The Afterlives of the Psychiatric Asylum: Recycling Concepts, Sites and Memories, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Afterlives of the Psychiatric Asylum

Recycling Concepts, Sites and Memories, 1st Edition

By Graham Moon, Robin Kearns


206 pages

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pub: 2015-05-26
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The last 40 years has seen a significant shift from state commitment to asylum-based mental health care to a mixed economy of care in a variety of locations. In the wake of this deinstitutionalisation, attention to date has focussed on users and providers of care. The consequences for the idea and fabric of the psychiatric asylum have remained 'stones unturned'. This book address an enduring yet under-examined question: what has become of the asylum? Focussing on the 'recycling' of both the idea of the psychiatric asylum and its sites, buildings and landscapes, this book makes theoretical connections to current trends in mental health care and to ideas in cultural/urban geography. The process of closing asylums and how asylums have survived in specific contexts and markets is assessed and consideration given to the enduring attraction of asylum and its repackaging as well as to retained mental health uses on former asylum sites, new uses on former sites, and interpretations of the derelict psychiatric asylum. The key questions examined are the challenges posed in seeking new uses for former asylums, the extent to which re-use can transcend stigma yet sustain memory and how location is critical in shaping the future of asylum and asylum sites.


’This fascinating piece of academic detection traces what happens to psychiatric asylums after they are closed. Who’d have guessed that these forbidding monoliths would someday be reinvented as college campuses, housing estates and theme parks? Using case studies from around the world, the authors reveal how the imposing ruins of past good intentions are transformed into a mundane present.’ Michael Dear, University of California, Berkeley, USA ’Are there any asylums left? Well, yes and no. Discredited as suitable spaces for treating people with mental health problems, almost everywhere they have been threatened with closure. And yet they persist, these stubborn physical presences on the landscape. Ruined, re-used in new ways, still partially used for mental health purposes, even re-invented as modern mental health resorts: the asylums still haunt� us materially and imaginatively. This book wonderfully explores the complex, often paradoxical, after-lives of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth century lunatic asylums, asking profound questions about how these edgy spaces� illuminate the recycling, reworking and resisting of the stigmas that can cling resolutely to both people and place. It is a landmark text for cross-disciplinary critical mental health studies.’ Chris Philo, University of Glasgow, UK

About the Authors

Graham Moon is Professor of Spatial Analysis in Human Geography at the University of Southampton, UK. Robin Kearns is Professor of Geography in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Alun Joseph is University Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Canada.

About the Series

Geographies of Health Series

Geographies of Health Series
There is growing interest in the geographies of health and a continued interest in what has more traditionally been labeled medical geography. The traditional focus of ’medical geography’ on areas such as disease ecology, health service provision and disease mapping (all of which continue to reflect a mainly quantitative approach to inquiry) has evolved to a focus on a broader, theoretically informed epistemology of health geographies in an expanded international reach. As a result, we now find this subdiscipline characterized by a strongly theoretically-informed research agenda, embracing a range of methods (quantitative; qualitative and the integration of the two) of inquiry concerned with questions of: risk; representation and meaning; inequality and power; culture and difference, among others. Health mapping and modeling, has simultaneously been strengthened by the technical advances made in multilevel modeling, advanced spatial analytic methods and GIS, while further engaging in questions related to health inequalities, population health and environmental degradation. This series publishes superior quality research monographs and edited collections representing contemporary applications in the field; this encompasses original research as well as advances in methods, techniques and theories. The Geographies of Health series will capture the interest of a broad body of scholars, within the social sciences, the health sciences and beyond.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / Health Policy
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography