Racism, Migration, and Mental Health. Theoretical Reflections from Belgium

Author(s): Elise RONDELEZ ; Sarah BRACKE ; Griet ROETS ; Piet BRACKE



Migrant and diasporic communities who identify as Muslim are underrepresented in mental health care across Western Europe. At the same time, they are particularly at risk of suffering from mental health problems. We seek to explore this underrepresentation in theoretical terms and do so through a critical analysis of sociological literature focused on Muslims and mental health care in a context of migration to Europe. Pursuing the Foucaultian insight that mental health institutions shape subjects that pass through them, we reframe this underrepresentation in terms of subjectivity and the failure to be “good” subjects of Western biomedical regimes. This article aims to sharpen the critical lenses required for such an investigation, in order to use those lenses to discern mechanisms of “othering” within the relevant sociological scholarship. These mechanisms consist of both universalising and essentialising particular experiences, and need to be understood in relation to colonial frameworks. As both mechanisms are premised on disregarding agency, we conclude by arguing in favour of taking the agency of subjects with mental health issues into account.


critical theory, intersectionality, subjectification, mental health (care), Muslim migrants and diaspora, agency

Tags: Belgium, Europe, Muslim, Access to mental health care, Discrimination

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