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These developments are taking place against the backdrop of ever-vulnerable institutional foundations.
On the other hand, however, the still ubiquitous Foucauldian legacy has led many to consider those patients who managed to voice their opinions as exceptional rarities.
The contributors to this special edition take issue with this latter idea.
Inspired by recent research, they highlight the fact that it is actually possible to write a history of collective ‘mad’ cultures. Their role in the formation of medical discourses needs to be investigated.
We submit, then, that writing ‘from below’ not only casts new light on psychiatry’s past; it is in fact necessary for a comprehensive picture of the field’s ongoing history.
Fetishised, mythicised, ostracised, the psychiatric patient has emerged as an unlikely protagonist, capturing the scholarly, cultural and artistic imagination alike.
Yet recent assessments suggest that Porter’s call has not fully been heard.
Why am I and these poor wretches to be shut up here like scapegoats for all the rest?
You, your assistant, the superintendent, and all your hospital rabble, are immeasurably inferior to every one of us morally; why then are we shut up and you not?
Histoire de la médecine - CHUV, Institut universitaire d’histoire de la médecine et de la santé publique, Université de Lausanne, Avenue de Provence 82 - CH-1007 Lausanne, Switzerland, Email: [email protected] de la médecine - CHUV, Institut universitaire d’histoire de la médecine et de la santé publique, Université de Lausanne, Avenue de Provence 82 - CH-1007 Lausanne, Switzerland, Email: [email protected] authors would like to thank Stephen T. Micale for their insightful comments on this article.
Earlier versions of this piece were presented by the first author at the Psychiatry and Culture in Historical Perspective Working Group (Yale) and by the second author at the ‘Quelle histoire pour la médecine et la science?