My friend Helen Spandler and I recently wrote a piece for the Mad Studies Network about what Mad Studies and Queer Studies are, and what they might learn from each other. If you’re interested in mental health and/or sexuality and gender you might find it interesting. If it feels a bit too academic, my comic book on Queer with artist Julia Scheele is coming out in September!
Mad and Queer studies: interconnections and tensions
With the recent emergence of Mad Studies we thought it timely to explore some connections with Queer studies – another critical field of enquiry. We wanted to examine their similarities and differences; any points of tension; and what each could learn from the other.
Helen has been part of the recent emergence of Mad Studies in the UK and has a long standing interest in critical approaches to gender and sexuality. Meg-John has recently written a book about queer theory as part of the ‘introducing…’ series of Icon press comic books, and has a long standing interest in critical approaches to mental health. This piece arose out of discussions between ourselves on this subject.
Summary of key points
- Mad and Queer Studies have lot of common ground – especially in terms of challenging existing binaries (for example, gay/straight and mad/sane); subverting negative connotations of Queer/Mad; and critiquing prevailing normativities (ways of being ‘normal’).
- However, we have to be careful to think critically about new normativities which develop when we move away from old ones, and who is included and excluded in any movement.
- Therefore, both projects could do more to question the ‘alternative’ norms and binaries they introduce which may have unhelpful effects.
- In addition, madness poses new and significant challenges to Queer activism/studies.
- As a result, Mad / Queer scholars and activists would benefit from greater dialogue with each other – and with other critical fields of inquiry (like critical disability studies).
- Finally, we recommend foregrounding practices of consent and kindness as part of our political strategy to achieve our desire for more liberated social relationships and societies.
We start by briefly outlining a history of the two disciplines.
What is the history of Queer theory and Queer studies?