Neurodiversities Symposium | Richard C. Keller: “Guises of a Psychiatric Universal”

Neurodiversities Symposium | Richard C. Keller: “Guises of a Psychiatric Universal”

The Health Humanities Lab at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University held a two-day symposium to create conversation and gain a better understanding of the ideas behind the term NEURODIVERSITY. This term, first popularized by the autism community, challenges the pathologization of neurological deviation from socially constructed notions of “neurotypicality.” Another branch of “neurodiversity” discourse challenges the abstraction of the ideas of “mind” and “mental” states, using tools of empirical neuroscience to dismantle binary divides between “brainhood” and “embodiment.” Psychiatry now grapples with the implicit Western cultural “typicality” embedded in medical frameworks. In the humanities, the study and teaching of literature and the arts is experiencing revitalization through interrogation of traditional conceptions of cognition and consciousness, along with humanistic exploration of questions raised by neuroscientific experimentation.

From its Rousseauist origins, psychiatry has depended on a universal construct of human mentality. In that sense it has always been a global endeavor, with race at its very foundation. In this talk, Prof. Richard C. Keller of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health explored how the constancy of universalism has shifted its ontological ground over the past two hundred years, with notions of civilization, race, mind, brain, and place serving as critical modifiers of the universal, from the late eighteenth century through the expansion of empire, the advent of psychoanalysis, the postcolonial emergence of ethnopsychiatry, and the neurotransmitter era.

This symposium was co-sponsored by the FHI Humanities Futures grant; DIBS/FHI Neurohumanities Research Group; UNC Institute for Arts & Humanities & HHIVE