Clinical Opposition: The Antagonisms of Coercive Treatment in German Psychiatry
Lauren Cubellis (Washington University in St. Louis)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will explore the clinical emergence of "lives opposed," and the complexity of opposition in the psychiatric hospital, as German practitioners - and patients - confront the weight of a dark historical legacy, and imagine how psychiatric practices might be otherwise.
Paper long abstract:
Psychiatric diagnoses often serve to manage populations whose behaviors are antagonistic to the dominant social order (Metzl 2010). The history of such psychiatric coercion in Germany stretches back to the eugenic agenda of National Socialism, during which the lives of people diagnosed as mentally ill were considered "inferior" and a threat to "racial hygiene" (Joseph & Wetzel 2013). Hospital and euthanasia projects systemically controlled, sterilized, and executed the mentally ill in an attempt to eliminate such health conditions from the body politic (Lifton 1986). This history of psychiatric "lives opposed" becomes newly resonant today, as German psychiatry faces criticism over its continued use of compulsory treatment. The hospital is a place of staying, but not of settling. Instead, hospitalization often constitutes a kind of limbo, where the rights of the patient are temporarily withheld, and freedom of movement is dramatically reduced (Hejtmanek 2015; Rhodes 2004). Today, regulatory bodies like the police, social psychiatry services (SPD), and judiciary committees coordinate with German hospitals to control this population, often turning to medication and restraint to manage deviant or "frightening" behaviors. In the hospital, then, antagonistic socialities become medicalized, and dynamics of care are fundamentally complicit in the decision to medicate, fixate, or hospitalize individuals against their will. This paper will explore the clinical emergence of "lives opposed," and the complexity of opposition in the psychiatric hospital, as German practitioners - and patients - confront the weight of a dark historical legacy, and imagine how psychiatric practices might be otherwise.
Antagonistic sociality: an anthropology of lives opposed