English - Free topic D: Madness and culture in the modern world

Course content

This course aims to introduce students to different historical and cultural conceptualizations of madness and normality, and to make them familiar with the historical development of some of the core psychiatric and psychotherapeutic notions in the twentieth century in various cultural, economic and political contexts. Readings and lectures will primarily cover the historical and cultural study of madness and psychiatry in the English-speaking world, but we will be making constant references to other areas including Asia, Africa, Latin America and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa). The course will be structured around thematic clusters, such as


gender, class and madness;

psychiatry and war;

madness and political revolution;

notions of trauma and resilience;

decolonization, race and cross-cultural psychiatry;

anti-psychiatry and counter-cultural movements;

social lives of psychiatric disorders;

global mental health;

therapeutic citizenship;

mind/body dualism;

migration and mental health;

lived experiences of illness/illness narratives;

humanitarian psychiatry, etc.


The course will use the history of psychiatry and mental disorders as a window to understanding society, culture and illness. It seeks to establish connections between the prevalent notions of madness/mental illness on the one side, and social, cultural, economic and political factors on the other. Based on critical theories of illness and healing, and historical and anthropological approaches to psychiatry, the course will explore how constructs such as social class, race and gender have shaped definitions and understandings of normality and deviance, and how these understandings developed over time. It aims to situate the development of psychiatry within its proper socio-historical contexts across regions and continents, and places the history of English-speaking and European psychiatry in a global context. The transnational approach will help us delve into the issue of cultural specificity of psychiatric and psychological categories. This will enable students to understand the role and different meanings of madness in the modern world, and to explore the mechanisms which are still used to define the normal and the pathological.


In addition to some of the most important and thought-provoking academic literature on the history and anthropology of psychiatry, course readings include a large number of primary documents - writings of both psychiatrists and their patients - as well as fiction works and films, which illustrate how insanity and normality are constructed culturally and in dialogue with popular tastes. We will investigate the intersection between literary narratives and psychiatric case histories, and examine the possibility of reading patient files as fiction narratives. At the same time, the course will encourage students to avoid an overly instrumentalist interpretation of psychiatry – which views it as merely a handmaid of social, economic or political factors.


The course will be taught by Professor Ana Antic, who will provide a historical analysis of the core themes, and Dr Lamia Moghnieh, who will focus on a more contemporary exploration of the interconnections between culture, identity, language and madness.

Indicative reading list:

  • Andrew Lakoff, Pharmaceutical Reason: Knowledge and Value in Global Psychiatry
  • Ann Cvetkovich, Depression: A Public Feeling
  • Didier Fassin and Richard Rechtman, eds, The Empire of Trauma: An Inquiry into the Condition of Vic-timhood
  • Didier Fassin, 'Ethnopsychiatry and the Postcolonial Encounter: A French Psychopolitics of Otherness', in Unconscious dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties
  • E. Summerson Carr. 2013. “Signs of Sobriety: Rescripting American Addiction Counseling.” In Addiction Trajectories Eugene Raikhel and William Garriott eds. Duke University Press
  • Elizabeth Lunbeck, Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender and Power in Modern America
  • Gananath Obeyesekere. 1985. “Depression, Buddhism, and the work of culture in Sri Lanka.” In A. M. Kleinman & B. Good (Eds.), Culture and Depression, (pp. 134-152). Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Good & Hyde & Pinto. Postcolonial Disorders: Reflections on Subjectivity in the Contemporary World
  • Ian Hacking, Rewriting the soul: Multiple personality and the sciences of memory
  • Jain & Orr. Ethnographic perspectives on global mental health, special issue in Transcultural Psychiatry
  • James, Erica.“The political economy of ‘Trauma’ in Haiti in the Democratic Era of Insecurity, Culture Medicine & Psychiatry, 28 (2): 127-149
  • Joanne Greenberg, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
  • Joao Biehl, Vita: Life in a zone of social abandonment.
  • Jonathan Metzl, The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease
  • Kelly A. McKinney and Brian G. Greenfield, “Self-compliance at ‘Prozac campus’,” Anthropology & Medicine 17, no. 2 (2010): 173-185
  • Louis A. Sass: 'Schizophrenia, Modernism, and the 'Creative Imagination': On creativity and Psycho-pathology,' Creativity Research Journal, Volume 13, Issue 1 January 2001, pp. 55 - 74
  • Martin, Emily. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Michel Foucault, Mental Illness and Psychology
  • Pat Barker, Regeneration
  • Paul Lerner, Hysterical Men: War, Psychiatry and the Politics of Trauma in Germany, 1890–1930
  • Peter D. Kramer, Listening to Prozac: A Psychiatrist Explores Antidepressant Drugs and the Remaking of the Self
  • Richard Keller, Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in the French North Africa
  • Sylvia Fraser, My Father's House: A Memoir of Incest and Healing
  • Tanya Luhrmann. Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 2nd 2023
Type of assessment details
• A power point presentation (5-8 slides) at a student conference, to be held in the final week of teaching, based on a synopsis and bibliography (3-5 pages). Slides, synopsis and presentation count as ½ of the final grade, and should be handed at the end of the penultimate week of teaching.
• Final essay (11-15 pages) on set question(s), agreed upon with the course instructors. It counts as ½ of the final grade. It should be handed in at the final deadline.
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester


Dette er et dagkursus via tompladsordningen mod betaling på Åbent Universitet. Tilmeld dig og se aktuel prisoversigt på www.aabentuniversitet.hum.ku.dk

See schedule
Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinators
  • Ana Antic   (9-4976693649767c716b48707d7536737d366c73)
  • Lamia Moghnie   (5-7065716d65446c7971326f7932686f)
Saved on the 05-10-2022

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