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Psychiatric Science and Lay Perspectives

Specialist workshop
14 December 2006
Organisers: Cecilia Riving and Hilary Marland

The aim of the workshop is to shed light on the relationship between psychiatric science and lay interpretations of mental illness. Since its establishment as a science in the 19th century, psychiatry has sought to achieve status as a clinical medical discipline, as objective and independent of lay opinions in the same way as other medical specialities. However, the case stories provided by people in the local community have always played a large part in psychiatric practice, as doctors have made their judgments in close association with the interpretations presented to them by family members, relatives, neighbours, local officials, etc.

The workshop focuses on this complex interaction between psychiatry and lay people in a historical perspective. Potential points of discussion are as follows:


  • the relationship between professional and lay interpretations of mental illness
  • the discrepancy between the ‘objective’ and ‘scientific’ standards put forward by the doctor and the practical and social considerations put forward by people in local communities
  • the discrepancy between psychiatric theory and practice
  • how the dependence on case histories and lay interpretations affected the establishment of psychiatry as a science and how modern psychiatry can be understood and examined from a historical perspective.

Akihito Suzuki, who recently published Madness at Home: The Psychiatrist, the Patient and the Family in England, 1810-1860, will open the workshop as keynote speaker. Other speakers to include Hilary Marland, Jo Melling, Pam Michael, Jette Møllerhøj and Cecilia Riving.

Attendance at the workshop will be limited.

Click here to see a programme and abstracts.

For more information, contact Cecilia Riving or Hilary Marland.