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Adolescent Sex and Psyche in Brazil: Surveillance, Critique and Global Mental Health

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686–709
Number of pages24
JournalCulture Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date15 Nov 2019
Accepted/In press15 Oct 2019
E-pub ahead of print15 Nov 2019
PublishedDec 2019


King's Authors


Drawing on a historical ethnography conducted in Southern Brazil, this article explores how public health programs for adolescent reproductive and mental health have emerged in Brazil and begun to intersect with the growing field of “global mental health” (GMH). The story I recount begins not in the 2010s with the rapid rise of expert interest in adolescent health within GMH, but in the 1990s, the decade when young teens in Brazil were first coming into contact with practices and approaches in research, schools and clinics that have both underpinned and critiqued the production of an adolescent mental and reproductive health sub-field. In parsing what young women’s encounters with the then newly-emerging questionnaires, measurement tools, school-based programs and clinical practices came to mean to them, I use a genealogical approach to consider how histories of education reform, population control, psychoanalysis, social medicine, the transition to democracy, feminism and grass-roots politics all entered the fold, shaping the way adolescent sex-and-psyche materialized as a contested object of expertise. I end by exploring what this case can teach global mental health advocates and social theorists about practices of critique.

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