Events Archive

This page will include posts on different Mad Studies events such as conferences, workshops and symposia.

Mad Positive in the Academy – Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada – May 2012


Ryerson hosts international conference on Mad Studies in 2012 called ‘Mad Positive in the Academy’

Mad Positive In The Academy – Meeting agenda, summaries of the four key projects and biographic information on the invited participants

Selected works by meeting participants at Mad Positive in the Academy

Mad Studies Stream at Lancaster University Disability Studies Conference, UK, September 2014

Lancaster University’s Centre for Disability Research hosts an internationally renowned bi-annual Disability Studies Conference. In 2014, Peter Beresford (Brunel University) and Brigit McWade (Lancaster University) convened the first Mad Studies stream for the conference.


With the publication of Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies (edited by Brenda A. LeFrançois, Robert Menzies and Geoffrey Reaume) in 2013, Mad Studies are now gaining a higher profile internationally (Peter talks about Mad Matters at the Radical Book Fair, Edinburgh). We see this as a critical moment in which activists, academics, service-users, practitioners and services can come together and address integral issues in the field of madness and disability. At a time when the global north’s mental health systems are in crisis, we need 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).

We were thrilled to include papers from Canadian scholars directly involved in the publication of Mad Matters, alongside activists and academics working in the field of madness and disability in the UK and USA. The stream encapsulates the diversity of Mad Studies, with presentations on a wide diversity of topics from identity politics, collective action, representation, stigma, austerity, conceptual, theoretical and ethical concerns, and mental health legislation, policy, and practice.

The stream will offer opportunities for discussion, connection, and debate, as well as the possibility of some collective work in the future.

Mad Studies stream poster

Lancaster Disability Conference Mad Studies Stream abstracts 2014

Mad Studies Symposium, Nordic Network for Disability Research – Bergen, Norway – May 2015

The symposium sought to explore issues raised at the first UK Mad Studies stream which was organized at the International Disability Studies Conference in Lancaster, September 2014. This included international contributions, particularly from Canada where the discipline of Mad Studies led to the publication of Mad Matters in 2013. The aim of this proposal was to extend opportunities for exploring mad studies and their relationships with disability, disability studies and the psychiatrisation of distress to Nordic activists and researchers. The Lancaster stream highlighted significant and creative links and relationships between mad studies, critical disability studies and the neurodivergent community, with particular focus on challenging the strengthening relationship between psychiatric and neo-liberal discourses and the repressive policy use of ideas of ‘recovery’.

Click here to see abstracts

PsychoPolitics in the Twenty First Century: Peter Sedgwick and radical movements in mental health – Liverpool, UK – June 2015

The work of Peter Sedgwick and in particular his classic text PsychoPolitics (1982) has a renewed relevance in the context of ‘austerity’, the privatisation of welfare provision and emergent forms of radical activism in mental health. This conference will provide an opportunity to explore Sedgwick’s ideas and assess his legacy in light of these contemporary developments.

The conference will include papers from academics, service users/survivors, mental health practitioners and activists on the following themes:

  • The politics of mental health
  • Reading Sedgwick in 2015
  • Neoliberalism, austerity and alliances of resistance between service user/survivor movements, practitioners, trade unions and campaigners
  • Links between mad studies and the work of Sedgwick
  • Contemporary applications of PsychoPolitics in mental health movements and front line practice
  • Marxism, materialism, alienation and mental health
  • Representations of psychiatry and anti-psychiatry
  • Basaglia and movements for psychiatric de-institutionalisation in Europe
  • Revisiting the Sedgwick archive

Click here to see some of the papers presented.

Mad Studies and Neurodiversity – Exploring Connections – Lancaster University, UK – June 2015

This symposium built on conversations that begun during the inaugural Mad Studies stream at Lancaster Disability Studies Conference in September 2014. It aimed to foster dialogue between two relatively new areas of scholarship and activism in the social sciences – that of Mad Studies and Neurodiversity.

Mad Studies and Neurodiversity are both emergent areas 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).

A key outcome of the 2014 Mad Studies stream in Lancaster was the call for more time and space being devoted to the development of theories, concepts and tools in order to build Mad Studies into an established academic discipline. One area of interest highlighted the relationship of both neurodiversity and Mad Studies to Disability Studies. In particular, Steven Graby (2015) has written about how neurodiversity might provide a conceptual bridge between the activism of psychiatric survivors/mental health service-users and the Disabled People’s Movement.

This symposium aims to provide a forum for both mad-identified and neurodivergent stakeholders to develop knowledge in this area by exploring the following questions:

  • What do the neurodiversity and mad studies movements have to say to each other?
  • What concepts might help us explore our shared experiences and our differences?
  • How might we make space in the academy for mad and neurodivergent-infused knowledges and practices?

Free Seminar: Colonising Madness: Postcolonial Theory within Critical Disability Studies, Mad Studies and Critical (Educational) Psychology

14th September, University of Sheffield, UK.

China Mills and Dan Goodley, at the Critical Education and Psychology Centre for the Human (CEPCH), at Sheffield University’s School of Education

Within Critical Disability Studies, Mad Studies, and Critical (Educational) Psychology, (post)colonial theory is increasingly being put to use. This work surrounds us with calls to decolonize education, disability, (global) mental health, methodologies, and more. It implies that the ableism and sanism enshrined in education, models of disability and ‘mental disorder’ from the global North, and the psy-disciplines more generally, are colonial: that they have historically been and continue to be tools of colonialism, and/or that they themselves colonize lived realities and ways of life. Postcolonial theory is also used to illuminate how intersecting forms of oppression and discrimination may be inscribed on people’s bodies, psyches and spirits, in multiple ways and across generations. And it is also used to read resistance.

This event emerges from this contested space and aims to enable a group of interdisciplinary scholars, activists and postgraduate researchers, to come together to discuss and critically reflect on the use of (post)colonial theory and discourses of (de)colonization within their own work and lives. The workshop will be framed around, though not exclusive to, a series of questions:

  • How can postcolonial activism and scholarship be put to work within Critical Disability Studies, Critical Psychology, and Mad Studies.
  • Colonialism is not one thing. It comes in many different shapes and sizes depending on different historical trajectories – from ‘civilising’, to eradicating and erasing, indigenous peoples and ways of life. Do these different types of colonialism affect how we speak about colonialism within the social sciences and humanities? Do they impact upon our attempts at research that is decolonizing, anti-oppressive and social justice oriented?
  • Do ableism and sanism, and the institutions that perform them, colonize? Or are they distinct forms of oppression that are interlaced with colonialism?
  • What about people and populations who are both psychiatrized and colonized?
  • Can and should we use colonization as a metaphor for other forms of oppression? And should we use decolonization as a metaphor in wider movements for social justice?

At this workshop speakers shared how they put postcolonial scholarship ‘to work’. Speakers included: Muna Abdi (University of Sheffield), Shaun Grech (The Critical Institute, Malta), Bruce Cohen (University of Auckland), Bill Penson (UCLAN), Dan Goodley (University of Sheffield) and China Mills (University of Sheffield). Talks were interspersed with short five minute ‘provocations’ (questions, debates, anxieties) from scholars and activists around the world. The event actively sought to promote the work of postgraduate researchers and activists, alongside other forms of scholarship.

Making Sense of Mad Studies – Durham University, UK – 30th Sept – 1st Oct 2015

This conference was organised by Victoria Armstrong (@StigmaResearch) and the North East Mad Studies Forum (see our groups page for more details). Much of the programme was recorded and will be shared in the near future. In the mean time check out #MadStudies and our @MadStudies on twitter feed to get a flavour of the discussion.

Making Sense of Mad Studies conference – Book of Abstracts (1)

Driving Us Crazy – Gothenberg, Sweden – 16th-18th October

An international film festival presenting alternatives to psy representations of madness and distress.

During the festival, experiences and current research that focus on human encounters, relationships and the importance of social and political perspectives were promoted.

Organised by the Family Care Foundation, in collaboration with MadinAmerica. The festival was three days of challenging and awareness-raising films, lectures, personal experiences, research, theatre and music.

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