Friday, 22 November 2013

What we’ve been reading: Zombies, medication, social construction and lots of feminism

The Editors

Heavyweight Recommendations! 
‘I’m so glad’, says our head of Salomons Centre Prof Margie Callanan, ‘that I am reading something a little edifying when you ask this’. Clearly, it’s a relief to seem professorial when someone looks your way.  She goes on to recommend ‘The First Sex’ by Elizabeth Gould Davis and specifically the chapter entitled, ‘Not Quite People – The Nineteenth Century’.  The sub-heading to the chapter is ‘A Special Kind of Property’. This book is about the female in society through the ages, from early civilisation to the Aquarian Age, through mythology and religion.  It is of course, more political than psychological, but if we agree with Robert Graves that ‘The present intolerable world situation...cannot even begin to ease until the basic argument of Elizabeth Gould Davis’s 'The First Sex' is accepted by all schools and universities’, then perhaps the psychological can draw on this understanding of the past to inform both our present and our future. For men and women.

Helen Caird suggests ‘The Ethics of Care’ by Virginia Held, a feminist perspective on what it means to be ethical: in particular, ethics when sitting in a room with someone in therapy, rather than the more meta level on which these discussions often start. Helen’s wonkish side is on display with her recommendation of ‘A Reader in Promoting Public Health’, suggesting she’s also wanting to go beyond the consulting room. She did confess to reading the Hunger Games (we suspect when the above gets too much).

Thinking about public health, Anne Cooke recommends The Midlands Psychology Group’s ‘Draft Manifesto for a Social Materialist Psychology of Distress’. No intellectual credibility worries if you’re caught reading that. At its heart is a plea to look beyond individual and illness-based understandings of distress and to think about the social world, inequality and poverty.

In a week in which we’ve had many interesting exchanges on this site and on Twitter about the medicalisation of distress, we also note that psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff has a new website and  blog. The first blog entry, ‘Models of Drug Action’, considers whether drugs prescribed for mental illnesses actually do correct an ‘abnormal state’.

Blog co-editor, and champion Tweeter Angela Gilchrist, suggests ‘Conversations with my Sons and Daughters’ by Mamphela Ramphela, leader of SA’s new political party (AgangSA), and the former partner of murdered Black Consciousness activist, Steve Biko. Angela suggests that there are similarities between the ways in which situations of oppression unravel, no matter where they are situated in the world.


Drawing all these threads together, or perhaps sinking into the weekend, John McGowan our Academic Director, recommends ‘World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War’ by Max Brooks. A fictitious oral history in the Studs Terkel ‘Hard Times’ mould, John describes it as ‘A Swiftian tour of humanity in all its rivalries, pettiness, sexism, nationalism, racism and ultimately dignity and worth; with some pretty scary Zombies on the side.’ As there is a (fairly) respectable academic tradition looking at apocalyptic fiction as a lens on social issues, we’ll let it go. Maybe.

2 comments:

  1. Snorting with laughter at your head of department. Sounds like a good person to work for. My teenage nephew was reading that zombie book. Never thought it as some kind of deep comment on humanity but there you go. Really enjoyed this post. Thanks.

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  2. And here are Writers and Critics on best books of 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/23/mantel-franzen-catton-writers-critics-best-books-2013?post_id=1196375774_10202790949473598#_=_

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