The Future of Madness Network

Outline and aims

The Future of Madness Network aims to bring established, emerging and future scholars together at the University of Newcastle to provide a community of interest in the future of madness studies. This network will intersect with international and national groups and researchers but will showcase a rare concentration of researchers around the histories of mental illness, mental health, institutions, post-institutional care, community psychiatry, colonial, national and global mental health, methodologies and approaches to interdisciplinary scholarship in mental health care, and related themes such as trauma studies, health and wellbeing, and critical disability studies.

We aim to present the next generation of scholarship in madness studies, play host to visitors and internationally recognised scholars, to become a magnet for new postdoctoral and postgraduate research, and to attract ARC fellowships and grants in the wider field.

View the membership of the network.


This network will operate as a collective of scholars sharing a common purpose including professorial, lecturer and senior lecturers, HDR students and research fellows. It will be led by Professor Catharine Coleborne from 2020 and evolve over time with others building capacity and leadership. Our first event was a Roundtable in June 2019: Histories of Mental Health, Institutions, Spaces and Places of Care. This event showcased 8 sessions with individual research presentations, discussions about our intersecting research interests, methodologies, and plans, and determined our new Network’s foci and identity.

Current Research Themes

Our current themes for research include:

  • Madness studies
  • Global planetary mental health
  • Global and transnational mental illness histories
  • Community psychiatry
  • Places of mental health care and confinement
  • Post-institutional care
  • War and psychiatry
  • Diagnoses
  • Solitary confinement and convict mental health

Training and workshop potential

  • Mental health and oral histories
  • Writing for medical publications as humanities scholars
  • History, mental health and community projects

Current projects

  • Coleborne, CI2 - ARC Discovery Grant DP190103655 ‘The development of Australian community psychiatry’ CI2with University of Sydney $233,000 (2019 – 2021)
  • Coleborne, CI2 - ARC Discovery Grant DP180103952 ‘Silent Treatment: The impact of solitary confinement on wellbeing’, CI2 with University of Tasmania $417, 684 (2018 – 2020)


  • Catharine Coleborne and Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen, Making Mental Health: A Global History, Routledge Critical Approaches to Health series