Nikolas Rose - Psychiatry and the Selves We Might Become
08.19.2020 - By Mad in America: Rethinking Mental Health
Nikolas Rose is a professor of Sociology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King's College London. His work explores how concepts in psychiatry and neuroscience transform how we think about ourselves and govern our societies. Initially training as a biologist, Rose found his subjects unruly: "My pigeons would not peck their keys, and my rats would not run their mazes. They preferred to starve to death." He moved on to study psychology and sociology and has become one of the most influential figures in the social sciences as well as a formidable critic of mainstream psychiatric practice. A prolific writer, Rose has over fifteen books to his name, including, most recently, Neuro with Joelle Abi-Rached (2013) and Our Psychiatric Future (2018), addressing the most pressing controversies in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry. He is also a former Managing Editor of Economy and Society and Joint Editor-in-Chief of the interdisciplinary journal, BioSocieties. Throughout his work, Rose emphasizes that one must look beyond origins, or "why something happened," and focus instead on the conditions under which ideas and practices emerge. The answers may not be comforting or straightforward, but they can help us to avoid band-aid solutions to complex problems. Rose builds on the work of philosopher Michel Foucault to reveal how concepts in psychiatry and psychology go beyond explanation to construct and construe how we experience ourselves and our world. Consistent with Foucault's oft-quoted adage, "My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous," Rose's work avoids simplistic explanations of why and how the mental health fields go awry and instead examines how injustices can happen without unjust people. In this way, his work often transcends critique and imagines new possibilities and ways of thinking about "mental health," "normality," "brains and minds," and, ultimately, the selves we might yet become.