Archive for December, 2013

Call for Papers: Alternative Psychiatric Narratives (London)


Call for Papers: Alternative Psychiatric Narratives

This conference will take place on the afternoon of Friday 16 May, and
day on Saturday 17 May 2014, at Birkbeck College, London, United Kingdom

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

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) to AltPsychiatricNarratives AT by Monday 3rd

For more information, visit the conference blog here.

Alan Schwarz on “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder”


The New York Times has published an article by journalist Alan Schwarz entitled “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder.” In it, Schwarz examines how “the number of diagnoses soared as makers of the drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder found success with a two-decade marketing campaign.”

Noll on the Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic of the 1980s

Psychologist Richard Noll has just published an article in Psychiatric Times on the Satanic ritual abuse panic of the 1980s.  As Noll points out in “When Psychiatry Battled the Devil,”In the 1980s thousands of patients insisted that they were recovering childhood memories of physical and sexual abuse during Satanic cult rituals. In addition to the red or black robes of the abusers and other paraphernalia of devil worship familiar to any horror film devotee, these memories often included the ritual sacrificial murder of children, blood-drinking, cannibalism, bestiality, and incest.”

Noll chronicles how major figures in American psychiatry and clinical psychology played a role in what today is acknowledged to have been a moral panic that damaged the reputations and led to the imprisonment of a number of innocent individuals.

Photo from: From:

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