“Making Patients” in Postwar and Resource‐scarce Settings. Diagnosing and Treating Mental Illness in Postwar Kosovo

photo credit Hanna Kienzler


Postwar development contexts are increasingly sites of mental health and psychosocial interventions in which local health providers are trained by foreign experts in evidence‐based diagnostic and treatment strategies. Underlying this course of action is a well‐accepted biomedical logic that assumes symptoms can be identified and translated into mental disorders, and disorders into forms of treatment. I question this logic by investigating how patients are actually “made” in postwar and resource‐scarce settings. Specifically, I focus on the tensions and ethical dilemmas with which practitioners in Kosovo grapple as they navigate requirements of international standards, their own perception of good care, and the limited resources at their disposal. The resultant practice of “making patients” to fit diagnostic repertoires is a product of health practitioners’ structural power, but also an ethical response to the materially untenable conditions that practitioners and their patients are confronting.