Neurodiversities | Nima Bassiri: Disordered Conduct and the Moral Economy of Mental Illness in the Nineteenth Century

April 12, 2019
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In this paper, NIMA BASSIRI (Assistant Professor of Literature) discusses some of the ways in which nineteenth-century psychiatrists and neurologists became increasingly concerned with forensically arbitrating the normalcy of a patient’s conduct, rather than attending to her soundness of mind alone. The reason for this, the paper will suggest, is that it was through conduct that a patient could exhibit that indispensable measure of responsibility and capacity to govern herself and her affairs that would ultimately satisfy the conditions not only of moral but also economic liberty — defined through contract freedom and the capacity to manage property — that was so characteristic of nineteenth-century economic liberalism. The paper will offer a brief discussion, then, on the moral economy that informed medical norms for proper behavior in the nineteenth century.

Part of tgiFHI is a speaker series that gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields.

This event is also part of a two-day symposium, “Neurodiversities,” presented by the CHCI Medical Humanities Network and the Duke Health Humanities Lab @ FHI. Co-sponsored by FHI Humanities Futures, DIBS/FHI Neurohumanities Research Group; UNC Institute for Arts & Humanities & HHIVE.