Agonizing Identity in Mental Health Law and Policy (Part II): A Political Taxonomy of Psychiatric Subjectification

Sheila Wildeman

Abstract


This is the second part of a two-part essay exploring the function of identity in mental health law and policy, or more broadly, the function of identity in the politics of mental health. Part one began with the Foucauldian exhortation to undertake a “critical ontology of ourselves,” and adopted the methodology of autoethnography to explore the construction or constructedness of the author’s identity as an expert working in the area of mental health law and policy. That part concluded with a gesture of resistance to identification on one or the other side of the mental health/ illness divide (the divide of reason and madness), affirming instead an aspiration to carve out a space of contemplation — or rather multiple spaces: fleeting, episodic manifestations of what the author terms “spectral identity” — supportive of reflection on the relational determinants of one’s position along a continuum of shared vulnerabilities and capacities, shifting over time and across bio-psychosocial settings in defiance of simplistic binary categories. Part two builds out from these insights toward a political taxonomy of mental health identities. As such it deepens its engagement with the core question raised in part one: namely, is “mental health” working on us — on the mental health disabled, legal scholars, all of us — in ways that are impairing our capacity for social justice?

Keywords


Mental Health; Legal Profession; Law and Policy

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