Incarceration: Space, Power and Personhood – 17 June 2019

Incarceration: Space, Power and Personhood

With Lisa Guenther

Speakers (tbc) Lisa Baraitser, Louise Hide, Leslie Topp, Tina Chanter, Shokoufeh Sakhi, Hilary Marland and Catherine Cox


Monday June 17, 9.30am – 4.30pm

Room 101, 30 Russell Square, Birkbeck College, University of London


Places are limited; to register contact Katy Pettit


The aims of incarceration are manifold: to punish, to disempower, to deter, to silence, to interrogate, to reform. In this interdisciplinary symposium we will examine how the experience of incarceration – the myriad temporalities and spaces of imprisonment – shape personhood, psychic life and the possibility of interpersonal relations. The prison cell, as the typical site of modern incarceration, also provides a template for thinking about how carceral logic shapes lives and communities outside its walls, for example in psychiatric hospitals, schools, workplaces and gated communities. This expanded notion of carceral space describes the spatial organization of relationships among bodies and things through practices of criminalization, surveillance, confinement, segregation, and other forms of punitive control. In this workshop we will bring together short working papers which explore how different forms of carceral space shape and control the institutionalized subject.


We also take note of important recent work that considers questions of race, gender and class in the carceral setting, examine first-hand accounts, not least regarding the experience of ‘solitary’, and explore theories about particular psychological mechanisms, including ‘defenses’ in the psychoanalytic sense, that may be used by inmates in attempts to adapt to and tolerate long-term confinement. In exploring the various histories, logics, models and motivations behind such practices we also seek to consider how carceral regimes may reflect and sustain wider cultural processes, political systems and forms of social organisation.


The symposium will be held during the visit of philosopher Professor Lisa Guenther’s visit to Birkbeck in June 2019, arranged under the auspices of the Hidden Persuaders project, the Birkbeck Insitutute of Social Research and The Pathologies of Solitude project at Queen Mary. In her powerful book Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives, Guenther provides a history and phenomenological account of solitary confinement, describing the lived experience of solitary as a form of perceptual and social death. As her account reminds us, exploring the dehumanizing effects of incarceration also provides an opportunity for reflecting upon conditions that maintain or destroy personhood; facilitate, reduce or destroy a capacity for human flourishing. This symposium will be an opportunity to examine how limitations on sensation, agency and social interaction profoundly influence the incarcerated subject’s perceptual and emotional experience of the world.



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Decolonising madness? Transcultural psychiatry and the birth of a ‘global psyche’ after the Second World War: 4-5 April

Decolonising madness? Transcultural psychiatry and the birth of a ‘global psyche’ after the Second World War

4-5 April 2019

Room 101, 30 Russell Square, Birkbeck

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, ‘Hidden Persuaders’ and Birkbeck Institute of Social Research and is open to all research students

Can psychiatry be global? Are mental illnesses universal across cultures, ethnic groups and ‘civilisations’? Can the theories and methods of modern psychiatry be used to alleviate the suffering of diverse groups of people from around the world? This conference aims to contribute to the debate on the universality and cross-cultural applications of the notions of mental health and illness by exploring the historical origins and development of the notion of ‘global psyche’ and transcultural psychiatry.

Critics of the globalisation of psychiatry have likened Western psychiatric interventions to colonial projects, but there has been little substantial analysis of the actual post-colonial historical roots of the current global mental health movement and of the discipline of transcultural psychiatry. This conference will contextualise and historicise the concept of a global psyche and universal humanity by focusing on its complex and turbulent history since the end of the Second World War. At that time, and particularly during and after decolonisation, Western psychiatry attempted to leave behind its racist and colonial legacies, and lay the foundation for a more inclusive union between Western and non-Western concepts of mental illness and healing. In this period, the infrastructure of post-colonial global and transcultural psychiatry was set up, and leading psychiatric figures across the world embarked on identifying, debating and sometimes critiquing the universal psychological characteristics and psychopathological mechanisms shared among all cultures and civilisations.

The conference will explore the birth and development of transcultural psychiatry, and this psychiatric, social and cultural search for a new definition of ‘common humanity’, analysing the core historical driving forces behind it. How did psychiatrists and anthropologists from all over the world re-define the relationship between culture, race and individual psyche following the end of the Second World War and colonialism? Why was it at this historical moment that such a large number of psychiatrists were so keen to determine how cultural environments shaped the basic traits of human psychology? How did the new profession of transcultural psychiatry negotiate the tensions between researching cultural particularities and developing new, cross-cultural models of the mind? Moreover, the conference aims to explore the multiple voices – Nigerian, Ugandan, Yugoslav, Colombian, Soviet, Indian – which took part in these discussions. How did the global South and East European participants shape the field, how did they grapple with its colonial and racist aspects, and why does their role now seem to be so radically diminished? Finally, the conference will explore the core political, intellectual and cultural tensions in the history of the post-colonial transformation of European and global psychiatry – a severely under-researched field – and relate this transformation to the process of post-Second World War reconstruction.

This meeting will, therefore, analyse the concept of the ‘global psyche’ at the intersection of politics, psychiatry and ethics, and seeks to explore how global psyche and universal humanity served as key sites of re-framing the definition and re-drawing the boundaries of humanity in the turbulent second half of the twentieth century. It also aims to examine and evaluate the effects of these historical processes on the current global mental health movement.

Thursday, 4 April


Welcome and introductory remarks 


Colonialism, ‘culture’ and ethnopsychiatry

Jonathan Sadowsky, University of Case Western: A Symptom as Cultural Capacity: Guilt Culture, Depression, and Colonial Ideology

Erik Linstrum, University of Virginia: Case studies in the colonies

Sloan Mahone, University of Oxford: Psychiatry and Photography in Late Colonial Kenya: The legacy of Dr Edward Margetts

Discussant: Louise Hide, Birkbeck

11:45-12:00 Coffee/tea break


Decolonising madness

Roland Littlewood, UCL: Post-colonial ‘ethnopsychiatry’ and the question of cultural specificity

Kate Kilroy-Marac, University of Toronto: Collomb’s Culturalism and the Early Years of the Fann Psychiatric Clinic

Matthew Heaton, Virginia Tech University: The Decline and Fall of the Aro Village System in Nigeria: Political Economy and Post-Colonial Psychiatry, 1954-1983

Discussant: Hilary Sapire, Birkbeck 

13:45-15:00 Lunch


Global psyche and global citizenship

Harry Wu, University of Hong Kong: Globalising mental disorders in the age of world citizenship, experts and technology

Ana Antic, University of Exeter: The birth of the concept of a global psyche: Psychiatric universalism, decolonisation and imagining cross-cultural encounters

Marco Ramos, Yale University: The Global Mind in the Amazon: Psychiatry, Ayahuasca, and the Future of Mankind

Discussant: Daniel Pick, Birkbeck

19:00 Conference dinner

Friday, 5 April


Transcultural psychiatry and political turmoil

Gordon Barrett, University of Oxford: Creating a Chinese Socialist Psychiatry: Maoism, Decolonisation, and Mental Health Care in Cultural Revolution Shanghai

Sanjeev Jain and Alok Sarin, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore: The partition of madness and madness of partition

Tess Lanzarotta, Yale University: Alcohol, Oil and “Eskimo Capitalists”: Debating the Psychological Impact of Indigenous Self-Determination in the Alaskan Arctic, 1979-1984

Discussant: Chris Wilson, Birkbeck

11:45-12:00 Coffee/tea break


Global mental health and the after-lives of colonial psychiatry

Ursula Read, King’s College London, ‘Clearing the streets:’ colonial and psychiatric hauntings in enacting mental health law in Ghana

Bahar Ibrahim, University of Glasgow: The problem of refugees in transcultural psychiatry

Discussant: Felicity Callard, Birkbeck

13:30-14:15 Lunch


Psychoanalysis and decolonisation

Omnia Elshakry, University of California Davis: Psychoanalysis and the Imaginary: Translating Freud in Postcolonial Egypt

Dagmar Herzog, CUNY: Queering Freud Differently: Radical Psychoanalysis between Anthropology and Antihomophobia

Alice Bullard: Denial and desire

Discussant: Sarah Marks, Birkbeck

16:15-17:00 Closing remarks and final discussion

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Aubrey Beardsley/Mikhail Kuzmin – GRiT (Graduate Research in Theatre) event – 20 March 4pm

A talk by Dr Sasha Dovzhyk, who has recently completed her PhD on ‘The Afterlives of Aubrey Beardsley in Russia, c. 1899-1929’ in the English Department at Birkbeck, will take place on Wednesday, 20 March (4-5 pm) in Room 106 (43 Gordon Square). Sasha’s talk will focus on the playwright Mikhail Kuzmin’s response to the nineteenth-century English artist and writer Aubrey Beardsley:

Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898), a late nineteenth-century English artist and writer, enjoyed an eventful international afterlife in the twentieth century with cameo appearances across the fields of literature, design, ballet, cinema, and fashion. In Russia, he was proclaimed ‘the first Futurist in graphic arts’, championed as a flagship Symbolist writer, and adopted as an icon of the emerging homosexual subculture. This talk will explore the theatrical aspect of the Russian ‘Beardsley Craze’, focusing on the queer modernist playwright Mikhail Kuzmin’s response to Beardsley’s legacy.

Sasha is currently a Wellcome Trust-funded postdoctoral researcher exploring the tropes of disease in the arts of Decadence. She is the organiser of the symposium La Maladie Fin de Siècle: Decadence and Disease which will take place at Birkbeck on 26 June, 2019. (For further information on the symposium, please visit:

To attend the GRiT event please email Seda Ilter directly (

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Essay Film Festival 2019 – The Joycean Society – Sunday 31 March


A famously mammoth and difficult text, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) has long been regarded as a labyrinth of interpretations. In The Joycean Society (2013), Spanish artist and filmmaker Dora García follows the activities of a small, Zurich-based group of Joyce enthusiasts who have met weekly for over thirty years to share their observations and interpretations of the Irish writer’s famed text. The film documents the group’s debates and discussions over their heavily annotated and well-thumbed copies of the book, depicting the importance of both the text and the rituals surrounding the group’s meetings.

This screening will be followed by an informal discussion led by Dr. Joe Brooker and Professor Finn Fordham.
This screening is presented in collaboration with LUX with the support of Acción Cultural Española (AC/E).
Please, visit the following link for more information: 
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The Essay Film Festival – starting Friday 22 March

The Essay Film Festival is back… starting on Friday 22 March with the opening of our first ever exhibition in the Peltz Gallery, Art at the Frontier of Film Theory: the Work of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, with extra screenings, workshops and conversations… please spread the word!


Now in its fifth edition, the annual Essay Film Festival, is a collaboration between Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, celebrating the diversity and creativity of those artists and visionaries who work in that unique zone between documentary and experimental modes of filmmaking.


This year’s programme features a range of bold and innovative works that cross terrain from Argentina to Hong Kong, Iran to Mexico, USA to Lebanon, Nigeria to UK, embracing themes as varied as cancer, childbirth, the Faust legend, urban decay, workers’ strikes, psychoanalysis, colonialism, natural history, and Finnegans Wake!


These films will challenge your perception of the world, your understanding of reality and your place within it; they will move you, surprise you, and inspire you.


How does film connect intimate personal choices to political commitment; the archived or forgotten past to the socially active present; the beauty of cinema to terror, injustice and despair? How does film engage with the real while questioning the established forms of film language? And how can film touch us, emotionally and viscerally, and yet maintain that vital reflective edge?


Directors Mania Akbari & Douglas White, Andrea Bussmann, Dora García, Christopher Harris, Mary Jirmanus Saba, Bo Wang & Pan Lu, Onyeka Igwe and Jessica Sarah Rinland, all utilise the essay film in different ways to explore these searching questions in this year’s Essay Film Festival.


The full programme for EFF 2019 can be found here.


Come and join us!


Michael Temple, Matthew Barrington, Kieron Corless, Catherine Grant, Janet McCabe, Ricardo Matos Cabo, Raquel Morais, and Laura Mulvey, on behalf of the Essay Film Festival

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Workshop: The Narco-Culture of Narco-Accumulation – Friday 15 March



The Keynes Library

School of Arts

Birkbeck, University of London

43 Gordon Square


London WC1H 0PD

Find us on the map

Friday, March 15th 2019: 10.00 am – 17.00 pm

In this workshop we will discuss the social, political, cultural, as well as the capital-logics of contemporary narco-capitalism and its mobile territories (from the land in which drugs are cultivated, to the virtual world of laundering and finance in which its profits are realized and re-invested), especially as it is both juridically – and thus, militarily – constituted by and at the Mexican-US border. Violence and ‘wars’, of all kinds, are fundamental to these outlaw logics which have spawned a variety of cultural and subjectivizing forms (some of which will be highlighted by our guest speakers here). Indeed, this particular – and supposedly ‘Mexican’ – narco-cultural formation, which at first glance seems to present itself as peripheral, is in fact becoming increasingly central to contemporary forms of capital accumulation and its representation: its presence both seen and heard in the daily news as well as in contemporary art, television, film, literature and music. In this workshop we hope to throw some light on some of these processes from a variety of critical perspectives.

Open to everyone. No booking necessary.

For more information and to see the programme, click here.

This workshop is organised by Professor John Kraniauskas ( For any further information, please contact him.

This workshop is supported by CILAVS, Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, and BIH, the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

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‘Death, Afterlife and the Question of Autobiography (Biutiful, 2010)’ – Friday 15 March

The Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, CILAVS, cordially invites you to its Seminar Series event for Spring 2019.

“Death, Afterlife and the Question of Autobiography (Biutiful, 2010)”

A talk by Prof. Cristina Moreiras-Menor, U. Of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Friday 15 March, 2019 at 6PM

Keynes Library

School of Arts

Birkbeck, University of London

43 Gordon Square

London WC1H 0PD

Find us on the map


The book The Inoperative Community by Jean-Luc Nancy opens with this statement, which registers the exhaustion of thinking through History as one of the tragedies of our times.  I will approach this exhaustion in regard to a Spanish film that speaks of death and extinction while at the same time proposing, through the passion of its image, and in a certain politics of the afterlife that the film emits, a reflection on the political potentiality that is the recovered through a redemptive historicity. I refer to Biutiful, by Alejandro González Iñárritu (2010), which testifies, from the story of the agony of its protagonist, Uxbal, the presence of an essential in-certainty: life as a transition and, therefore, as a new beginning and/or as a non-finitude. The film proposes a historicity of experience erased by the exhaustion of history to which Nancy refers. Biutiful explodes, in the always continuous wandering of its protagonist through a desolated city, the historicity of its experience of life, death and the afterlife. Afterlife is powerfully associated in the film with the promise and permanence of that which has been lost, and therefore with the experience of remembering. Indeed, the film plays with the idea of a recovery, through a story that I will call autobiographical: the experience of history as afterlife and as event that accumulates death. My essay will be an intervention regarding the need of rethinking the politics of life, memory and inheritance through the facticity of death.

Cristina Moreiras-Menor received her Ph.D in Spanish Literature from the University of California, Davis. Between 1996-2002 she taught Spanish Peninsular literature at Yale University. Currently she is Professor of Iberian Literature and Culture and Women’s Studies at The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) where she was the Chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures for the last eight years and where she works in Galician and Spanish Literature, Spanish film, cultural theory, and psychoanalysis. She has published extensively on 19 and 20th century Spanish literature and film.  She is the author of Cultura herida: Literatura y cine en la España democrática (Libertarias, 2002), La estela del tiempo: historicidad e imagen en el cine español contemporáneo (Editorial Iberoamericana Vervuert,  2011), and  the editor of a monographic issue of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies entitled Critical interventions on Violence. With historian Miguel Ángel del Arco Blanco, she is the editor of Constelaciones, a new series of the Editorial Cómares dedicated to publish outstanding work on Peninsular Cultural studies. She is currently working on two books, one on Novo Cinema Galego with particular attention to documentary, and the second one on the political and aesthetic relation between landscape and historicity in the works of some renowned Spanish writers (Juan Goytisolo, Juan Benet, Federico Sanchez Ferlosio, among others).

Entrance free but booking here necessary.

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Raphael Samuel History Centre: Dr Yasmin Khan – Thursday 7 March QMUL

The Raphael Samuel History Centre 

invites postgraduates of any discipline to a workshop with historian, writer and broadcaster Dr Yasmin Khan

Thursday 7 March 2019, 3-5pm

Arts One 1.31, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End campus

The Partition of India: collective violence in a colonial context

Dr Yasmin Khan (University of Oxford)

This workshop will take as a starting point three short readings about the partition of India to think about the violence that accompanied decolonization in 1947. We will consider the causations of mass violence, how this is then depicted and written into historical narrative and the difficulties and challenges for historians who write about violence, particularly in the colonial context. Please read in advance of the workshop – the readings are short and easily accessible!

Places for this workshop are limited; please register with Katy Pettit:


Ian Talbot, Literature and the human drama of the 1947 partition South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 2007 (18: special issue), pp. 37-56 (pdf copy available on registration)

Swarna Aiyar, August Anarchy. ‘The Partition Massacres in Punjab’ South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 1995 (18.1), pp. 13-36. (pdf copy available on registration)

Gyanendra Pandey, Routine Violence. Nations, Fragments, Histories, (Stanford, 2005) [Introduction, pp. 1- 15] Full text of introduction available at

Yasmin Khan is an Associate Professor of British History at the University of Oxford. She has published on the decolonization of South Asia including refugees, war and the Partition of 1947, most recently The Raj at War (Bodley Head, 2015) In 2018 she presented a short series, A Passage to Britain on BBC2.

This  workshop is followed by the Raphael Samuel Memorial Lecture, delivered by Yasmin Khan. For details see

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Screening of A Fabrica de Nada (Pedro Pinho, 2017) @ Birkbeck Cinema on 6 March, 1PM-5PM, organised by CILAVS

One night, a group of workers realises that their administration has organised the stealing of machines from their factory. They soon understand that this is the first signal of a massive layoff. Most of them refuse to cooperate during the individual negotiations and they start to occupy their workplace. So when the administration vanishes to their great surprise, they’re left with a half-empty factory.

The closing of an elevator factory (one of many that close every month in the industrial outskirts of Lisbon) works in A Fabrica de Nada as a microcosm and a parable for dramatically exploring the textures and consequences of the feeling of impotence that most people felt during the years of austerity after the 2008 financial crash.

Under the shadow of bankruptcy, the characters in the film try to stay afloat and look for ways to reshape their lives. Driven by a sense of urgency and some kind of life instinct that remains, they are forced to embark, with reluctance and fear, in an unforeseen experience, a collective adventure. As the world around them collapses, new desires start to emerge…

Watch the trailer here:

The film will be followed by a discussion and Question and Answer Session led by Patricia Sequeira Bras (Birkbeck) and Luis Trindade (Birkbeck)

Wed 6 March 2019

1:00PM – 5:00PM

Birkbeck Cinema

43 Gordon Square



Entrance free but booking here required.


This event is a collaboration of the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS) with Birkbeck’s Centre for the Moving Image (BIMI)

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The Short Films of Helena Solberg – Fri 8 February 2019 12:00 – 17:00

CILAVS, Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, in collaboration with the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, BIMI

cordially invite you to

The Short Films of Helena Solberg

Brazilian director Helena Solberg’s earlier films are contemporaneous with Brazilian Cinema Novo but her work remains uncharted to most audiences. Following her recent retrospective in São Paulo, the aim of this event is to bring into view Solberg’s earlier documentary films, such as The Interview (1966), The Emerging Woman (1974) and The Double Day (1975).


Documentary film genre conventionally uses oral testimonies of personal experiences but Solberg’s use of women’s testimonies suggests the deployment of a feminist practice of storytelling as a way to expose and oppose specific instruments of power. Shot 50 and 40 years ago, Solberg’s subject matters and aesthetic choices make her films current and prescient.


A discussion with Dr. Patricia Sequeira Bras (Birkbeck) and Prof. Catherine Grant (Birkbeck) will follow the screening.


Fri 8 February 2019

12:00 – 17:00


Birkbeck Cinema

43 Gordon Square



Entrance free but booking here necessary.

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