Discovering mad studies

A couple days ago I had some thoughts about what would be a non-medicalized model of madness, i.e. a non-pathologizing way of looking at what appear to be mental or behavioral differences between people.

The initial idea was this: when people communicate, they attempt a matching of their conceptual worlds, which is a tricky thing that can fail. When it fails, it is easy for someone who rarely experiences such failures to assume that there is something wrong with the other person, that they might be “disconnected from reality” or that they “live in their own little world”. Let’s call that ‘mad-labeling’.

What’s interesting is that mad-labeling doesn’t require that either of the people involved is ‘mentally ill’ (i.e. suffering from a pathology, implying a medical perspective) — it only requires that there is some kind of conceptual (or maybe more broadly: mental) incompatibility between them that surfaces when communication or, even more minimally, interpretation is attempted.

What’s also interesting is that mad-labeling can be mutual without contradiction. A typical example might be the way autistic people and neurotypical people sometimes talk about each other, each side (generalizing from their own experience) expressing that the other side (also subjectively generalized) is unrelatable in certain ways.

At least by analogy, one way misogyny operates is similar too: it is relatively easy for men, being more closely associated with dominant (normatively masculine) ways of looking at the world, to dismiss anything a woman says as irrational or ‘mad’ (to link it up to that terminology). Looking into how mad-labeling is related to power and dominance should therefore be interesting too.

So anyway: as things started taking on shape and becoming more clear, I remembered that I had encountered the term ‘mad studies’ before but had never taken the time to look up what it is.

From what I can tell so far, it’s kind of what I hoped it would be? So that’s exciting. Time to read more about it!

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