8 Jul 2016 All day CRASSH (SG1&2), Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT


Conference registration has now closed. 


Darin Weinberg (University of Cambridge)
Monica Greco (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Robbie Duschinsky (University of Cambridge)
Michael Schillmeier (University of Exeter)


Patient involvement, participation and empowerment are keywords at the forefront of the politics of contemporary healthcare and beyond. Envisaging a future where ‘networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health’ (Society for Participatory Medicine, 2014), discourses of participatory medicine advocate patient choice and the incorporation of evidence derived from patient experience. A problem with these discourses is that they tend to assume a transparent relationship between subjects and their experiences.  At the same time, they tend to address bodies as passive objects of knowledge or treatment decisions.  As the case of debates around ‘somatisation’ illustrates, however, organisms can force us to conceive them as active, sociophysiological agents that simultaneously affect and are affected by the practice of participation.

In this symposium we aim to unpack the multiple contemporary connotations of the term ‘psychosomatic’ and to render them available for discussion in relation to problems of agency, responsibility, motivation, choice and self-management.  This critical task is particularly urgent today, in the context of a resurgence of political rhetoric that opposes ‘shirkers’ and ‘strivers’ and that foregrounds individual responsibility, while questioning benefit entitlements and the authenticity of illnesses or disabilities. The symposium will provide an interdisciplinary forum to elaborate ways of conceptualising human organisms as responsive and purposeful social actors in their own right.  In addressing the agency of the organism under the rubric of ‘psychosomatics’, it builds from the central role that propositions from psychosomatic medicine historically played in the articulation of a sociology of health and illness, disease and medicine.  The event forms part of a programme of work that aims to critically develop and update this legacy.

The event will bring together speakers from different disciplinary locations, but who share a clear underlying concern for the ‘big picture’ questions about agency and embodiment the symposium will address:

  • What kind of bodies and body-mind relations are presupposed in discourses and practices of patient involvement and participation?

  • How do these discourses and practices refract wider biopolitical concerns about the kinds of flexible, responsible, contained, willing, durable body-minds necessary to the perpetuation of a neo-liberal order?
  • What conceptual and methodological resources can we draw on to propose an alternative understanding of organic agency and participation, or what we might call participation all the way down?




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Wellcome Trust, and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Accommodation for speakers selected through the call for papers and non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation; however, the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Friday 8 July
9.15 - 9.30


9.30 - 10.00

Darin Weinberg (Sociology, Cambridge University) and Monica Greco (Sociology, Goldsmiths): Welcome and introduction

10.00 - 11.00

Keynote: Felicity Callard (Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University)

'How does the drug act? How does the patient act? Creative experiments with early US psychopharmacology' 


Chair: Robbie Duschinsky (Sociology, School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge)

11.00 - 11.30

Coffee break

11.30 - 13.00

Panel session

Michael Sharpe (Psychological Medicine, Oxford University)

'Mind, medicine and morals: challenges to an integrative perspective'


Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch (Philosophy, University of Vienna)

'The Time Battle: Forecasting the Length and Efficiency of Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy for Whom?'


Chair: Monica Greco (Sociology, Goldsmiths)

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30

Panel session

Hanne Knudsen (Education, Aarhus University)

'Heterophony and hyper-responsibility'


Martin Savransky (Sociology, Goldsmiths)

'How Bodies Think'


Chair: Michael Schillmeier (Sociology, University of Exeter)

15.30 - 16.00

Coffee break

16.00 - 17.00


Laurence Kirmayer (Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill)

'Agency, embodiment and enactment in psychosomatic theory and practice'


Chair: Maryon McDonald (Social Anthropology, Robinson College, Cambridge)

17.00 - 18.00

Final discussion session: The Politics of Mind-Body Relations

Chair: Darin Weinberg (Sociology, Cambridge University)

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk