Total Institutions and Reinvented Identities - download pdf or read online

By Susie Scott (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0230348602

ISBN-13: 9780230348608

ISBN-10: 134931241X

ISBN-13: 9781349312412

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Example text

At the same time, there has been an increasing interest in controlling the behaviour of ‘troublesome’, disorderly populations, recasting some mental illnesses in moral terms (Nettleton 2006). Consequently, Prior (1993) argues that we should not overstate the impact of the anti-institutional critique, for dehospitalisation was a multifaceted process that was already gathering momentum by the time that Goffman and his contemporaries published their works. He suggests that a more pertinent factor shaping each of these dimensions was the reconceptualisation of mental disorders and ideas about appropriate treatment.

Many were simply individual, opportunistic gestures of defiance in the face of power, aimed more at preserving the inmate’s dignity than at any organised collective uprising. Indeed, a more overt display of resistance threatened to reinforce the staff’s image of them as ‘troublesome’ patients and prolong their stay. This evoked further cynical performances, whereby in order to avoid punishment, inmates would pretend to be engrossed in obedient behaviours, while making surreptitious moves to break the rules.

Instead of being able to trust in the stability of our relationships, families and careers, we have learned to doubt everything and inhabit precarious, fragile lifeworlds. The Giddensian agent lacks the robustness that Goffman’s actor took for granted, and is plagued by existential questions about their ontology (what it means to be alive, and why it matters), the finitude of human life (living towards one’s death with a reflexive self-awareness that time is limited), the experience of others (whether they can be trusted, and what they might provide for us), and the continuity of self-identity (how to keep a particular narrative going) (Giddens 1991: 54–55).

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Total Institutions and Reinvented Identities by Susie Scott (auth.)


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