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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

WPA Symposium on Belonging - "Belonging Without Boundaries: Social Psychiatry in the 21st Century"

World Psychiatric Association Congress  
Bucharest, Romania - April 10, 2013

“Symposium on Belonging”

Co-chairs:             Vincenzo Di Nicola and Rachid Bennegadi
Presenters:            Vincenzo Di Nicola, Ileana Botezat-Antonescu, Drozdstoj Stoyanov, and Annelle Primm
Discussant:           Rachid Bennegadi

Abstract (word count: 498)

Belonging Without Boundaries:  
Social Psychiatry in the 21st Century

The symposium will open with a discourse by the co-chair, Vincenzo Di Nicola, on “Belonging Without Boundaries: Settlers, Sojourners and Travellers in the 21st Century.” Di Nicola argues that “the 20th century saw so many displacements of peoples across borders, languages and cultures that the terms emigrants, immigrants and migrants are sprinkled across the literature of every field of human endeavour from law to literature, from politics to philosophy, and certainly from psychiatry to psychoanalysis. Things have only gotten more complex in the 21st century where the bipolar world of the Cold War and “the end of history” has given way to a multicentric, polyglot cacaphony where culture has replaced class as the dominant signifier and language has become the major expressive vehicle of that shift. In the European Union alone, there are 23 official languages, the UN has 6 official languages, and battles over language as the emblem of culture are evident among peoples affirming their identity everywhere—from Quebec to Catalonia, Rwanda to East Timor.”

Whither belonging in all this? The symposium presents belonging as a critical issue for sociocultural psychiatry and for global mental health. The notion of belonging sutures together the social questions of identity and affiliation to psychoanalytic questions of memory and representation to build a crucial construct for social psychiatry and psychotherapy in the 21st century.

Ileana Botezat-Antonescu’s presentation, “Belonging to the group of psychotherapy professionals: Between interdiction and proliferation in different political contexts in Romania,” demonstrates that “Belonging to a professional group just as psychotherapists do from other part of the world (Western Europe or the Americas), was a cherished dream for many Romanian psychiatrists or clinical psychologists before December 1989. We try to follow the developmental process of psychotherapy from the belonging concept perspective toward the cultural and political context in a communist–totalitarian and a democratic society and examine its evolution.”

Drozdstoj Stoyanov’s contribution is an empirical study of “Belonging dimensions in psychological climate and personality as predictors of vulnerability to burn-out.” His discussion highlights that, “The evidence from our pilot study as well as complementary case studies reveal the relevance of belonging as embedded in personality and psychological climate to the emergence of burn out. The following inter-connected study dimensions may elicit belonging: cooperativeness and self-transcendence in personality; cohesion and fairness in the psychological climate at work place and depersonalization as measurement of burn out.”

The final presenter, Annelle Primm, discusses the concept of “belonging” from the perspective of an African American woman psychiatrist born in Switzerland of American parents and raised in the northeast region of the United States.  Her experiences of difference and “otherness” in Europe and the U.S. demonstrate
how she navigated the culturally complicated terrain of “ivory towers” and “ebony communities”. This presentation will focus on the panelist’s journey, her collaborative work as an ambassador across disparate worlds, and her sense of belonging in divergent worlds, supported by mentors of varied racial and cultural backgrounds.


Di Nicola, Vincenzo F. (1997). A Stranger in the Family: Culture, Families, and Therapy. New York, NY and London, UK: W.W. Norton.

Primm, Annelle (2012). A Community Psychiatrist Straddling Worlds and Bridging Chasms. In: Women in Psychiatry:  Personal Perspectives. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., pp. 131-145.

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