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Tag Archives: Social Pathology


Fifth International Conference

Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands

30 & 31 October 2014


The fifth international conference on The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization explores the nature of contemporary malaises, diseases, illnesses and psychosomatic syndromes in their relation to cultural pathologies of the social body. Usually these conditions are interpreted clinically in terms of individualized symptoms and framed in demographic and epidemiological profiles. They are represented and responded to discretely, as though for the most part unrelated to each other; each having its own professional discourse of etiology, diagnostics, therapeutics, as well as a task force developing health strategy and policy recommendations and interventions. However, these diseases also have a social and cultural profile, one that transcends the particularity of their symptomology and their discrete etiologies. These social pathologies are diseases related to cultural pathologies of the social body and disorders of the collective esprit de corps of contemporary society. They arise from individual and collective experiences of profound and drastic social changes and cultural shifts.

Multi-disciplinary in approach the conference addresses questions of how these conditions are manifest at the level of individual bodies and minds, as well as how the ‘bodies politic’ are related to the hegemony of reductive biomedical and individual psychologistic perspectives. Rejecting such a reductive diagnosis of contemporary problems of health and well-being, the central research hypothesis guiding the conference is that contemporary epidemics are to be analysed in the light of radical changes in our civilization and of the social hegemonization of the biomedical and psychiatric perspective.

A particular focus of the conference is the role of humanities and social sciences in helping to understand the connection between social transformations and psychiatric perceptions of health and well-being. The conference invites papers offering analyses of social malaises and the health of civilization from faculty, students and researchers in fields of philosophy, sociology, social theory, psychology, and anthropology.


Special sub-themes are the following:

􀁸The invented self– What is the status of the late modern subject? We live in so-called ‘neo-liberal’ times in which we experience an intense, marketed pressure to ‘be oneself’, as well as an extreme difficulty to ‘be a self’. Is our alleged individual freedom a strongly directed one? If so, how can we invent ourselves differently? And how should we understand the connection between this newly invented and that socially directed self?

􀁸The sympathetic self– Is a re-ethicization and moral regeneration of political, moral and libidinal economies possible? The domestic economics of the soul need to be scrutinized, ‘miraculous’ and healing social powers – such as the redemptive and transfiguring powers of beauty and love, and the power of gift relations – need to be explored in terms of their capacity to reverse pathogenic vicious circles of individuated egotism into saludogenic virtuous spirals of care, care of the self and care for others.

􀁸The diagnosed self– In most late modern societies in the West, we find a high prevalence of many psychiatric disorders. Such statistics have been known for years, but there is much uncertainty about how to interpret them. How do adults experience the process of receiving these diagnoses, and what does it mean for them to have their experience of suffering filtered through a diagnostic and psychiatric vocabulary?

􀁸The measured self– Research evidence is widely held as a key influence on mental health policy and practice. Whilst hypothesis testing in randomised controlled trials is held as the ‘gold standard’, qualitative research exploring people’s experiences continues to occupy a more marginal position, even though these experiences inform important inter-subjective phenomena. What is and what could be the specific role of qualitative research in contemporary mental health care?

􀁸The amnesiac self– The fading of individual and collective memory due to ongoing processes of individuation and acceleration and to experiences of shock, trauma, repression and aphasia in the psychic life of individuals and societies is amplified in contemporary contexts. Lacking memory, persons and societies live in a liminal extended present and become prone to solipsism and to manipulation. What is forgotten – and what can be remembered – is one of the most urgent ethical-political problems of our age.



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