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Grey, A.L. (1974). With a Psychodiagnostic Baedeker. Contemp. Psychoanal., 10:267-274.

(1974). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 10:267-274

With a Psychodiagnostic Baedeker

Review by:
Alan L. Grey, Ph.D.

Ari Kiev: Transcultural Psychiatry New York: The Free Press, 1972. 223 pages, $7.95 (cloth), $2.95 (paper).

IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A scientific treatise to be anchored to unscientific premises and still offer some useful and interesting information to the reader? Well, "Transcultural Psychiatry" is a fine example of the genre. When a work intends to be scientific, it is a serious charge to suggest that it is not. Therefore, in fiarness to Dr. Kiev, let him state his position in his own words before it is questioned. Here's this puzzling bit of reasoning on the first page of his text:

Firm etiological knowledge, of the sort that would permit more certain classification and diagnosis, is still a hope for the future. It is therefore essential to define certain basic assumptions about psychiatric disorders that will serve to delimit the kinds of inferences that can be drawn from the material considered in this book, and at the same time to emphasize the distinction that needs to be made between sociocultural and psychological phenomena.

The italics are my own, to mark off sources of confusion. After a reassuringly sophisticated reference to etiological ignorance, the writer might be expected to recommend an open-minded, multidimensional investigation of psychiatric disorders, at least until the evidence warrants a more selective focus. Particularly so, since cross-cultural psychiatry is an interdisciplinary enterprise, lending itself well to such broad-gauge study. Instead, the second sentence urges that this condition of ignorance requires not a series of questions but a set of assumptions!

And yet uneasiness would seem premature so early in the book.

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