Between Don Quixote and Hamlet: vicissitudes of contemporary Cultural Psychiatry

Renato D. Alarcón



Background. Although Cultural Psychiatry (CP) has emerged as a significant discipline and body of knowledge in recent decades, it finds itself in a current intense debate about its identity, its contributions, and its future.

Objective. To examine conflictive areas of historical, epistemological, clinical, educational, and research interest in the present and future development of CP.

Method. A narrative review of outstanding sources, articles, and textbooks on CP that reflect its current vicissitudes; for each area, adequate quotations of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Shakespeare’s Hamlet are used.

Results. In addition to updating definitions and content, discussions about whether CP is a psychiatric subspecialty, the scope of its diagnostic, clinical and therapeutic applications, evaluation of criticisms and strengths, interactions with other disciplines, as well as reflective speculations about its future, are outlined.

Discussion and conclusion. CP is considered the receptacle of many disciplines, the last bastion of humanistic medicine in a globalized world, although its development will always be marked by scholarly debates about contexts, meanings, identities, and competencies regarding its ontological and epistemological components.


Cultural Psychiatry; history of psychiatry; international psychiatry; social psychiatry; psychiatric diagnosis; integrated medicine

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