The introduction lays out what we know about the social context of schizophrenia from the epidemiological literature: that risk of schizophrenia is particularly high for immigrants from predominantly dark-skinned countries to Europe; that risk increases with lower socioeconomic status at birth and even at parent’s birth; that risk increases with urban dwelling and seems to increase the longer time is spent in cities; that risk increases as ethnic density in the neighborhood declines. The chapter presents a history of the way schizophrenia has been understood in the United States, and the diagnostic complexities of serious psychotic disorder. It then discusses what ethnographers have observed so far about the social conditions which may shape the experience of psychosis: the local cultural interpretation of mental illness; the role and presence of the family; the structure of work; and the basic social environment. This becomes the ground for our case studies.
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