Spotlight on… James Davies

James Davies

Position: Reader in Social Anthropology and Mental Health at the University of Roehampton

Bio: James obtained his doctorate in social and medical anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2006 with a dissertation the construction of the psychotherapeutic practitioner. He is also a qualified psychotherapist and has practiced in various settings, including the NHS. James is co-founder of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, which is now secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence. He has worked at the University of Roehampton since 2006.

Research interests: James’ main research interests lie in the areas of critical psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, medical anthropology, social suffering, fieldwork methods and professional socialisation.

 Newest work: James’ latest book The New Opium: Capitalism, Mental Health and the Sedation of a Nation will be published shortly by Atlantic Books. It explores the ways in which successive governments and big business have, since the 1980s, worked to promote a new vision of mental health; one that puts at its centre a new kind of person: optimistic, extraverted, team-working and above all, economically productive – the kind of person the new economy needs and wants. This book tells the story of how, since the 1980s, this pro-market agenda has begun to harm a nation, turning our entire approach to mental health into a potent New Opium for the people – an approach more preoccupied with sedating us, depoliticising our discontent and keeping us productive and subservient to the economic status quo, than with understanding and solving the real roots of our emotional despair.

Previous work: Why is psychiatry such big business? Why are so many psychiatric drugs prescribed – 47 million antidepressant prescriptions in the UK alone last year – and why, without solid scientific justification, has the number of mental disorders risen from 106 in 1952 to 374 today? This is the focus of James’ bestselling book Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good. Cracked reveals for the first time the true human cost of an industry that, in the name of helping others, has actually been helping itself. Listed as one of NetGalley’s Top 10 books of 2010. You can read an article about James’ research in The Times and see him speaking about his research in the following video:

Teaching: In the anthropology programme, James convenes the first year module Fieldwork: Theory, Practice, Product and our third-year module Culture, ‘Madness’ and Medicalisation, which provides a critical introduction to today’s dominant psychological/clinical practices such as psychoanalysis, bio-psychiatry, psychotherapy, counselling and clinical psychology through an anthropological lens.

Did you know…?

  • that James has undertaken fieldwork in Buddhist monasteries in Nepal.
  • that Before becoming an anthropologist, James trained as a dancer, working as such for many years.
  • that James lives with his wife and two children (Rose and Oliver) in a small house on the other side of Richmond Park.

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