On Freedom and Madness. An ethnography of care and psychiatry in the Swiss Alps.

Paola Juan - Visiting Student Researcher
Mon May 15th 2023, 12:30 - 1:20pm
Event Sponsor
Department of Anthropology
Colloquium room (Building 50, Room 50-51A)

This presentation is based on a research exploring caring relationships and affects at the interface between psychiatric users/patients, communities, the voluntary sector, and healthcare spaces in the Swiss Alps. It is based on participant observation in services based on so-called “humanistic” forms of care and non-biomedical principles for recurring psychiatric users/patients, often diagnosed with forms of psychosis. These structures are generally precarious and little known by users and conventional services. This presentation is centred around a public psychiatric hospital that doesn't use forms of physical restraint, and which was the first hospital to adopt an open-door policy in Switzerland. The links between freedom and constraint are explored here in relation to the philosophy of care developed within the institution, in a deeply Catholic region. It focuses on the everyday life of the artistic centre of the hospital, and explores the social role of artistic practices performed by both users/patients and artists, and the interface that these activities create between the city and the hospital. It also examines how different views of freedom and good care are put in tension depending on divergent ideological views (in particular in regards to catholic, legalist, anarchistic, and biomedical perspectives). How is freedom understood, felt, and symbolised in this context? What does it mean in relation to madness, psychiatric care, and forms of constraint? How to conceptualise freedom in this field, based on its material conditions of existence?