Rural Migrant Mental Health in Shanghai: Urban Transformations, Stress, and the Management of Subjectivity

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Lisa RICHAUD, Fudan University, China
Drawing on recent ethnographic data on rural migrant lives in both suburban and central neighborhoods of Shanghai, this paper challenges conventional sociological understandings of the relationships between the urban environment and migrant mental (ill) health. It explores the mediations that operate dialogically between, on the one hand, the city as lived by migrants through particular places and situations, and, on the other hand, distress, ill-being, and mental disorder. Rather than trying to ascertain or argue against the prevalence of mental illnesses among migrants, it emphasizes the active role of individuals in the management of their own subjectivity, that is, the everyday acts of preserving, through varied bodily, affective, and mental practices and adjustments, an endurant orientation toward the present and its undecidable futures. The city is thus apprehended through the habits of dwelling and the resonances of lived habitat, which filter the mental experience of migrants. This perspective enables to move beyond linear explanations where commonly identified urban stressors (poor-quality housing, hard working conditions, social exclusion and the like) directly impact migrant mental health.