Cultures and Madness
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students
Department: Social Sciences
Course Number: NANT 3639
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychology
How are claims about madness made? What are the implications of such categorizations? Although much evidence points to the universality of conditions like schizophrenia,culture shapes how people experience, and respond to, even this serious disease. This course explores descriptions and models of madness, and other forms of mental illness, and explores what separates them from other forms of experience and behavior. What isit like to “hear voices” or to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, or suffer from depression or “soul loss”? To what extent is psychiatry a cultural expression involving rituals of its own? How is suffering expressed through symptoms and what are the limits of language? Texts exploring the anthropology of psychology and medicine , and the history of psychiatry will provide the class with a framework for examining the intersection of culture and interpretations of irrationality and abnormality. We will read about madness and its categorizations in the western world, and then explore experiences outside of the west and contemporary modern life to ask how this disrupts our commonplace understandings.Students will be asked to read texts critically, exploring the different methods and forms of writing used to represent mental illness and ask how this influences our understanding of mental illness. As a requirement, students will be asked to conduct an interview and use this as a basis of analysis to consider this interaction of culture and experience, and explore how the discourses of self and mental illness are incorporated into individual lives and subjectivity.
Course Open to: Degree Students