RU 3031, "NORMAL#VERRÜCKT", Project: Alterity and Disorder in Psychiatry and Literature since the 1970s

Project: DFG ProjectsDFG Joint Research: Research Units/ Clinical Research Units

Project Details


The project “Alterity and Disorder in Psychiatry and Literature since the 1970s”investigates the mutual exchanges, shared problems, misunderstandings and distortions in the relationship between psychiatry and literature since the 1970s from the perspectives of epistemology, literary studies and history of medicine. This period was marked by a wave of criticism of psychopathological concepts and of the existing classification systems and it led to the introduction of the international, standardized diagnostic manuals in West-Germany, with the subsequent implementation of the concept of disorder, replacing the former category of disease. The project investigates how these epistemic changes communicated both with the self-reflection in the psychiatric discourse and with new ways of representing mental alterity and psychiatric disorders in literature. Since the 1970s, literature did no longer function as preferred place for a counter-discourse on psychiatry and the forms of criticism applied by anti-psychiatry. Instead, literary writing started to explore new strategies for exposing and positioning the alterity of people with psychiatric experiences. At the same time, the international discourse of ethno-psychiatry arrived in West-Germany. The reception of ethno-psychiatric concepts and the first encounters with the ethnography of mental alterity resonated with the ongoing epistemic changes within psychiatry and opened psychiatry – at least partially and in meta-theoretical discussions – to expressions of alterity similar to those explored in the new forms of writing. Our project combines literary studies and history of medicine for a comparative investigation of the exchanges and crossovers between modern literature, psychiatry and the reception of ethno-psychiatry. The project thus examines places where experiences with mental alterity were articulated and reflected upon; it aims at a historical epistemology of a zone of unrest whose characteristic feature was that disease entities had become fragile and doubtful. Based on the analysis of a shared corpus of texts and sources the project aims at a historical epistemology of the shaping and stabilizing of psychiatry knowledge after its connection with disease units has been cut.
Effective start/end date01.01.21 → …

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Cultural Studies (ZKFL)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 102-4 History of Science
  • 206-10 Clinical Psychiatry, Psychotherapy amd Paediatric and Juvenile Psychiatrie