Madness

To attempt to capture the relationship between “madness” and “disability” is to define one ambiguous and constantly shifting term by another. Madness has for centuries had legal and medical meanings, which today are more tangled and subject to political and ideological pressures than ever in light of the framing of madness as a type of disability. For now madness has to figure itself not only in relation to ideas about competency, moral ability, curability, and so forth but also in relation to questions of access, stigma, and advocacy. In recent centuries, the term suggests the medical, social, and cultural categories dealing with all forms of psychic pain that came under the purview of alienists, psychiatrists, and neurologists. But increasingly, madness has also been understood from a patient/client/inmate perspective rather than from a psychiatric practitioner’s or clinician’s perspective.

A broad understanding of madness therefore must account for medical perspectives (both allopathic …

This essay may be found on page 114 of the printed volume.

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