“Idioms of Distress, Resilience and Well-Being: Enhancing understanding about mental health in multilingual contexts”
Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), this project is an extension of the Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State project.
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Principal Investigator: Professor Alison Phipps at University of Glasgow
GCRF Grant Ref: AH/P009786/1
Aim of the project:
This project aims to extend research presently in Ghana, Gaza, Uganda and Zimbabwe by focusing on the way local languages are used to express distress and well-being. Specifically the proposed research aims to enhance understanding about how capabilities can be developed by drawing on local idioms – of well-being, resilience and distress. Arts and humanities perspectives will be brought together with the existing Global Mental Health literature to develop innovative ways of translating these idioms with greater sensitivity to the context in which they have emerged. In particular the place of the local environment and its importance for expression of pain and of resilience and well-being will be analysed.
Proposed activities in order to achieve this aim:
- Engage in desk research to conduct a comparative literature review of expressions of distress, resilience and well-being in both the medical literature on mental health and in language studies and anthropology.
- Conduct fieldwork in-situ and digitally, using story-generating methodologies which encourage participants to tell stories about their languages and their use of words in translingual contexts and research sites with researchers and story-tellers.
- Embed the data collected into programmes which raise awareness of the importance of multilingual sensitivity for working cross-culturally and which aim to mainstream approaches to well-being in populations under pain and pressure.
- Translate linguistic data into artistic expressions through an intercultural, multilingual, production and conference, which create wider impacts through training programmes in each context.
Fieldwork will take place in the ODA compliant contexts represented in the large grant either in the existing case studies or through the researchers’ languages i.e. Ghana, Uganda, Gaza Strip, Zimbabwe and with new arrival refugees in Glasgow.
By using the language story-generating methodologies we will strengthen cultural practices and intangible cultural heritage which is at risk, and mitigate the damage which can occur through a lack of methodological flexibility and sensitivity to the experience of researching multilingually in contexts of conflict or duress. By representing the data generated artistically, we will produce performance and digital materials for use in training and human development activities for both intercultural and local contexts.
Main objectives in order of priority:
- To undertake linguistic ethnographic fieldwork in ODA contexts represented in the existing Large Grant in order to produce data sets for comparative linguistic analysis.
- To conduct a comparative literature review of idioms of distress, resilience and well-being in both the literature relating to mental health and linguistic anthropology.
- To conduct an interdisciplinary symposium in the NGO Noyam Dance Institute in which researchers and participants will engage in comparative data analysis from a range of disciplinary perspectives.
- To produce evidence for epidemiological research of the amenability of linguistic markers for understanding subjective well-being and emotional distress, cross-culturally.
- To refine story-generating methodologies as a means of data collection with populations with a well-founded suspicion of interview methods, with careful attention to processes of well-being.
- To inform organisations of the importance of multilingual sensitivity for working cross-culturally in populations under duress, but for whom mental health interventions may not (yet) be necessary. In particular for organisations working with refugees and displaced people.
- To translate the linguistic data into artistic expressions through an intercultural, multilingual, production, filmed for use in training programmes in each context.
Prof Alison Phipps (PI), University of Glasgow, School of Education
Dr Ross White (Co-I), University of Liverpool
Dr Richard Fay (Co-I), The University of Manchester, Department of Environment, Education and Development
Dr Nazmi Al-Masri (Co-I), The Islamic University of Gaza
Dr Rosco Kasujja (Co-I), Makerere University, Faculty of Social Sciences
Prof Kofi Agyekum (Co-I), University of Ghana, Linguistics Department
Prof Kofi Anyidoho (Co-I), University of Ghana, English Language Department
Maria Grazia Imperiale (Research Assistant), University of Glasgow, School of Education
Cliodhna Cork (Research Assistant), University of Glasgow, School of Education
Bella Hoogeveen (Project Administrator), University of Glasgow, School of Education
Noyam African Dance Institute
Tawona Sitholé, poet and playwright
Pan African Arts Scotland, Director Gameli Tordzro