Topic: Mental Illness and Power
Dates: February 21-22, 2014
Keynote Speakers: David M. Goodman (Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychology and the Other Institute, Lesley University) and Mary Beth Mader (Professor of Philosophy, University of Memphis)
Location: University Center - River Room & Senate Chamber
Call for Papers:
Please prepare a proposal (500-700 words in length) for blind review in either .pdf
or Microsoft Word file format. Send the file as an attachment to an e-mail with a
body containing the title and the author’s name, contact information, institutional
affiliation and status (graduate student, faculty member, independent researcher,
etc.) If accepted, final papers need to be suitable for a presentation approximately
20 minutes in length.
Proposals should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions Due: November 15th, 2013
As much historical and theoretical work has shown, the way people have understood
mental illness throughout history is co-occurrent with shifting power relations within
which human beings understand themselves. Mental illness manifests itself in different
ways in different contexts and certain theoretical lines can be drawn between the
way mental illness is understood and the forms of power which operate on the human
mind, body and understanding. Recently many issues surrounding mental illness have
become prominent in public discourse. To name a few examples, the controversial publication
of the DSM 5; attempts by legislators to allow mental health professionals to refuse
services based on values; the investigations of the mental health of mass murderers;
and the expansion of mental health coverage intended by the Affordable Care Act. These
issues have all been featured prominently on the nightly news while at the same time
drawing the attention of public intellectuals and politicians. With this in mind,
it seems that now is an opportune moment to open a dialogue about the relationship
of mental illness and power.
Philosophy provides a promising, critical, yet constructive space in which to open
this dialogue. Indeed, philosophy and the mental health professions have greatly influenced
one another. Some philosophers are critical of mental health practices while others
use psychological insights to develop their own theoretical resources. Many psychological
theories have historically been influenced by philosophers, whether John Locke, the
positivists, or the existentialists. Thus, philosophers and mental health professionals
have much to share with one another, especially at this moment.
The Philosophy Graduate Student Association welcomes papers from philosophers of all
stripes and theoretically interested scholars in other fields, including but not limited
to: clinical mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, psychology, psychiatry,
history, literature and the arts, and political science/studies.
Possible motivating questions include:
- Is mental illness really an (type of) illness? If so, what is its nature?
- Can the experience of mentally ill persons be understood or shared? If so, what method(s)
can accomplish this goal?
- What is the relationship between power, rationality and mental illness?
- What is the nature of the power to which the mentally ill are subject?
- Should mental illness be diagnosed, and if so, what should the role of diagnosis be?
- What sort of ethics could best inform the practices of counseling, psychology, and
psychiatry? Alternatively, what sort of ethics could be gained from listening to those
in counseling, psychology, or psychiatry?
- How can a history of madness help us to understand current practices and knowledges
regarding the mentally ill?
- How can we best analyze the place of the mentally ill in contemporary politics?
- What can we learn from portrayals of mental illness in the various media, film, literature,
music, and the visual arts?
- What are the liberatory potentials of psychotherapy?