Alternative Psychiatric Narratives (CfP, Postgraduate & ECR Conference, Birkbeck, 16-17 May 2014)

Alternative Psychiatric Narratives
Friday 16 and Saturday 17 May 2014
Birkbeck College, University of London
Chair: Professor Joanna Bourke, Birkbeck

In recent years, historians of psychiatry have heeded Roy Porter’s call to produce psychiatric histories from the patient’s point of view.  Studies have moved on from focusing on medical discourse to investigating the diversity of the patient population, their varied experiences, and their pathways to and from psychiatric institutions. Only just beginning, however, is work which pays attention to alternative narratives of psychiatry: individuals and accounts that have been excluded or overlooked in the midst of this focus upon doctor and patient. These include the experiences of those located outside formal psychiatric spaces and relationships, from families and non-medical staff, to activists and campaigners, as well as narratives taking unconventional forms or found in unexpected places, offering alternative readings of sites, spaces, or texts, or challenging the very ways in which psychiatric narratives could or should be expressed and used.

This conference seeks to contribute to the development of these alternative narratives of psychiatry (in the broadest sense of the term) by exploring the voices and experiences of those involved in the non-institutional, non-formal aspects of psychiatry, and by investigating  new ways to access all aspects of psychiatric experience, from the early modern period to today. This will be a space to discuss wide ranging (alternative) narratives of psychiatry, representations of psychiatry over time, and the methods and meanings behind this work from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

Proposals for 20 minute papers touching on any aspects of alternative psychiatric narratives are welcomed from postgraduate and early career researchers across the humanities and social sciences. Possible topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Alternative methodologies (such as oral history, social geography, ethnography, and more)
  • Histories of familial and community care
  • Representations of psychiatry in literature, theatre, art, music and the media
  • Disability theories and histories in relation to the history of psychiatry and mental health
  • Reforms, campaigns, and histories of activism and the psychiatric survivor movement
  • Alternative views of traditional psychiatric sites such as asylums, hospitals, clinics
  • Developments, experiences and perceptions of auxiliary and support staff
  • Questions of space, time, culture and locality
  • The gendering of psychiatric spaces, diagnoses and treatments
  • Changing therapeutic identities over time
  • Race and ethnicity, and other hidden dimensions of psychiatric history
  • The classic sick role: its history, consequences and alternatives
  • Medical texts and their role in shaping psychiatric stories
  • The problems with psychiatric narratives: authenticity and authority, uses and abuses

Those interested in presenting a paper should email a short proposal (max. 300 words) by Monday 3rd March 2014

Subject to funding, we hope that some travel expenses will be available for speakers.  Members of the Society for the Social History of Medicine will be able to apply for travel bursaries from the Society; clich here for more details.

Further details and information regarding registration will be at the conference web site.

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5 Responses to Alternative Psychiatric Narratives (CfP, Postgraduate & ECR Conference, Birkbeck, 16-17 May 2014)

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  4. Rodney Yates says:

    Open Dialogue – Exploring Narratives

    ~ Why does the Open Dialogue approach work so well? ~

    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
    W.B. Yeats

    Schizophrenia is never being able to trust your senses: we see things which ‘are not there’; we hear what no one else does. We therefore live precariously, with a terrific amount of uncertainty and confusion for long periods of time. This is also an experience particular to individuals.

    The Open Dialogue approach gives due recognition to this and seeks to tentatively
    explore exactly what is happening in the lives of individual clients and to find ways
    forward which grow out of current predicaments, evolving solutions to expressed difficulties and weighing each tread-fall with care and attention.

    This is done through the medium of ongoing exploratory treatment meetings which are convened with all the people connected in the social network of the client in attendance and contributing from their perspectives, with as many meetings as it takes to evolve and become the solution and resolution of the difficulties expressed and experienced, finding a way forward launched from the dialogue taking place. This open and thorough dialogue finds a language to best express the realities of life from client-perspectives,
    exploring these towards outcomes which everyone present can approve and give consent to.

    This is a true and meaningful discernment of what is happening in the life of the client. The care taken in achieving this accuracy is well-rewarded in rendering complex issues accessible to practical solutions and removing scope for mis-understanding and discord
    later; maybe this process of ascertaing the facts wll not have to be visited and revisited again, having uncovered the truth at first onset.

    No one jumps to conclusions or imposes stock remedies or solutions, because it is better not to have answers than to apply the wrong ones. When the whole topic is explored with everyone present and conferring, the way forward can become much clearer, with all possibilities explored and only the feasible solutions ruled in. Any sense of
    compulsion is banished from the proceedings and the approach is sensitive,
    commensurate and quite beautiful in its simplicity. Why would it not work!

    So instead of discounting and disregarding the words of people with schizophrenia, these have taken centre-stage. Open Dialogue practitioners are listening carefully and non-judgmentally to the narratives of people with first-onset schizophrenia in a quest to
    ascertain appropriate care and treatment -without naming it. Is this a Revolution?
    What do we all think of this?

    Rodney Yates
    Open Dialogue Nottingham
    December 2013

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