Category Archives: Abstracts

New paper: ‘It used to be here but moved somewhere else’: post-asylum spatialisations – a new urban frontier?

‘It used to be here but moved somewhere else’: post-asylum spatialisations – a new urban frontier?

Ebba Högström

Social & Cultural Geography


This paper presents a number of spatialisations of mental health care in Sweden, exemplifying these spatialities in three vignettes drawn from the Swedish post-asylum landscape. Working with the notion of a ‘new urban frontier’, I examine: (1) how these landscapes have been transformed by processes of decentralisation and austerity measures; (2) how this transformation plays out within and through physical space; and (3) the new spatial relations that are produced through such transformations. The idea of ‘landscapes of care’ and the concept of ‘multiscalarity’ are used to understand the changing spatialisations evident in mental health care, and the shift we are presently witnessing which replaces the tangible spaces of ‘bricks and mortar’ of the past with, rather, a diversity of settings, localisations and administrations. The empirical material that forms the basis of the analysis derives from a larger study of spatial discourses in Swedish mental health care, which I carried out between 2008 and 2011. The paper concludes with some thoughts on the kinds of spatial relations evident within the post-asylum landscape of formal mental health care in times of austerity and decentralisation, wherein I consider whether these spatialisations can be regarded as a ‘new urban frontier of care’.


Constructing Patient Stories: ‘Dynamic’ Case Notes and Clinical Encounters at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Mental Hospital

New Article

Morrison, H. 2016 ‘Constructing Patient Stories: ‘Dynamic’ Case Notes and Clinical Encounters at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Mental Hospital, 1921–32’, Medical History, Volume 60, Issue 01, pp.67-86.


This article contextualises the production of patient records at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Mental Hospital between 1921 and 1932. Following his appointment as asylum superintendent in 1921, psychiatrist David Kennedy Henderson sought to introduce a so-called dynamic approach to mental health care. He did so, primarily, by encouraging patients to reveal their inner lives through their own language and own understanding of their illness. To this effect, Henderson implemented several techniques devised to gather as much information as possible about patients. He notably established routine ‘staff meetings’ in which a psychiatrist directed questions towards a patient while a stenographer recorded word-for-word the conversation that passed between the two parties. As a result, the records compiled at Gartnavel under Henderson’s guidance offer a unique window into the various strategies deployed by patients, but also allow physicians and hospital staff to negotiate their place amidst these clinical encounters. In this paper, I analyse the production of patient narratives in these materials. The article begins with Henderson’s articulation of his ‘dynamic’ psychotherapeutic method, before proceeding to an in-depth hermeneutic investigation into samples of Gartnavel’s case notes and staff meeting transcripts. In the process, patient–psychiatrist relationships are revealed to be mutually dependent and interrelated subjects of historical enquiry rather than as distinct entities. This study highlights the multi-vocal nature of the construction of stories ‘from below’ and interrogates their subsequent appropriation by historians.


Troubling Institutions Conference 2014 – Abstracts

Childhood Institutions – The Orphanage

(Presented by Tom Disney (University of Birmingham)

 The orphanage as an institutional space represents a significantly underrepresented area of study in Geography, both theoretically and empirically. While institutional spaces such as prisons (Moran et al. 2011, Moran 2012) and asylums (Philo 1989) have often been explored to understand how micro-populations are disciplined through everyday life, this research is often adult-centric and fails to consider the ways in which childhood institutions might challenge traditional understandings of institutional environments (see Goffman 1961 and Foucault 1998).

In an attempt to address these issues this paper draws upon ethnographic data gathered while working in an orphanage for disabled children in the Russian Federation. It considers the everyday practices within the institutional environment of the orphanage, in particular exploring the conceptualisations of the disabled orphan’s body as ‘dirty’ and how this is implicated in practices of ‘dehumanisation’ (Goffman 1961), transgressing the borders of ‘normal’ human contact and bodily practices. This paper utilises the work of Douglas (2002) and Kristeva (1982) in to analyse everyday life in the orphanage such as human touch, dirt and washing. Through this analysis this paper addresses the need for further empirical considerations of orphanage spaces, provides alternative theoretical considerations of institutional space through an examination of childhood experiences of such spaces, and finally contributes to cross-disciplinary debates surrounding care practices and orphan well being in institutional spaces.

 ‘Therapeutic Landscapes’ and emotional ties to past settings; salvage and abandonment as considerations in Psychiatric Hospital design.

Presented by Sarah Curtis (Durham University) and Victoria Wood (Newcastle University)

We explore the connections between theories relating to therapeutic landscapes and to emotional attachment with landscapes associated with past experience.  We use these ideas to interpret findings from research on emotional reactions to changes to medical spaces of care. We draw on findings from a qualitative study of the transfer of psychiatric inpatient care from an old to a newly built facility. Our findings show how the meanings attributed to ‘therapeutic landscapes’ from one’s past can evoke emotions and memories, manifesting in ideas about nostalgia, solastalgia, salvage and abandonment, which can impinge on one’s present therapeutic experience in a new hospital setting. We reflect on how consideration of these ideas might contribute to better future built design of psychiatric inpatient facilities and the wellbeing of those using them.

Troubling Institutions: Prisons and the Design of Carceral Space

(Presented by Dominique Moran (University of Birmingham)

Prison design is crucial to the relationship between the ‘carceral’ and the state, in that it is the process which determines, in large part, how the goals of a criminal justice system are materially expressed. However, prison design remains under researched within criminology and prison sociology, and is yet to attract the attention of carceral geography. With this in mind, this exploratory paper overviews the significance of prison design, sketches out the extant research on this topic, and suggests areas of potential intersection between carceral geography, geographies of architecture, and health geographies, in the latter case specifically in relation to the notion of therapeutic landscapes.

Call for Papers: 2016 Theme Issue for History of Psychiatry

New and emerging research on the history and geography of Scottish ‘madness’, asylums and psychiatry

Guest Editors: Jonathan Andrews (School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University) and Chris Philo (School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow)


Notwithstanding notable contributions from scholars such as Jonathan Andrews, Mike Barfoot, Alan Beveridge, Gayle Davies, Rab Houston, Gavin Miller, Iain Smith and others, it arguably remains the case that Scottish psychiatry has tended to be the ‘Cinderella’ in the existing historiography of British psychiatry. While the journal History of Psychiatry has carried ‘country reports’ on both the historiography of and substantive histories of psychiatry (expansively understood) in different parts of the world, furnishing a rich vein of ‘regional’ surveys, nothing of this kind has yet occurred in the journal specifically for Scotland.

The purpose of this proposed theme issue will be to rectify this absence, and in so doing to profile new and emerging research in the field of work on Scottish ‘madness’, asylums and psychiatry, particularly through giving a platform to a new generation of researchers (PhD students, postdoctoral researchers or other early career researchers) now starting to contribute new empirical evidence – linked to fresh conceptual and methodological agendas – to our understanding of ideas, practices, institutions and patient experiences in this Scottish history. By bringing together a sample of their work, together with an introductory essay contextualising their contributions, the ambition will be to create a theme issue that is more than the sum of its parts: one allowing – through covering a diversity of time periods, types of ‘lunacy’ reforms and asylum/clinical provisions, species of mental disorder, forms of treatment, experiences ‘from below’ of patients, etc. – to paint a reinvigorated overall picture of the turbulent history and changing geography of the Scottish ‘mad-business’.

The envisaged temporal focus of the theme issue will be early-1700s through to mid-1900s, although the editors would be prepared to consider contributions tackling both earlier and later periods. The ambition is that, while papers will report detailed empirical research on particular situations, events, individuals, institutions, etc., there should be an attempt in every paper to see its empirical focus within the context of a broader narrative of key transitions within the past of Scottish ‘madness’, asylums and psychiatry. Moreover, some comparative sense, alert to the possible distinctiveness of the Scottish case relative to what has occurred elsewhere in the British Isles and beyond, would be welcomed. It will be essential that authors demonstrate an awareness of existing scholarship in the history of Scottish psychiatry, as well as thoroughly explaining the nature and provenance of archival (or other primary) sources employed in the empirical studies reported.

Potential contributors

Given the focus on ‘new and emerging research’, the anticipation is that contributors will be PhD students and postdoctoral/early career researchers (whose own PhD awards will likely have been in the last 10 years). Nonetheless, the editors would be prepared to hear from other scholars who might not ‘fit’ these categories, provided that a case is made about the novelty of the contribution being made to scholarship on the history of Scottish psychiatry. No a priori preference will be given to potential contributors from any particular institution or part of the world, and the baseline criteria for inclusion will be the quality of the paper submitted.


A call for papers (the present document) will be sent out by the end of October 2014.

Individuals interested in contributing should sent a proposal to Jonathan Andrews ( and Chris Philo ( by end of November 2014, with suggested title, abstract (max. 200 words) and your contact details. It is possible at this stage that we may deem a potential contribution unsuitable or make suggestions about how it might usefully be recast to be suitable. The go-ahead at this stage can be no guarantee that a paper will be published in the journal (which will depend entirely on how it fares in the usual refereeing process).

Papers should be submitted by end of June 2015 via e-mail as WORD attachments simultaneously to both the journal editor, German E. Berrios (, and the theme issue guest editors, Jonathan Andrews ( and Chris Philo ( Andrews and Philo will coordinate the refereeing of the papers, with oversight from Berrios. In the event that more papers successfully negotiate the refereeing process than can be accommodated in the theme issue itself, the journal would undertake to publish ones not selected for the theme issue in subsequent general issues of the journal. It should be underlined that the decisions to publish or not will be based squarely on the referees’ reports and approved by Berrios.


Papers should be prepared according to the Notes for Contributors provided in the journal, and the absolute maximum length should be 10,000 words (including notes and references).

JA and CPP


Unearthing the ‘clinical encounter’: Gartnavel Mental Hospital, 1921-1932.

Hazel Morrison successfully defended her thesis in mid-September, 2014. Her full thesis title and abstract are as follows:

Unearthing the ‘clinical encounter’: Gartnavel Mental Hospital, 1921-1932. Exploring the intersection of scientific and social discourses which negotiated the boundaries of psychiatric diagnosis

Thesis Abstract

Charting the trans-Atlantic movement of ‘dynamic’ psychiatry from The Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, Baltimore, to Gartnavel Mental Hospital, Glasgow, my thesis throws light upon the resultant ‘dynamic’ case note records, produced in Gartnavel during the 1920s.  By undertaking an in-depth, qualitative analysis of Gartnavel’s case note records and corresponding archival materials, I explore the polemical question, posed, amongst others, by Foucault, of how psychiatry achieves its distinct status as a science of the individual.  Foucault, most notably in Discipline and Power, ascribes to the psychiatric profession the power to fashion individual patient histories into cases, cases which simultaneously emphasise the individuality of a patient, while condensing, i.e. ‘fixing’ their identities that they may be constituted ‘an object for a branch of knowledge and a hold for a branch of power’.  This thesis, while recognising the validity of this argument, explores how the clinical practices and philosophical outlook of dynamic psychiatry in the early twentieth century enabled both patient and psychiatrist to negotiate the construction of the psychiatric case note record, and consequently of patients’ individual identities.

D. K. Henderson, physician superintendent of Gartnavel between 1921 and 1932, was one of the first, if not thefirst psychiatrist fully to incorporate dynamic principles into the working practices of a British mental hospital.  Initiating methods of case note taking and staff meeting consultation (now integral components of modern day psychiatric practice) he transported the teachings of his mentor, the Swiss émigré psychiatrist Adolf Meyer, to the everyday clinical practices of Gartnavel.  The dissemination of dynamic psychiatry through Henderson’s published works and medical teachings is recognised as having integrally shaped the practices of Scottish psychiatry in the twentieth century.  However, the significance of the unpublished case note records, produced under his superintendence of Gartnavel during the 1920s, as sources of historical enquiry has gone largely unrecognised.  A near-unique archive of ‘dynamic’ case note records is used in my thesis to reveal, what Roy Porter termed, a ‘history from below’ of clinical practices and examinatory processes.  For as Henderson employed stenographers and clinical clerks to record verbatim and semi verbatim the dialogues that passed between patients and psychiatrists within staff meetings and mental examinations, I, as Porter himself aspired to, take as the focus of my research a history of the ‘two-way encounters between doctors and patients’.

By employing an interdisciplinary research method, one that incorporates Foucauldian, literary, critical medical humanities, as well as more traditional forms of medical history scholarship, I establish a history of dynamic psychiatry set within clinical encounters.  Engaging with current debate, evolving primarily within the interdisciplinary sphere of the medical humanities, I argue these records reveal a history of medical humanism, one in which both patients and psychiatrists actively shaped the history of twentieth century Scottish psychiatry. 

Psychoanalytic Geographies

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.

‘The world is full of big bad wolves’: investigating the experimental therapeutic spaces of R.D. Laing and Aaron Esterson

History of Psychiatry
Cheryl McGeachan
ISSN 0957-154X (In Press)


In conjunction with the recent critical assessments of the life and work of R.D. Laing, this paper seeks to demonstrate what is revealed when Laing’s work on families and created spaces of mental health care are examined through a geographical lens. The paper begins with an exploration of Laing’s time at the Tavistock Clinic in London during the 1960s, and of the co-authored text with Aaron Esterson entitled, Sanity, Madness and the Family (1964). The study then seeks to demonstrate the importance Laing and his colleague placed on the time-space situatedness of patients and their worlds. Finally, an account is provided of Laing’s and Esterson’s spatial thinking in relation to their creation of both real and imagined spaces of therapeutic care.