Future of Madness Network wraps up a big first year

Monday, 14 December 2020

The Future of Madness Network led by Professor Catharine Coleborne has had a busy year, despite the interruptions and challenges presented by the pandemic.

Pictures of madness image

The Network was formed in 2019 at the University of Newcastle and aims to bring established, emerging and future scholars together to form a community of interest in contemporary studies of madness. It has a strong research focus in the history of mental illness, history of psychiatry, trauma studies and health and wellbeing.

New Deputy Convenor of the Network, Effie Karageorgos (History), says that “2020 has been a busy year for us in developing the Network. When the pandemic hit and threw our planned events off track, we managed to find other options to showcase the research and expertise of our members to public and academic audiences.”

“As we come to the end of our first year of being a Network, we are really encouraged to see all the excellent research flowing and discussions taking place both among our members and also with the public.”

“We have all felt the effects of the pandemic and isolation, and never before has the wider community had such a focus on mental health”, comments Catharine. “With this new focus I believe our Network has so much to offer in relation to the ongoing discussion of mental health. We look forward to continuing the work of our Network into 2021 and beyond.”

In May 2020 a work in progress Roundtable event took place with Network members which then led into a series of virtual events throughout the year.

To celebrate New South Wales History Week in 2020 the Network held the ‘Pictures of Madness’ webinar, chaired by Professor Hans Pols (University of Sydney). In this public event, Network members explored the realities and unrealities captured and created by historical images of ‘madness’ from Australia and the world. Watch the webinar.

The Network also hosted a ‘Writing a Book Proposal’ webinar in September. Network members Dr Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen (History, Newcastle), Dr James Dunk (University of Sydney; conjoint fellow in HASS) and Effie Karageorgos each spoke about their experience of post-PhD book publication and shared advice on targeting book proposals to Australian and international academic and trade publishers. Watch the webinar.

October – Mental Health Month – saw another member’s event – the ‘Decolonising Madness Histories’ webinar with Network members Professor Hans Pols and Associate Professor Jacquie Leckie (Conjoint researcher, HASS), who reflected on their work focussed on histories of psychiatry and mental health in Indonesia and Fiji, and questions of decolonising history and ‘madness’. It also saw the launch of an exhibition at the Callaghan campus (and online), curated by network-member and PhD Candidate in History, Robyn Dunlop. Titled “After Wards: From Patients to Participants – Community mental health services in Newcastle, NSW 1967 – 1987”, it was a collaboration with Hunter Living Histories; have a look at the exhibition here[https://hunterlivinghistories.com/2020/10/15/after-wards/].

The final event for the year was held in November, a webinar with Assoc Professor Kylie M. Smith (Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, USA), discussing her latest book Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing (Rutgers) and new research project ‘Jim Crow in the Asylum: Psychiatry and Civil Rights in the American South’.

In 2021 the Future of Madness Network is planning more events with a focus on broadening approaches towards the study of madness. Stay tuned for more updates!

Story by Dr Robyn Dunlop, Research Assistant


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