02.02.2017

In English

Crafting a Universe, A Corner in the World. An Ethnographic Study on Finnish Mental Health Care Service Users' Drama Project on "Home"

As an attempt to create new forms of understanding and means of distilling the silent knowledge of mental health care service users, this research projects engages with young Finnish service users’ drama project on home through ethnographic research.

The group carries out the drama project as part of their rehabilitation in supported housing with the help of an experienced professional theatre director and community artist. The researcher participates in the project from the very beginning providing the group with her knowledge on the issues of madness and home, based on her PhD research, for the group to explore further. The group is also followed to a site of international collaboration, an international theatre festival of the homeless, where the play is performed.

The study engages with both the various meanings attached to and developed in relation to home in the play, and follow how the artistic performance, perhaps, allows the youth to craft and create a livable space by allowing a meaningful way of connecting with the world.

The phenomenological experience of illness and space are, in the analysis, connected to the concrete institutional structures and discursive frames that shape the experience. The results and processes that become visible in the drama project are set against the background of sociological and user studies on the housing problems of people suffering from mental health care problems, the discoveries of the new history of madness in regard to psychiatry a cultural practice, mad studies that centralize the experiences of the sufferers, and the long tradition of auto/biographical life-writing of people suffering from mental health problems, and their literary, narrative and discursive analysis.

On the basis of this pilot project, a participatory form of forum theatre is developed to distill and distribute research results and enhance the understanding of both the general public and mental health care professionals in regard to the existential and practical problems that arise from both the illness experience and, paradoxically, the efforts of psychiatry to erase this suffering. The project thus embraces the general viewpoint of health humanities that biomedical, psychological and cultural approaches to mental illness complement each other, but that none of them alone suffices to encounter, relieve and understand the suffering of the people with mental health problems.

Key words: home, space, embodiment, health humanities, psychiatry, mental health, psychiatry, drama, ethnography, action research, language, discourse, narrative, new history of madness

PI: Saara Jäntti
The project is funded by the Academy of Finland (2014-2017, SA275111).