Bioethics Blogs

Conference Report: “Biopolitics and Psychosomatics: Participating Bodies” by Alev Sen

Biopolitics and Psychosomatics: Participating Bodies

8 July 2016, University of Cambridge

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


Can we think of our living bodies as involving forms of social intelligence, agency, and power? And if so, how might this proposition transform the ways in which we consider the possibilities and politics of patient participation? These were the questions at the core of the intellectual agenda of the conference “Biopolitics and Psychosomatics: Participating Bodies”, held on 8 July 2016 at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. The event—co-convened by Monica Greco (Goldsmiths), Darin Weinberg and Robbie Duschinsky (University of Cambridge) and Michael Schillmeier (University of Exeter)—aimed to reclaim the term ‘psychosomatic’ from the reductive and polemical forms of engagement in which it is often caught, and use it as a springboard for reframing questions of agency, embodiment, responsibility, power and choice in the context of current challenges facing state-sponsored service provision in Europe and the US.[1] The spirit of the conference was explicitly exploratory, more concerned with creating space for a new type of conversation than to provide direct answers to the many questions raised. Despite a last-minute cancellation by Laurence Kirmayer, who was scheduled to deliver the closing keynote, the conference proved successful, stimulating discussion and debate about these important and timely questions, on practical, political and intellectual levels.

After Darin Weinberg’s welcome address Monica Greco’s introduction outlined the multiple connotations of the term ‘psychosomatic’ and the striking contrast between them.

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