February 1, 2012
My friend Dr. Rasmus Nielson sends me the best leads. Or, the worst ones, considering they are irresistible calls to action. He sent me this one days before it was due, and I scrambled to pull-off this abstract over the weekend. Below is the call for papers, and my response. Now all I need to do is deliver on the promissory note I just wrote sometime in the next 3 months. Thanks Rasmus. 😉
You are Not Alone: Re-envisioning Radical Mental Health in a Networked Society
In the first decade of the 21st century radical mental health activists reinvented the psychiatric survivor movement through recompositions that deeply resonated with the emerging affordances of new media and communications technologies. This freshly reconstituted field of resistance to biopsychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry emerged at the intersection of networked identity, narrative advocacy, and authentic virtual communities. Organizations such as The Icarus Project and The Freedom Center developed hybrid models of peer-support, direct action, and alternative therapies that were suggested and enabled by these emerging communicative possibilities. These groups mobilized around Web 2.0 platforms and social networks that supported discovery, advocacy, transparency, engagement, and community building.
Self-identified as part of the “mad pride” movement, these groups advanced a subtler critique of mainstream perspectives on mental illness than earlier generations of anti-psychiatry activists. This critique had less to do with any particular dogmatic position around hospitalization, medication, or labels, and was rooted in challenges to authority and knowledge production. The disability rights movement’s radical epistemology, captured in their mantra “Nothing about us without us”, succinctly represents this transformative shift. Instead of formulating their resistance around human rights discourses while fighting forced drugging and electroshock therapy, the mad pride movement embraced a liberatory politics that attempted to reinvent the language and categories used to describe the mentally ill. The movement aspired to develop languages of compassion, celebrated their “dangerous gifts” through creative expression, and fostered safe spaces for people to share their experiences and subjective narratives. And, unlike earlier generations of activists who were staunchly anti-psychotropic medication, this movement stood for pro-choice and informed consent – though information was becoming more difficult evaluate as pharmaceutical advertising and marketing grew increasingly more sophisticated and aggressive.
To what extent has the mad pride movement been shaped by a new generation of media and communications technologies? How has this movement leveraged these technologies as a means to redefine personal identity and avoid stigmatization? How have they used these technologies to resist and subvert corporate messaging and the plodding advance of biopower? The Internet, and especially free and open source software, played an instrumental role in the formation and assembly of these groups. The cultural practices embodied in these tools, alongside the movement’s roots in anarchism, punk, DIY, permaculture, and queer pride helped inform the organizational models, governance structures, as well as giving rise to new forms of collective action.