Materializing Collective Mental Health. Knowledge, Technology and Identification beyond Psychiatry.

This thesis project aims to study the dynamic and mutual constitution of both technologies and ‘patients’ in the field of Mental Health. Through the analytical categories of identification and knowledge the proposal aims to find out how different knowledge – either expert or lay (Epstein, 1995; Rabeharisoa, Moreira & Akrich, 2014) – is embedded in material and social forms in order to acquire a better understanding of how different ‘socio-technical arrangements’ (Callon, 2004) can (re)produce models of social relations in the field of Mental Health.

From the interdisciplinary approach provided by the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), this research looks at the link between the technological and epistemological settings (Haraway, 1988; Bowker & Star, 2000; Jasanoff, 2004) under which agents experiencing mental suffering manage their daily life in terms of identification. In doing so the research focuses on how expert and/ or lay knowledge is embedded in medical and/ or no-medical technologies (Moser, 2011; Pols, 2014).

The study of ‘identity practices’ within these configurations of people and artifacts connected by some shared interest – in which actions and interactions are planned, conceived and accomplished – speaks of how social agents experience health/ disease processes from either conventional psychiatry or alternative collective accounts (e.g. first-person groups). Specifically the project explores whether these latter accounts can produce and define alternative models of ‘patienthood’ and, in turn, new epistemological possibilities in both psychiatric practice and daily life.

As the thesis deals with showing how what has been defined as a ‘mental illness’ – understood as a social reality (Rosenberg, 2006) – can be experienced in many distinctive ways (Greenslit, 2005; Schüll, 2006), it will be performed a qualitative research – guided by the ethnographic explanatory description – to explore how participants create, (re)interpret, assume and/ or contest the meanings of ‘being mentally ill’ when engaging in particular ‘socio-technical arrangements’.

Insomuch as public perception on mental illness stem in great extent from the biomedical-psychiatric standpoint, this research assumes a collective mental health account (Pie, Correa-Urquiza & Martínez, 2015) to change the social gaze on mental suffering from a mere diagnostic label and its derived stigmatization (Hinshaw, 2007) to a narrative about a human event (Jenkins, 2015). Thus, the main aim of the proposal is to shed some light on the understanding of mental illness as a complex phenomenon which emerges at the intersection of psychiatry, technology and the subjective experience in order to make sense to the experience of mental suffering beyond the exclusive biomedical gaze by enacting social participation (Correa-Urquiza & Di Giacomo, 2013).

Francisco Sánchez Valle 

Programme: Tesis Doctoral del Programa de Doctorado en Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento de la UOC

Start date: 09/01/2018

Final date: 06/01/2022

Francisco Sánchez

Estudiante de doctorado