We are entering a new and unprecedented moment in the globalization of psychiatric expertise and practice. Across hemispheres, nations, and domains of social life, the language of psychiatry and mental health constitutes an increasingly universal frame for suffering while also expressing a human condition ever more liberated and ever more alienated by medical knowledge. Psy-expertise itself has become riven by internal fractures over professional identity, pharmaceuticalization, and geopolitical positionality. At the same time, it has been adopted by a growing array of actors in education, the military, business, global health, non-governmental organization, user movements, and civil society with differing claims about how mental illness is to be defined and addressed. The many crises occasioned or signaled by the election of Donald Trump—in domains ranging from healthcare, borders and immigration, police violence, nuclear conflict, and control and funding of scientific research, to white nationalism, post-industrial anxiety, hate crime, and liberal apocalypticism—remind us that the social and political life of the psyche has an important place in our present-day circumstances.
This workshop investigates this complex, multivalent moment and calls for new analytical frames that go beyond the battle between medicalization and its discontents, experts and patients, and the imperial reach of disciplines and the insurgencies beating them back. Participants’ papers chart the rise and transformation of today’s global psyche — the object of hegemonic psy-expertise, the space within which it is debated and re-appropriated, its transformation into cultural idioms with growing appeal across the globe. Drawing on research conducted in a number of countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Mexico, Russia, Senegal, and the United States, panels explore how the global psyche takes shape at the intersection of technology, politics, and ethics, a location where experts and ordinary people alike wrestle with the fundamental questions of “how to live” and what kinds of worlds we want to build and live on within. The conference will show how the global psyche has become a key site of moral and political reckoning and ethical speculation and reconfiguration, birthing novel experiments in justice, rights, personhood, and the good life. For more information on cross-cutting questions and themes for the conference, see below.