Home/Vol1.No.1. / Cusp The Journal-June 2015-Article index 3 / Author : China Mills

Symptom, seduction, subversion:
Reading resistance to psychiatry through a post-colonial lens

China Mills

Pills hidden under tongues, inside socks, flushed down toilets. Pretending to ‘ feel better’ , pretending to comply. How can we begin to trace the secrets, concealment and resistance that haunt psychiatry? How might we read this alongside the concealments of the colonised, enslaved, and oppressed – the ‘ laziness’ , formulaic deference, wilful submissiveness, playing dumb, and playing dead ( Scott, 1990) . If colonialism is historically and arguably currently entwined with psychiatry, then how might resistance to colonialism provide a lens through which to read resistance to psychiatry? This paper draws upon postcolonial theory, at the edges, in the spaces in-between, to engage with how strategies of resistance to colonialism may be read alongside and used to illuminate resistance to psychiatry. Resistance that is secret, sly, covered up. Resistance that is cryptic, opaque and veiled. Stitched together in a fragmentary bricolage, the paper seeks to move between postcolonial and critical psychological theorizations to read the stories of pretending ( to take medication, to feel better) that run like a thread through many people’ s stories of surviving the psychiatric system. Depending on the lens through which we look, such pretending may be ambivalent, seductive, a ‘ symptom of oppression’ , or subversive. Taking this further, this paper wonders what this might mean for more wide scale resistance to psychiatry and the pills it prescribes as they travel across borders into the countries, minds and bodies of the global South.

Open to read Full Symptom, seduction, subversion : resistance to psychiatry through a post-colonial lens by China Mills