Whatever the literary strengths of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the book has done much to harm both the mentally ill and their communities.
This May the Kule Institute is organizing a hybrid exhibit/symposium on the Institution of Knowledge. We are bringing together a group of artists and thinkers to raise and address questions about institutional structures and knowledge. One question that the small group I’m part of discussed this week as the question of deinstitutionalization and the view, best captured by Ken Kesey in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that asylums as institutions were sites that did more harm than good. Stephen Eide has a nice article about this, Ken Kesey and the Rush to Deinstitutionalization (Quilette, Nov. 14, 2022).
There are a number of aspects to the issue. The first thing to note is that the deinstitutionalization of people with serious mental health issues didn’t work as imagined. It was not the freeing of an oppressed constituency back to the community where the new drugs could help them integrate and get on with their lives. There wasn’t really a community that wanted them other than the street and many ended up in the very institutions asylums were meant to replace – prisons. Stephen Eide’s book Homelessness in America traces the effects of deinstitutionalization, changes in vagrancy laws, and the “cleaning” up of slums on homelessness leading to the problem as we see it today.
But what about the idea of deinstitutionalization? Important to this idea would be Foucault, changes in psychiatry and how the discipline conceives of the role of medicine (and its institutions), and changes in public policy and what jurisdictions try to do with institutions.
One aspect of the issues that we forget if we think of institutions as bureaucracy is the built presence of institutions. From Jefferson’s design of the campus of the University of Virginia to Olmstead’s asylum landscapes, architects have shaped our imagination and the literal structures of certain types of institutions. This raises the question of what new types of institutions might be in being designed?
The article talks about the carbon cost of flying and the advantages of econferencing, that we have all learned about in this pandemic. It asks about after the pandemic.
As we move into the post-pandemic future, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Once travel restrictions are lifted, will we return to face-to-face conferences and double-down on travel requirements? Or will we continue to explore more sustainable, virtual alternatives, like econferences?
This timely volume responds to an increased demand for environmentally sustainable research, and is outstanding not only in its interdisciplinarity, but its embrace of non-traditional formats, spanning academic articles, creative acts, personal reflections and dialogues.
This issue of the IRIE also marks the first issue published on the PKP platform managed by the University of Alberta Library. KIAS is supporting the transition of the journal over to the new platform as part of its focus on AI, Ethics and Society in partnership with the AI for Society signature area.
We are still ironing out all the bugs and missing links, so bear with us, but the platform is solid and the IRIE is now positioned to sustainably publish original research in this interdisciplinary area.
Today I am attending a conference on Russian Policy and the War in Ukraine’s Donbas – Options for the Future and Canadian Responses. The Kule Institute for Advanced Study is a co-sponsor of the conference as is the Defence Engagement Program of the Department of National Defence. The conference is looking closely at what happened in Donbas how different sides have presented the conflict which has been woven into memorialization of WWW II and before. I was struck by how Russian propaganda continues to delegitimize Ukrainian independence by painting Ukrainian nationalism as an extension of the fascism they fought in WWW II. History is being used and reused on both sides.