whole (and reflect on similar policies and mindsets in the whole of Europe) and presumably have remained true to the present day (or at least up to the time of the book’s publishing). In the intro through chapter two, there are two primary comparisons: the notion of recognition vs. the notion of acknowledgment, and the principles of traditional psychiatric care and thinking vs. those of ethno-psychiatric care.The primary argument of the chosen chapters was that we should apply the logic of acknowledgment rather than that of recognition in dealing with the medical issues of those from other cultures. The interviews, ethnographies, and quoted material used support this argument by showing how recognition reduces people’s individual circumstances into recognizable categories that hinder understanding of their issues where acknowledgment instead accepts that individual conditions are irreducible to categories and can deliver better care by paying greater attention to cultural and sociological details that are part of a patient’s condition that would be overlooked otherwise. The argument can be challenged primarily on the grounds that large-scale application of this is costly and possibly inefficient at the state level, as it reduces a state’s cost-saving ability to broadly categorize its citizens.
Several methods of gathering data were used: ethnography, statistics, and interviews all seem to have been involved to some extent. Interviewed immigrants were asked about their experiences with the immigration system and the medical issues they were experiencing. The doctors and ethno-psychiatrists interviewed were asked how they treated their patients, what the logic was behind their diagnoses and actions were, etc. People were categorized as either immigrants or non-immigrants; doctors were primarily categorized as traditional- or ethno-psychiatrists. Additional data regarding the effectiveness of treatments of traditional psychiatrists on immigrant patients would have strengthened the text (so as to better compare that data with the effectiveness of ethno-psychiatric treatments).
The most important aspect of the reading, to me, were the sections comparing the logics of recognition and acknowledgment; where recognition is to understand people via reducing their situation into familiar categories while acknowledgment is to accept that one’s social, medical, and psychological conditions may not be able to be reduced into understandable categories (21-26). Of course, the competition of these two modes of thinking is not one that is limited to medical fields, as it is of huge importance to socioeconomics as well. Acknowledgement is certainly the mode of thinking that better reflects reality: no two people are exactly alike, nor can any one person be wholly encapsulated by a category. However, in a world with 7 billion people, considering each one’s history individually is an impossible task. In light of this, the questions is not “should we use the logic of acknowledgment or recognition?”, but rather “when can we afford to use the logic of acknowledgment?”.
Two Open Questions:
In what areas/at what times can we afford to use the logic of recognition? (That is, when does it cause the least harm, or are there even places and times when it can cause more good that the logic of acknowledgment?)

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