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Changing Worlds: Engaging Science and Technology in Art, Academia and Activism

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference -Mixed Audience


Mad Studies: making space for mad knowledge and activism in the academy Is it possible to make space within increasingly neoliberal universities for traditionally marginalised knowledges and practices that are concerned with social justice? What are the practicalities of bringing together people from different places, practices and perspectives to develop alliances and connections with a view to changing worlds? To address these questions, this paper will explore the challenges and rewards of developing ‘Mad Studies’- an emergent area of scholarship that aim to bring the ‘experiences, history, culture, political organising, narratives, writings and most importantly, the PEOPLE who identify as: Mad; psychiatric survivors; consumers; service users; mentally ill; patients; neuro-diverse; inmates; disabled - to name a few of the “identity labels” our community may choose to use’ (Costa, 2014) to the academic table. To date, academic activities around madness and neurological divergence have failed to include those with lived experience, who are ‘frequently frozen out of the processes of knowledge production’ (Milton, 2014, p. 794). This is not limited to the big business of pharmaceuticals, or the biological or genetic research that seeks to identify bio-markers for and eradicate autism, schizophrenia and the like. Indeed, much of social scientific work in these areas may aim, but continually fail, to include lived expertise equally, positioning patients/users/survivors as outsiders, objects for interpretation and research ‘on’ rather than ‘with’ (Beresford and Russo, 2014; Milton and Bracher, 2013). However, with the publication of Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies (LeFrançois, Menzies & Reaume) in 2013, Mad Studies is now gaining a higher profile internationally, bringing together mad-identified and mad-positive academics, activists, artists and people who aim to develop and strengthen ‘democratic and feasible alternatives to support our understandings of and responses to madness and distress’ (Beresford in Menzies, LeFrançois, Reaume, 2013, p. ix). Over the last year, I have been involved in organising several events in the UK for exploring and developing theories, methods, ethics, concepts and tools in order to build Mad Studies into an established academic discipline. Making space in the academy for mad knowledges and practices has been a fraught but rewarding process. I will explore what we might learn from these experiences of creating accessible spaces for discussions between activists, people with lived experience of disablement and psychiatrisation, and academics. In doing so, I also reflect on how we might live and negotiate different, hybrid identities in transdisciplinary work.

Event (Conference)

TitleChanging Worlds: Engaging Science and Technology in Art, Academia and Activism
LocationInstitute for Advanced Studies, University of Vienna
Degree of recognitionInternational event