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The ‘cause of the mentally ill’: Mediatisating and destigmatising madness in the second half of the 20th century

This international conference aims to bring together multiple perspectives on the way in which madness and its forms of care were mediatised and discussed in the public arena in a context marked, in France as in other European countries, by profound transformations in the field of psychiatry and mental health policies.

Based on the observation that the media – press, radio, television – gave increasing prominence to mental health issues in the decades following the Second World War/WW2, the conference “Mediatising and destigmatising madness” will be an opportunity to shed light on the means used to raise awareness, among a wider audience, of mental pathologies and of the conditions under which they are treated, against the tenacious prejudices fed by sensational reports or by fictional works which, while they sometimes acknowledge an aesthetic dimension to madness, also convey a number of negative representations and stereotypes.

The challenge will also be to identify the actors of this media coverage: psychiatric professionals, politicians, journalists, photographers, reporters and documentary filmmakers, producers and directors, but also of associations of patients’ families or patients, who are sometimes led to form paradoxical alliances in order to advance “the cause of the mentally ill”. This implies, in addition to reforming the psychiatric institution and promoting new approaches and new treatments, awakening consciences by once again posing the issue of the rights and the dignity of individuals caught up in processes of stigmatization, marginalization or even disaffiliation from which it seems impossible to extricate themselves.

The objective is to analyse (1) the conditions for producing these media objects (radio or TV broadcasts, reports, interviews, testimonies, articles, professional films, conference cycles, etc.), which very often involve entering an institution with a sometimes undeserved reputation for being particularly closed, (2) their reception and impact, as well as (3) the procedures, devices and formats used to act on the representations of madness that are identified as a hindrance to the implementation of mental health policies.

Although the chronological framework chosen is that of the three decades following the end of WW2, presentations that propose a longer-term narrative or whose subject matter lies within or beyond these chronological boundaries will also be taken into consideration. In order to complete, contrast and clarify the French framework, papers on other European countries will also be welcome.

The conference will take place on the 20th et 21st of September 2023 in Strasbourg. Please send a 500-word abstract and a short CV to Marianna Scarfone (mscarfone@unistra.frby June 15th 2023.