Welcome to this new blogsite – the ‘Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces’ site – which aims to be a premier port of call for anyone interested in lunatic asylums, mental hospitals, psychiatric institutions, mental health facilities of all kinds, or indeed the still-wider concerns broadly clustering under the heading of ‘mental health geographies’ (which we also take to include ‘psychoanalytic geographies’ and ‘psychotherapeutic geographies’).
Our intention is to offer a resource for an ‘organic community’ of folks whose scholarly studies, professional capacities or other points of connection with matters of mental health prompt them to take seriously the spaces encompassing and comprised by these asylums, hospitals, facilities and other ‘places’ of mental health encounter. We are excited to think in all sorts of ways about material locations, sites, buildings, infrastructures, instruments, furnishings, etc., of these spaces, wondering about how and why they have been made (‘engineered’) as they have, adapted, transformed and maybe abandoned (sometimes over centuries). We are equally excited to consider how such spaces are (and have been) imagined, experienced, felt, resisted, loved and hated by all manner of constituencies: doctors, superintendents, attendants, nurses and, of course, ‘patients’ (but also reaching out to planners, politicians, families, voluntary workers and many others whose lives have been touched by such spaces).
The site here emerges from a specific set of scholars who have been working on asylum and post-asylum spaces for some years now. More by accident than design, a substantial grouping of researchers in this field has emerged around the Human Geography Research Group (HGRG) at the University of Glasgow (formally embedded within the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences), with links across to Medical History/Humanities colleagues elsewhere in the University. Propelled initially by his work on the historical geography of the ‘mad-business’ in England and Wales, Chris Philo has been fortunate enough to recruit a number of wonderfully engaged PhD students to work on related subject-matter, very much in a Scottish context. In so doing, these doctoral researchers have contributed to work on the history of Scottish madness, asylums and psychiatry (‘Scot.MAP’), which, despite the efforts of a few notable academics, still remains a substantially unmapped terrain. The expectation is that you will hear from these individuals in a sequence of blogs to follow (note that some have completed their PhDs, others are on the verge of completing, while others are early in or even just about to begin the journey).
As such, the focus of much of this endeavour has been ‘asylum spaces’: addressing the physical spaces of Scot.MAP, whether this be patiently reconstructing the environmental contexts of the little-known district asylums or discovering how the wards, corridors and conference rooms of Glasgow (Gartnavel) Royal Asylum have entered fundamentally into the shaping, experiencing and contesting of psychiatric theory and practice (to reference dimensions of just two PhD projects). However, there are also lecturing staff and PhD students associated with the HGRG possessing expertise and interests in more contemporary mental health spaces, those sometimes referenced as ‘post-asylum geographies’ (the spaces of living with and intervening in mental ill-health in a de-institutionalised landscape of treatment, care, shelter and sociability) – notably, Hester Parr, whose 2008 book Mental Health and Social Space, tellingly encapsulates many such spaces.
The ambition is that the core grouping of scholars identified above will be blogging about all manner of issues to do with ‘Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces’: commenting on their own research, noting the research of others, reviewing fields of relevant academic and policy literature, reflecting on ‘real world’ developments in contemporary mental health care services and spaces, reporting on site visits or conference proceedings, forwarding information about upcoming events, and sharing ideas, worries, enthusiasms and provocations. That said, we invite on board anybody who wishes to contribute by commenting on our own blogs or starting their own threads, subject only to minimal moderation by the blog site administrators. We are also envisaging starting some subject-specific pages on the blog site, as well as linking across to, for instance, unpublished, draft and working papers prepared by members of the core grouping (or, indeed, by others who might ask for us to link across to their work).
The hope is indeed to create a valuable resource for anyone with a passion for ‘Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces’, for interested folks to gather here, to learn from one another and to profile scholarly studies, policy inquiries and critical engagements with the overall field of concern. It may be to create its own ‘virtual asylum’, where asylum is meant in the most positive sense of sanctuary, refuge, respite and non-judgmental companionship, for all such persons. So, welcome, and let us hear from you all.
To enquire about guest blog posts, or for further information, please contact the site administrators, Louise Boyle (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kim Ross (email@example.com).