Prozak Diaries is an analysis of emerging psychiatric discourses in post-1980s Iran. It examines a cultural shift in how people interpret and express their feeling states, by adopting the language of psychiatry, and shows how experiences that were once articulated in the richly layered poetics of the Persian language became, by the 1990s, part of a clinical discourse on mood and affect. In asking how psychiatric dialect becomes a language of everyday, the book analyzes cultural forms created by this clinical discourse, exploring individual, professional, and generational cultures of medicalization in various sites from clinical encounters and psychiatric training, to intimate interviews, works of art and media, and Persian blogs. Through the lens of psychiatry, the book reveals how historical experiences are negotiated and how generations are formed.
Orkideh Behrouzan traces the historical circumstances that prompted the development of psychiatric discourses in Iran and reveals the ways in which they both reflect and actively shape Iranians' cultural sensibilities. A physician and an anthropologist, she combines clinical and anthropological perspectives in order to investigate the gray areas between memory and everyday life, between individual symptoms and generational remembering. Prozak Diaries offers an exploration of language as experience. In interpreting clinical and generational narratives, Behrouzan writes not only a history of psychiatry in contemporary Iran, but a story of how stories are told.
"This remarkable book reveals the myriad of ways in which a popularized medical discourse, artistic expression, and psychological metaphor have been intertwined to permit people to speak about how they feel. Only Orkideh Behrouzan, a scholar conversant in these several disciplines and deeply steeped in Persian culture, could trace this interpretive pattern—one that will be of deep interest to those who study war, social resilience, and the work of memory."
—Jennifer Leaning, Harvard School of Public Health
"A richly textured ethnographic and historical study of how languages and practices of 'sciences of the soul'—including psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis—have traveled to and in Iran, and what contemporary cultural work they perform. Full of brilliant unexpected insights, this is an indispensable text for understanding today's Iran."
—Afsaneh Najmabadi, Harvard University
"With the exquisite literary sensibility of a writer and the analytical astuteness of a scientist, Orkideh Behrouzan has written an exceptional book that brings the experiences of psychiatry and individuals' need for improvisation in an uncertain world alive to the reader. Navigating between the experiences of different generations of Iranians, this book provides one of the most compelling accounts I have read of how historical and psychological experiences fold and refold into everyday life. In its execution of this difficult project, the book breaks all boundaries between disciplines, and between expert knowledge and lay knowledge. A splendid achievement."
—Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University
"Prozak Diaries is a brilliant analysis of psychological remembering and cultural reworking, the domestication of neuropsychiatry and pharmaceutical treatments of depreshen, and the structure of feelings of a generation expressed through blogs, literary productions, and self-reflection."
—Byron Good, Harvard Medical
“From the beginning, her work impresses through a style of writing that deliberately eschews an authoritative voice for the benefit of the many narratives shared by her interlocutors… Throughout Behrouzan’s well-theorised and multi-faceted argument, her book maintains a compellingly consistent and logical internal structure. A book review typically includes some mention of the shortcomings of the book in question, yet in this case, such an exercise would be forced. It seems much more constructive to acknowledge the book’s accomplishment in providing a theoretically nuanced and ethnographically dense account that brings out the ambiguities, convergences and departures between psychiatry as an allegedly uniform authoritative system of knowledge and psychiatry as a set of concepts, practices and modes that are subject to local evaluation, negotiation and re-contextualisation.”
—Arne S. Steinforth, Anthropologica
“The book is written gracefully, offering a rich and elegant ethnographic approach to the matter of subjectivities by analyzing the rise and normalization of psychiatric discourses in post 1980s Iran...Overall, this book provides a wonderful account of how historical and cultural circumstances can produce a generational mark with deep psychological implications. But even more, the book is a lucid and beautifully written example of how people, in their everyday lives, actively manage to continue being alive and making sense of their past and their present."
—Sebastian Rojas Navarro, Ethos
"Behrouzan blends deep historical insights that are indigenous to the region with “imports” and insights that were as relevant in 9th and 10th centuries are they are today. She blends English and Persian. She blends biomedical and poetic language, cultural and political references... By any standard, ProzakDiaries is meticulously crafted and exceptionally well-executed. Behrouzan’s medical training, deep historical perspective, cultural analysis, and careful ethnographic writing illuminate a way of thinking about the Middle East that is often lacking. [This book] should be considered an invaluable ethnography for all medical students, medical and psychological anthropologists, those interested psychoanalytic theory, and those studying the Middle East, Central Asia, or the Muslim World in general."
—Dina Omar, Somatosphere
“Orkideh Behrouzan's Prozāk Diaries is a formidable undertaking that elegantly recounts the generational shift in how young Iranians talk about and experience their post-revolutionary and postwar experiences....The book is written in fluid prose and possesses a clear narrative arc. One of the strengths of this book is Behrouzan's literary sensibility, through which she interlaces ethnographic descriptions with analyses of aesthetic works, literature, poetry, and music....Prozāk Diariesshould have a broad and varied readership. As a scholarly book, it will be attractive not only to students of Iranian studies, but also anthropology, medical and sociocultural, as well as those working in Medicine, especially Psychiatry, and Science and Technology. Prozāk Diaries should also be read widely by non-academics interested in depression, postwar trauma, medical histories, and, of course, contemporary Iran.”
—Arzoo Osanloo, Journal of Iranian Studies
“The book will interest doctors at all levels of training, especially those interested in cross-cultural, historical and political aspects of psychiatry. As a UK-trained Iranian psychiatrist, and an immigrant of the 1980s generation, I specially related to Prozak Diaries. The book is a valuable adjunct in assisting the management of patients affected by the recent Middle Eastern conflicts.”
—Cyrus Abbasian, The British Journal of Psychiatry
"Orkideh Behrouzan's Prozak Diaries provides an ethnographically rich and theoretically embedded entry into the ever-shifting post-revolutionary Iranian milieuThe book is enriched by vigorous research and extensive native knowledgeProzak Diaries makes an invaluable contribution to medical and sociocultural anthropology, as well as scholarship on memory, trauma, and Iran. Behrouzan's beautiful writing, free from jargon, renders it accessible to both experts and lay educated readers."
—Shahla Talebi, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
“Even cursory followers of Iran notice how everyday conversation is shot through with references to mental health. Orkideh Behrouzan explores this via analyzing medical texts, media discourses, interviews inside and outside Iran, and a close reading of Internet blogs. Psychology and psychiatry become ways for people of multiple generations to speak about how they feel, articulate memories, and dream about futures. These ethnographic and empirically rich treatments do far more than “give voice to ordinary Iranians,” but complement the works above by forcing us (as well the current leadership in Tehran) to contend with citizens who are not mere malleable products of revolution, war, sanctions, and factionalism.”
— Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI)
Essential Readings on Postrevolutionary Iran (by Arang Keshavarzian)