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Kathleen Kendall. School of Medicine, University of Southampton, England

Patient Experiences in Canada’s First ‘Laboratory for the Scientific Study of Criminal Insanity’

This presentation explores the experiences of patients incarcerated in the Rockwood Criminal Lunatic Asylum between 1857 and 1877. During this twenty-year period, the institution, located near Kingston, Ontario, reputedly served as a laboratory for the study and treatment of criminal insanity. A range of archival sources will be used to examine the following: the individual troubles and social processes which contributed to the imprisonment of approximately 1,000 patients; the psycho-legal ideas, systems and interventions which regulated patient lives; and the diversity of patient experiences inside the institution. As one of the earliest stand-alone establishments for the treatment of ‘criminal insanity’, Rockwood played an important role in shaping our understanding of and response to ‘criminal insanity’. Therefore, engaging with the experience of those confined within its walls deepens our understanding madness, citizenship and social justice in Canada.

Onar Usar. Critical Disability Studies, York University

Psychiatrized Women Speaks Out: Exercising Agency, Demanding Human Rights in Phoenix Rising

By the mid twentieth century biological psychiatry had clearly failed to fulfill its great promise to “cure” mental illness. This period was also shaped by the growth of several popular social movements, particularly second wave feminism, gay liberation, and anti-psychiatry movement. These developments led to patient/consumer/survivor activism that exposed the atrocities of psychiatric practices disguised under the rubric of “medical treatment.” Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized, a unique Canadian antipsychiatry journal published by psychiatric survivors between 1980 and 1990 in Ontario, came to life in the midst of this psychiatric survivor/consumer activism. For a decade Phoenix Rising provided a forum for psychiatrized people to share their stories and offered positive alternatives to “psychiatric warehouses.” This paper looks at published letters written to Phoenix editors, as well as first person psychiatric survivor narratives of women featured in the journal, and explores the ways women psychiatric survivors exercised their agency and claimed their rights for full citizenship. Drawing upon a Foucauldian notion of modern power relations and discourse analysis, a particular emphasis is given to the extent of which the voice of female psychiatric survivors play in the creation of alternative discourses and transformation of social structures.

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