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CANCELLED. April 2020: Medicine, Madness, and Maladies of the Mind in Armenian Studies Past and Present

Yeghishe Tadevosyan, The Genius and the Crowd, 1909, Oil on canvas, 152x149 cm. National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan.

Eleventh Annual International Graduate Student Workshop

April 10-11, 2020

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

555 Weiser Hall
500 Church Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1042

In recent years, the history of medicine, mental illness, and the literary, anthropological, and sociological studies of madness have gained a remarkable momentum internationally. Still, there have been virtually no substantial studies of a premodern and modern understanding of medicine, madness, and maladies of the mind in Armenia and its Diaspora. This interdisciplinary workshop aims to interrogate the stories of both medical and psychiatric sciences as well as that of the concept of madness in Armenian political, historical, literary, and cultural discussions in the past and present.

The workshop will focus on the histories of medicine and psychiatry and the portrayals of madness as a form of behavior, marker of difference, and tool of body politics across periods and geographies. The workshop organizers are interested in the broader history of medicine, but they would like to draw particular attention to the historical and contemporary landscapes in which medical professionals sought to exercise their authorities over mental illnesses and the mind itself. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, tools and theories have provided medical professionals with renewed opportunities to intervene in the social, political and cultural spheres with the shared objective of devising and implementing therapies of madness.

In this, the workshop will initiate an inter-disciplinary conversation about the concept, diagnosis, treatment, and social construction of “madness.” The goal is to consider new perspectives, methodologies and cross-disciplinary frameworks that will put Armenian Studies in conversation with, among others, the growing fields of history of medicine, science and technology studies. In the course of the workshop, the hope is to call into question what was and is culturally defined as madness as well as medical and societal interventions to “cure” madness and “contain” the mad.

Therefore, this meeting will situate the notion of madness at the intersection of politics, medicine, literature, sociology, and anthropology and seeks to explore the changes in its definition and the underpinnings of perceptions of mental illnesses at critical junctures of history in Armenia and amongst its diasporic communities across the globe.