Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Sherylyn H. Briller


This dissertation sought to deepen understandings of emotion and its role in human personal and social life by exploring how a group of Arab immigrant health care providers, involved in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in one clinic in the United States, assign meaning to emotion. Affectively charged and fluid, often involving conditions of disruption and dislocation, the experience of migration offers a fertile place in which to examine the roles that social and interpretive practices play in constituting emotional experience. Due to increases in patterns of migration associated with globalization, mental health diagnoses are often arrived at within increasingly diverse and complex health care settings, where both patients and providers may have differing explanations for emotion and mental illness. Currently, little is known about how the experience of migration influences the diagnostic processes of immigrant health care providers. In particular, little is known about how meaning is assigned to emotion, one aspect central to the "making" of mental health diagnoses. Guided by Geoffrey White's concept of "emotive institution" emphasizing the social contexts of everyday emotional experience, ethnographic methods reveal how cultural and social factors, as well as personal experience, all converge in these providers' sense making of emotions. These findings are used to think about why deeper understandings of the process of emotion meaning-making are especially relevant to the anthropology of migrant emotions and in the consideration of mental illness as a serious global health problem.