#schizophrenality: an initial – and principled – declaration of intent

I believe I have this week coined the term “schizophrenality”.

It may have been coined elsewhere to a similar or different purpose: a cursory search via Google reveals, however, only seven instances to date of the term – all connected to this blogsite.

Let’s say for the moment it stands as something I coined.

This is not a question of personal ownership, or a desire to assert such ownership.  It is only important insofar as I don’t take a term already exactly defined, and twist it out of ignorance for my own purposes.

This recently I did with one of my lecturers: my ignorance then was clear to see.  I don’t want the incident to repeat itself.

First applied provisionally to broadly used and accepted processes behind the diagnoses of the different types of schizophrenia – typified in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (edition 5 here; previous editions here) – it is designed to be seen as a method which draws on Michel Foucault’s original texts, in particular around the concept of governmentality; on Stuart Hall’s 1997 teasing out of a six-question analytical framework from a range of Foucauldian writings; and on Dr Emma Murray’s method of veteranality, developed to understand, interpret and define the relationship – especially in an English & Welsh/UK context – around veterans, acts of offending and crime, mental ill-health versus mental distress, how the image of an offending veteran is perceived and reconceptualised by society and practitioners, the being seen all of a sudden as victims of war, and many other related issues.

Schizophrenality as a method, therefore, aims to interact with – both alongside and in contrasting ways – the two mentioned, and obviously preceding, methods of governmentality and veteranality, in order that the underpinning sociocultural and political assumptions of the DSM may be analysed: for it is my very tentative and still not properly formed contention that, over the years, the DSM has neglected – and continues to neglect – a proper revision to its diagnostic procedures, in the light of the underlying societal and cultural assumptions which have changed radically via the application of neoliberal economics in the past 50 years (also here from Oliver James, writing in 2008 in the Guardian newspaper), and more recently through the introduction of total surveillance strategies by Western democratic states on their own citizens and others in the last 20 years.

It is the intention long-term of this author that schizophrenality as a method become a tool for understanding better the wider realities and assumptions that have underpinned the diagnosis of mental dysfunctionality as mental ill-health and not mental distress: that is to say, individually not environmentally located.

Furthermore, it will be the developing contention of this author that in some cases it may be possible to uncover consolidated evidence that aggressive environments have been used in order that Mental Health legislation can be levered to deliberately imprison people who otherwise would have had the due protections and processes of the Criminal Justice system to defend their witness, credibility and personal integrity.

The mechanisms and processes employed to such effect will be one of the focuses of the proposed investigation.

It will also be argued that the use of Mental Health legislation to achieve such aims will have served to secretise realities from the public sphere, in the avowed interests of the subject’s own right to medical privacy; realities which, nevertheless, would otherwise find their deserved public platform in a court of law, and make their attempts at obfuscation and confusion by the state, the private sector and other actors in modern surveillance activities far more difficult to achieve.

Finally, studies by Rosenhan and Laing & Esterson, amongst others, will provide from methods grounded in psychological research a starting-point for a more sophisticated examination of the relationship between environments – both familial and societal – and what has variously been termed mental ill-health and mental distress.

The initial goal of schizophrenality, then, is to devolve a tool for understanding reality into the hands of those best placed to provide the evidence: those citizens and patients who, well before the paradigm shift in our perception of reality that should presuppose Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, were imprisoned in mental institutions and/or heavily medicated in the community for believing they were being surveilled, precisely because they could not answer why they were important enough to be the subjects of such activities.

Snowden’s total surveillance strategies should have made such arguments specious for a substantial number of those the DSM’s different editions have consistently diagnosed as paranoid.

Four years later, however, one assumes little has changed.

Schizophrenality is looking to return to that paradigm shift, and sustain an academic process which allows us to perceive its implications for what they really are.

And I hope you will want to ride alongside.  As critical friends, and honest sounding-boards always.

All I ever asked of life, in fact …

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