Uncanny scripts: understanding pharmaceutical emplotment in the aboriginal context

Transcult Psychiatry. 2009 Mar;46(1):131-56. doi: 10.1177/1363461509102291.


This article outlines a new social reality of global psycho-pharmaceutical prescribing: the pharmaceutical family, or ;phamily.' Ethnographic case studies from Manitoba, Canada (2002 to 2004) show how pharmaceutical emplotment, involving a synergy between cultural and drug scripts, can have uncanny consequences for vulnerable groups, such as Aboriginal children. Observations and interview transcripts of high prescribing doctors are analyzed to understand the prescribing logic of using psychoactive medication, such as methylphenidate, in young Aboriginal children diagnosed with FASD and/or ADHD. Pharmaceutical narratives are presented in order to show how non-compliance to psychotropic prescribing can further marginalize Aboriginal children and is related to the history of colonial practices in Canada.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / ethnology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Culture
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Drug Industry / ethics*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / ethnology
  • Foster Home Care
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Manitoba
  • Medication Adherence
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Rural Population
  • Social Marketing*
  • Social Values
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Treatment Refusal
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Methylphenidate