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In this think piece, I discuss a composite category – Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) – that has emerged and expanded to incorporate race, ethnicity, and now also immigration status, in a somewhat clumsy meeting of political narratives and sanitised public health-speak. I look at how this category has been interrogated and put to work in a particular UK mental health setting, one that is committed to improving access and inclusion for ethnic and cultural minorities. Using the analytical tool of ‘thinking with’, I explore how the category was used in relation to an absent majority or mainstream, and consider what such a category might show ‘us’ in all its glaring imperfection. I ask: Is it possible to push forward anthropological thinking by paying attention to these composite, unwieldy categories? Might this be one way to embrace the clumsy conspicuousness of our proverbial elephant in the room?

Original publication




Journal article


Medicine Anthropology Theory


Edinburgh University Library

Publication Date