This panel seeks to theorize the relationship between precarity, politics and psychiatry in Africa, attending to both historical and contemporary iterations. How do precarity and politics come together in African practices of psychiatry to explain/produce political and medical subjectivities
This panel seeks to theorize the relationship between precarity, politics and psychiatry in Africa, attending to both historical and contemporary iterations. Historically, psychiatry has provided a lens for analyzing political subjectivities in African (colonial) contexts. Psychiatry has long served as form of governmentality in Africa, used and abused to categorize and police political threats and enforce state desires. More recently, with a rise in global mental health discourses and practices, psychiatry and psychology are being employed to help people cope with economic marginality and traumas resulting from political instabilities. Today, psychiatry also provides an avenue through which political resistance entwined with precarity is medicalized to provide a social diagnosis cum explanatory model for understanding the routine disruptions and disconnections encountered in the daily lives of African citizens. The result is that precarity, politics and psychiatric practice are often woven together in surprising and unexpected ways. Political disruptions, which are both cause and are a cause of economic precarity (itself is a site of political contestation) play out in the subtle but increasingly visible field of psychiatry and mental health. We invite papers that creatively explore the ways that discourses and claims of precarity and politics come together in different times and spaces in African practices of psychiatry to explain and produce political and medical subjectivities. What subjectivities emerge in what contexts? How is psychiatry leveraged by both states and citizens to make particular claims? To what extent are these processes shaped by economic precarity and political desires to obscure growing and potentially disruptive inequalities?