Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2005


In Revenge of the Windigo, James Waldram provides an incisive critique of the use and abuse of culture in mental health theory and practice. In my view, one of the most important contributions of this book relates to Waldram's notice of the often unexamined and sometimes cavalier use of "Aboriginality" and related research methodological practices, including the uncritical appropriation of terminology in the field of Aboriginal mental health. I was particularly drawn to Waldram's attention to ideological positioning in which complex ideas are reduced to simplistic binary forms, for example, the use of the concepts of "traditional" and "holism," and their respective counterparts "biomedical" and "western dualism." In their paper titled "The Problematic Allure of the Binary in Nursing Theoretical Discourse," Thorne, Henderson, McPherson and Pesut make the claim that in some cases, the "adoption of a binary position [in nursing] has led to a passionately held form of 'othering' that prohibits healthy and critical engagement with ideas" (Nursing Philosophy, 2004, 5:208-15). Instead, they argue that the tension produced by binary positions ought to provide researchers and practitioners with an opportunity for stimulating dialogue and critique to deal with the social and moral complexity of nursing.