Political subjectivity and mental health

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The idea of political subjectivity has preoccupied my mind for a few years now, so I am thinking a good number of my contributions here will center around that topic.

The challenge is that there just doesn’t seem to be enough thought out there yet to allow an easy grasp of the scope and implications of this concept, especially when it comes to the areas of mental health and cultural psychiatry. While there is a small (and steadily growing) stream of work and thought concerning the implications of the notion of political subjectivity for political theory, I am yet to find other people dedicating serious work and time to developing the idea in the area of mental health. If you are out there, please do let me know about yourself. In fact I would love to hear from you if you are doing anything about or in any way related to the question of political subjectivity.

One of the more compelling reasons that I am convinced the notion of political subjectivity is not just an attractive intellectual exercise is that I have originally arrived at it from the other end of the spectrum -from data, that is. I will write more about this in the future, but it is basically through my work on culture and schizophrenia that it has become obvious to me how impossible it would be to conceive ‘the subject’ in any fashion divorced or even abstracted from the incessant struggles of the realm of power/meaning, the context in which subjectivity comes to ‘exist’.

There is something not just reassuring, but exhilarating about starting from hard clinical and ethnographic data and at some point finding yourself face to face with someone who has started from the realm of the abstract, and being able to recognize your ‘facts’ in their ‘theory’.

I hope I manage to be consistent enough in writing these notes so they gradually evolve into some kind of a coherent body. And of course, your presence would obviously make a serious difference.

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7 replies on “Political subjectivity and mental health”

I’m interested in hearing more about this topic from you. In particular, the mention of clear data-to-theory connections piques my interest…

Thanks, Sara. I look forward to writing more on this, and getting feedback and criticism from you and others as I do.

FWIW, I certainly consider myself to be working on subjectivity, though more in context of pain, consciousness, and the history of the anatomoclinical method.

I am intrigued by the notion of “political subjectivity,” but most confess ignorance as to how exactly you are using it. Perhaps in future posts you can elaborate? Thanks.

Thanks for your comment, Daniel. I would very much like to hear more about what you are working on, if you don’t mind sharing that. And I really appreciated your comment because it reminds me of the importance of not getting lost in the assumption that everybody is thinking through the same tunnel as I am, and be as descriptive as I can in the future. So, your point is well taken and I think it would be best then if I start by discussing what I have in mind when I speak of political subjectivity. I will be looking forward to feedback from yourself and others as to how much sense that is going to make or not!

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