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Madness, Violence, and Technologies of Care: A Symposium

May 8 @ 10:45 am - 5:00 pm


  • Jesse Miller
  • Lisa Diedrich
  • Martin Summers
  • Lisa Johnson
  • Susan Cahn
  • Jessica Lowell Mason
  • Kathleen Brian
  • Michael Rembis
  • Wendy Gonaver


Welcome – 10:45 AM

Panel 1 – 11 AM – 12:30 PM | Communities of Care

Jesse Miller, Books as Technologies of Care

In this talk, I will examine the role that librarians in the US played in the emergence of the book as a technology of care, a tool for improving the mental health of individual patients and connecting patient-readers back to the community of the healthy.

Lisa Diedrich, Graphic Trauma: Drawing as Working Through Sexual Violence

In this presentation, I will explore some examples of what I call graphic trauma, a process of drawing as a form of working through the experience and event of sexual violence.

Martin Summers, Race, Community Control, and Mental Health Care in Chicago: The Woodlawn Mental Health Center in the Black Freedom Struggle

In examining the history of the Woodlawn Mental Health Center, and especially its intervention program for first-graders who were considered maladaptive, this paper will explore the contestation that occurred between the center and the community—and within the community itself.

Lunch (Student Union and Commons) 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Panel 2 – 1:30 PM – 3 PM | Diagnosing Madness

Lisa Johnson, Neuroqueer Feminism: Turning with Tenderness toward Borderline Personality Disorder

This presentation proposes an additional method of engaging this gendered and stigmatized psychiatric diagnostic category: neuroqueer feminism. A neuroqueer feminist approach to BPD will be post-oppositional, pain-centric, intersectional, and stigmaphilic, turning with tenderness toward borderline personality disorder as a neurologically-queer intersectional embodiment.

Susan Cahn, Therapist-Patient Sex: From Feminist Reform to Borderline Personality

This paper discusses the feminist campaign against sex between therapist and patient.  Feminists and allied professionals successfully lobbied for change in ethics codes as well as formal law. I then analyze how psychiatrists reasserted dominance by increasingly attributing responsibility for such boundary transgressions to women they defined as “borderline,” or women living with borderline personality disorder.

Jessica Lowell Mason, Making a Mad Community, from Attic to Attic

In this presentation, I will describe Madwomen in the Attic’s first two years as a unique part of the Western New York community and will detail some of what I have learned over two years of working with other madwomen in the community and from my own attic to try to build a sense of mad community among those with whom we do advocacy work and those with whom we work from afar – or from attic to attic.

Coffee & Tea 3 PM – 3:30 PM

Panel 3 – 3:30 PM – 5 PM | Institutional Care

Kathleen Brian, Dread and the Epistemology of Risk

This paper argues that nineteenth-century insane asylums were institutions embedded within a broader, though still emergent, U.S. security culture—and that suicide is a particularly revealing lens for revealing how and why this was the case.

Michael Rembis, ‘A fact was no less a fact because it was told by a crazy person’: Popular Responses to 19th Century Asylums

In this presentation, I contemplate the role of mad people themselves in protesting the dominant technology of care in the 19th century United States, asylums.

Wendy Gonaver, “Servants, Obey Your Masters:” Slavery and Race in 19th-century Asylums

The systematic segregation of the mentally ill into specialized institutions occurred in the United States only after 1800, just as the struggle to end slavery took hold. This paper examines the relationship between these two historical developments, showing how slavery and ideas about race shaped early mental health treatment in the United States, especially in the South.

Cosponsors: Disability Studies Research Workshop, Humanities Institute, Gender Institute, Department of History, Department of English, Global Gender Studies, Science Studies Workshop, DEAN of WNY, and the Office of Inclusive Excellence


May 8
10:45 am - 5:00 pm
Event Categories:


Center for Disability Studies
Disability Studies Research Workshop
Science Studies Research Workshop


330 Student Union (UB North Campus)