Hea06
Madness in Africa: in official, everyday, & vernacular lives [sponsored by AFRICA: journal of the International African Institute]

Convenors:
Nancy Rose Hunt (University of Florida)
Stream:
Health
Location:
Room 28
Session slots:
1
Thursday 13 June, 10:45 - 12:30

Short abstract:

How best should we locate, interpret, and broaden the study of madness in Africa's pasts and presents? The panel approaches madness as a capacious, shifting categories, and asks how the psychiatric meets or has combined with vernacular, expert, religious, diagnostic, and poetic modes of madness?

Long abstract:

How best should we define, locate, interpret, and broaden the study of madness in Africa's pasts and presents? This panel proposes approaching madness as a capacious and shifting set of categories, diagnoses, and meanings, ones that stretch wide, often beyond psychiatric, pathological, pharmaceutical, racialized, colonial, and ethnopsychiatric definitions and practices. We will not neglect canonical spaces like prisons, asylums, psychiatric hospitals, schools, camps, couches, and migrant centers. Madness may be applied to individuals, families, rebels, dictators, the figurations of zany novelists, and nation-states. If sometimes madness becomes metaphor, a way of reckoning with the off-kilter, eccentric, and deranged, the word may blur into diagnostic languages for classifying symptoms, behaviors, and sounds. The connections and disruptions among such registers can be paramount: how do psychiatric categories meet - or not meet - vernacular, religious, expert, and literary modes of sizing up the strange, the frenzied, or the trance-like? This double-panel welcomes contributions from any of these senses of madness, from early modern, modernist, colonial, Cold War, decolonizing, postcolonial, and Global Mental Health moods or practices, to vernacular forms of uprising, trance, secrecy, and counter-normative practice, as well as state moods and conditions, some that border on the outlandish, the fixated, and the crazed. What is to be gained from such an extensive grasp for madness studies? Literary scholars may join historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and "psy" experts in thickening dialogue across intellectual, social, and medical spheres, enabling interactions and exchange among persons and milieus usually kept apart.