Mad Studies Network – Shared Principles

We have worked together with those subscribed to the mailing list to develop some shared principles to inform our future collective work. These are:

  1. We aim to work towards making and preserving space for mad people’s knowledges and histories within the academy and within services.
  2. We aim to protect mad studies from co-option and appropriation as the new and fashionable thing to “do”, or something to make profit from. This involves not being too excited by its prospects ourselves and taking time to consider what will be most beneficial and for whom.
  3. We aim to achieve parity of involvement between and contributions from psychiatric survivors, mental health service-users, academics (noting that these might be overlapping roles) and the wider mad community.
  4. We aim to reflect mad studies as an international endeavour, whilst being mindful of local specificities.
  5. We aim to work in inclusive, accessible, anti-oppressive ways that are as comfortable as possible for everyone who might want to get involved, regardless of mobility and access issues, or other barriers they may face. Shaping Our Lives ground rules offer some collectively developed guidance for this.
  6. We do not seek to impose new orthodoxies on anyone, but at the same time we support critical thinking about the medicalization of madness and distress.
  7. We are happy to work with any individual or organisation that is prepared to work with us on truly equal terms in line with our values and principles.

We welcome comments to these principles. If you would like to be part of the ongoing conversation, please subscribe here.

Mad Studies – what it is and why you should care

By Lucy Costa in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

This post was originally printed in the CS/info Centre Bulletin. The CS/Info Centre is an information resource centre providing assistance and referral to Consumer/Survivors and others in the Greater Toronto area (Canada). All staff and volunteers are consumer/survivors of mental health and/or addiction systems.  They have been providing support and publishing the bulletin since 1992.

From September 9th – 11th, 2014 Lancaster University in the UK held a Disability Studies conference with a stream that focussed specifically on Mad Studies. This is very important and it signifies a step forward in our history, community organising and hope for a more inclusive future especially for our next generation. Canada has some classes that do teach, “Mad Peoples History” but we need more commitment for an educational structure that supports learning, exploration and critical thinking in universities, colleges, and learning centres of all kinds. Given that for the last four decades lip service has been paid to inclusion, participation and rights for consumers/psychiatric survivors, it is reasonable to request that a morsel of funding be given to develop this area of study so we can build on the great work of our previous consumer/survivor leaders, and mentors.

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Staying with the trouble: questions raised during the inaugural ‘Mad Studies’ stream at Lancaster University’s Disability Studies conference

by Brigit McWade, Lancaster University, UK.

15th September 2014

Mad Studies is about far more than the Byzantine world of psychiatry and its allied disciplines. The stakes are higher still, for to study madness is to probe the very foundations of our claims to being human. For this reason alone – and there are many more – “Mad” matters to us all. (LeFrançois, Menzies & Reaume, 2013, p. 21)

This week has been revolutionary for me. The stream was everything I had hoped for when Peter and I first embarked upon its organisation. It was of great importance to us that we foster a space for ongoing dialogue throughout the conference on the possibilities and problems of ‘mad studies’. We weren’t disappointed. Many delegates commented on the welcoming and open atmosphere. Personally, being part of that space felt unusually comfortable for an academic conference. This comfort, a space to be ourselves, allowed us to draw a collective strength to discuss our discomforts with the world; to “stay with the trouble” as Donna Haraway always reminds us to do.

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Mad Studies at #cedr14

Mad Studies is about far more than the Byzantine world of psychiatry and its allied disciplines. The stakes are higher still, for to study madness is to probe the very foundations of our claims to being human. For this reason alone – and there are many more – “Mad” matters to us all. (LeFrançois, Menzies & Reaume, 2013, p. 21)

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

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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 are 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.

We hope that this stream will offer opportunities for discussion, connection, and debate, as well as the possibility of some collective work in the future. To begin with we have created a this wordpress site where people can access the details of the stream, see the schedule and begin to add to a shared bibliography/resources list.

If you would like to add to the site please email us: madstudies2014 ‘at’ gmail.com

You can also link to us on Twitter by using the following two hashtags: #cedr14 #madstudies and following the Centre for Disability Research: @CeDRLancs