Identifying and Embracing Ourselves as Caribbean Anthropologists:
Global Lessons We Have to Teach and Negotiate by Aminata Cairo, Ph.D.
Lecture CRCP (Caribbean Regional Conference for Psychology) Port-au-Prince, Haїti 9-11, 2016
Wi Kon, Wi Kon… Dya
I am a psychologist, an anthropologist, a dancer, a mother, daughter, sister, and a Lyman T. Johnson Scholar.
I am a child from Surinamese parents. I am here as an Afro-Caribbean person who grew up in the Netherlands. At the age of 18 I moved to the US where I received all my higher education schooling and training. I am saying all of this to premise the fact that I am honored to speak here, but also that I come from a certain perspective and do not have direct experience with psychology as it is practiced and trained in the Caribbean. What I know about Caribbean psychology is based on research, personal exchanges, and assumptions, so if there are some things that do not make sense, please forgive me and feel free to correct me. Take from this what you can and reject what you don’t need.
In 2003 I started my dissertation research Suriname in medical anthropology. I looked at a model of mental well being among working class Afro-Surinamese people. My dissertation was a follow up to my Master’s thesis in which I studied a mental health model of an African-
American population in a low income community in Lexington, KY. My master’s research engaged the community and their vision of mental health. I learned about how mental health is always lived and experienced within the context of community. There was a strong sense of black identity and an “us vs. them” feelings. I found the importance of informal networks, stigma, social support systems and artistic expression as essential parts of mental health. My findings changed my course. I changed from looking at “mental health” and instead started looking at the broader, more holistic concept of “mental well being”.