Autoethnography & Goffman`s Asylums: Re-Storying Mental Illness
thesisposted on 21.05.2021, 17:04 by Leanne Simpson
Mental illness narratives occupy a small, unstable place within critical discourse. Within both research and social practices, mental illness is often seen as a limitation instead of an alternative way of knowing, and thus, personal accounts are swept aside in favor of more “objective” research. In 1961, famed sociologist Erving Goffman published Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates after observing the daily life of a mental institution. While the book breathed life into the deinstitutionalization movement, it also undermined the narrative autonomy of the patients that it spoke for. In this paper, autoethnography is used to complement and challenge Goffman’s research, while arguing that there is a better way of positioning the patient narrative within mental health research. It is a way of reconciling my identities as a person with mental illness and an academic, and bringing lived experience to the forefront of mental health discourse, where it belongs.