Psychoanalytic Geographies is a newly published book by Ashgate (June 2014), which has been described as “a unique, path-breaking volume and a core text for anyone seeking to grasp how psychoanalysis helps us understand fundamental geographical questions, and how geographical understandings can offer new ways of thinking psychoanalytically”. Contributors from the Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces Group include Hester Parr and Cheryl McGeachan, who both have chapters included in the monograph.
Cheryl’s chapter, titled ‘Worlding’ Psychoanalytic Insights: Unpicking R.D. Laing’s Geographies, aims to build upon her previous work on the Scottish psychiatrist Ronald David Laing (1927-1989) that has situated his experiences, but attempts to adjust the focus in order to think more explicitly about the relationships that emerge between Laing’s theories and therapeutic practices with seriously disturbed individuals and their, often deliberate, geographical resonances; in short, to think about Laing’s geographies. This chapter hence attempts to consider not only the geographies integral to these theories and practices, but also to highlight, through an analysis of some of the case-study material presented in these key texts, Laing’s inherently spatial approach in attempting to understand seriously disturbed, often schizophrenic, individuals. Beginning with an introduction to the existential and phenomenological traditions from which Laing drew considerable inspiration, this piece investigates the foundations of Laing’s work with his patients and introduces his complex relationship to psychoanalytic thought. Using the case of ‘Mrs R’, it then seeks to demonstrate Laing’s insistence on ‘worlding’ psychoanalytic insights, such as the unconscious, through seeing them set squarely in everyday social and familial spaces. Moving to unpick Laing’s particular concern with ‘ontological insecurity’ through the case of ‘magical camouflage’, this chapter reveals the attention paid to the situated psycho-dynamics of his patients and their worlds in connection with Scottish psychoanalytic thought. In conclusion, it suggests different Laing-inspired pathways of connection between space, psychoanalysis and mental health geographies.