Zihan Zhao

Date of Award


First Advisor

Anne O'Dwyer

Second Advisor

Asma Abbas


This thesis aimed to emphasize and extend what is an already-known and increasingly accepted reality: that—in recognizing the many implications of the world’s colonial past— new concepts and approaches to addressing mental illnesses are not only necessary, but required. This analysis begins with the emergence of a globalizable understanding of trauma—within a very Western historical lens and psychological framework. I then chart out the imprint of colonial violence through lenses provided by psychology, psychiatry, and ethnopsychiatry, with particular focus on how these lenses became weaponized by European settlers during and after the creation and construction of so many nation-states. The outcome was to differentiate, pathologize, and strip away the agency of the colonized. discusses the ‘aftermath’ of the colonial empire from the scars it left on the colonies after they achieved so-called independence. Moreover, the norms around of “trauma studies” marginalized or oppressed populations without situating them in sufficiently researched historical and political context. I conclude by discussing the need for a new lens if we are to envision a future for understanding and treating colonial trauma, with the hope that caregivers, scholars, psychiatrists can be living repositories of another culture, another truth—one that contributes to the mission of true “mental health for all.”

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