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SY452w: Advanced Sociology of Mental Health:
Psychology, Psychiatry, Technology and Self
Instructor: Jeffrey N. Stepnisky
Class location: Bricker 308
Day/Time: Tuesday 4:00 – 6:50 pm
Office hours: MW 11:30 – 12:30 or by appt.
Office: Leupold 1-37
Telephone: 884 – 0710 ext. 3871
mailbox: in Sociology office (Leupold 2-134)
This course is an examination of the relationship between psychiatric technologies and selfhood. We will
use the term technology to include both the tools and machines developed by psychologists and
psychiatrists in the course of their professional work, and the rules, techniques, and forms of practice that
surround these technologies. This includes the ways that people incorporate these technologies into their
everyday self-understandings. Examples of psychological and psychiatric technologies include:
psychometric tests, psychotherapies, electroshock machines, psychosurgical tools and techniques,
psychopharmaceutical medications, radio call-in shows, brain imaging technologies, and self-help books,
among others.
The class is divided into three sections. In the first, we discuss different ways of thinking about the
relationship between psychiatry, psychology, technology and selfhood. We will take our lead from the
sociologist Nikolas Rose and his discussion of the psy-disciplines, but will supplement this with Frank
Furedi’s analysis of the “therapy culture.” These theoretical problems will be illustrated through analyses
of the popular psychologies found in self-help books and the Oprah Winfrey television program. We will
also discuss the relationship between high-tech information technologies (e.g. television and the Internet),
psychopathology, and selfhood. Sections two and three are concerned with the development, distribution
and implications of recent biomedical technologies. According to historian Edward Shorter, the late 20th
century witnesses the rise of a biologically based psychiatry. This replaces the psychoanalytic and
psychosocial approaches that dominated professional practice (and the popular imagination) in the middle
20th century. Section two will deal with the development and distribution of these psychiatric
technologies. Section three will consider the implications of these psychiatric technologies for people’s
conceptualizations of selfhood and subjectivity.
The course is organized as a combination of lectures and seminars. The purpose of lectures is to provide
theoretical and historical background for the assigned readings. The purpose of seminars is to provide a
forum for group discussion. These discussions should accomplish two goals: 1) provide clarification of
theoretical issues and arguments developed in each essay, and 2) introduce and explore novel
interpretations and applications of the assigned materials.
Aims and Goals:
- learn to think about science and technology from a sociological perspective - know the major technologies that have been developed and used by psychologists and psychiatrists - understand how the development and application of these technologies is related to larger social forces - reflect upon the implications of psychiatric technologies for the constitution of subjectivity and selfhood Course Materials:
WLU, Department of Sociology, Guidelines for essay writing, available at the WLU Department of Sociology website: SY452w Course Pack, available at WLU bookstore. Remaining articles are available electronically through the Wilfrid Laurier University Library.
Assignments and Evaluation

Assignment type
% of Grade

Participation N/A
Seminar presentation and essay summary (5 pages) Paper proposal, with list of references (5 pages) ALL TYPE-WRITTEN MATERIALS SHOULD BE DOUBLE-SPACED, WRITTEN IN A 12 POINT FONT, AND HAVE 1 INCH (2.54 cm) MARGINS. YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO USE MY OFFICE HOURS TO DISCUSS AND PREPAPE ALL OF
Participation (10%): Students are expected to attend class and contribute to classroom discussions. This
said, participation grades will be based on completion of weekly writing assignments. In these short
reflection pieces you will discuss one or two ideas that you found especially interesting in one of the
week’s readings. These writing assignments are to be handed at the beginning of each class. A score
between 0 and 1 points will be assigned to each reflection. This grade will reflect the level of engagement
and understanding demonstrated in the reflection. Each student will be expected to hand-in five of these
writing assignments. Students with last names beginning with the letters A-L will prepare reflections for
weeks 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10. Students with last names beginning with the letter M-Z will prepare reflections
for weeks 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10.

Seminar Presentation and Essay Summary
(20%): All students will be expected to present one of the
class readings, and submit an accompanying summary of the reading. Given that we are reading 14 essays
this will mean that each essay will be presented by approximately two students. Each student will submit
an independent essay summary. Presentations will be no longer than 10 – 15 minutes. For the presentation
you need not review all of the details of the essay. Rather, you are to:
- describe the main argument in the essay. - introduce several key terms. - discuss a relevant example, either from the essay or elsewhere. - conclude with two or three questions that the essay raises for you, yet that remain unclear or The essay summary will be a write-up of your presentation. It should be approximately 5 pages long. It will be due on the day that you give your presentation. Though the presentation is an important aspect of this assignment, grades will be assigned based on the essay summary. Term Paper: Your major work in this course will be to write a well-researched, well-written, and
conceptually engaging term paper. In preparing this paper, you are strongly advised to read and rely upon
the WLU Department of Sociology Guidelines for Essay Writing. There are many kinds of papers that can
be written for this course, though the paper must relate to the seminar theme: psychiatry/psychology and
technology. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- a study of this history and development of a particular kind of technology (e.g. antidepressants, electroshock therapy, psychoanalytic therapy, self-help literature). - an informed discussion of a problem related to the topic of psychiatry and technology (e.g. psychiatric classification schemes, the sale of antidepressants, gender and antidepressants, social inequality and psychiatric technologies, psychiatric technologies as a means of social control). - an investigation and assessment of the work of one sociologist (or one theoretical perspective) who has contributed to our understanding of psychiatric technologies. As a first step in choosing a paper topic I recommend that you review the class schedule. Look for a topic, or a related topic, that interests you. For example, you might say: - I am interested in electroshock therapy, or - I am interested in the DSM, or - I am interested in the work of Jackie Orr Once you’ve chosen this theme you will need to ask a more specific question. This is usually a more difficult task. In order to choose a more specific question you may need to do some initial research into how sociologists have addressed your theme: - If you’ve chosen electroshock therapy you may end up with a question like: I want to understand the relationship between electroshock therapy and social control. - If you’ve chosen the DSM you may end up with a question like: What are the social forces involved in the creation of a new psychiatric category? - If you’ve chosen the work of Jackie Orr you may end up with a question like: How does Jackie Orr understand the relationship between social panic and individual panic?
You are welcome to discuss your paper with me at any point. Your next step will be to write the paper
Paper proposal (due Feb, 27th, 20%): This proposal should be approximately five pages long. It should:
i) introduce the topic that you plan to research, ii) describe why the topic is important, iii) describe how
the topic is related to the course seminar, iv) describe the theoretical perspective you plan to adopt in the
paper, v) introduce at least 5 academic references related to this topic and vi) conclude with a description
of the next step in your research process. While you may include a thesis or argument in the proposal, it is
not necessary for you to make this argument until you write the final paper.
Paper presentation (Mar. 27th/Apr. 3rd, 10%): Each student is to present a 10 minute summary of the
topic they have chosen, the research they conducted, and the argument that they made in the paper.
Powerpoint may be used as a component of the presentation, though the bulk of your grade will be based
on the spoken component of your presentation.
Final Paper (due Apr. 10th, 40%): The final paper should be approximately 15 pages long. It should
present a fully developed argument informed and supported by the research you have conducted across
the semester.
Further Information
"After class call 886-FOOT for a walk or drive home - No Walk is Too Short or Too Long!!!"Students with disabilities or special needs are advised to contact Laurier’s Accessible Learning Centre for information regarding its services and resources. Students are encouraged to review the Calendar for information regarding all services available on campus.Academic misconduct is an act by a student, or by students working on a team project, which may result in a false evaluation of the student(s), or which represents a deliberate attempt to unfairly
gain an academic advantage. Academic misconduct includes: please refer to page 110 in the
2006/2007 Undergraduate Calendar and Library web site:

Wilfrid Laurier University uses software that can check for plagiarism. Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form and have it checked for plagiarism.The academic date section of the 2006/2007 calendar, (page xv, web site: clearly states the examination date period for each semester. Students must note that they are required to reserve this time in their personal calendars for the examinations. Students who are considering registering to write MCAT, LSAT or GMAT or a similar examination, should select a time for those examinations that occurs outside the University examination period. For additional information that describes the special circumstances for examination deferment, consult page 101 of the 2006/2007 University calendar. • The World Wide Web <> version is the up-to date, official Academic Calendar. CLASS SCHEDULE

PART 1: Technology and the self: Conceptual problems
Week 1 (Jan. 9): Introduction
Week 2 (Jan. 16): Psy-discipline
- Rose, Nikolas. 1999. Preface to the second edition. Pp. vii – xxv in Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. New York: Free Association Books. (course pack) - Hazleden, Rebecca. 2003. Love yourself: The relationship of the self with itself in popular self-help texts. Journal of Sociology, 39, 4: 413 – 428. (electronic copy at WLU library) Week 3 (Jan. 23): Therapy culture
- Furedi, Frank. 2004. How did we get here? Pp. 84 – 106 in Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age. London: - Illouz, Eva. 2003. The hypertext of identity. Pp. 129 – 155 in Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery: An Essay on Popular Culture. New York: Columbia. (course pack) Week 4 (Jan. 30): Technology and
- Turkle, Sherry. 1997. Multiple subjectivity and virtual community at the the fragmentation of self
end of the Freudian century, Sociological Inquiry, 67, 1: 72 – 84. (course pack) - Gergen, Kenneth. 1991. Social Saturation and the Populated Self. Pp. 48 – 80 in The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books. (course pack) PART 2: The development and distribution of psychiatric technologies
Week 5 (Feb. 6): The growth of
- Shorter, Edward. 1997. From Freud to Prozac. Pp 288 – 328 in A History biological psychiatry
of Psychiatry: From the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac. New York: Wiley. (course pack) Week 6 (Feb. 13): Classification and
- Conrad, P. & Potter, D. 2000. From hyperactive children to ADHD it consequences
adults: Observations on the expansion of medical categories. Social Problems, 47, 4: 559 – 582. (electronic copy at WLU library) READING WEEK
Week 7 (Feb. 27): Selling
- Healy, David. 2004. Shaping the intimate: Influences on the experiences pharmaceuticals
of everyday nerves. Social Studies of Science, 34, 2: 219 – 245. (electronic copy at WLU library) - Lakoff, Andrew. 2004. The anxieties of globalization: Antidepressant sales and economic crisis in Argentina. Social Studies of Science, 34, 2: 247 - 269. (electronic copy at WLU library)
- Paper proposal due
PART 3: Identity and selfhood in a biomedical era
Week 8 (March 6): Prozac and
- Kramer, Peter. 1993. Makeover. Pp. 1 - 21 in Listening to Prozac. Selfhood
- Metzl, Jonathan. 2001. Prozac and the pharmacokinetics of narrative form. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 27, 2: 347 – 380. (electronic copy at WLU library) Week 9 (March 13): Brain scans
- Dumit, Joseph. 2004. Introduction. Pp. 1 – 11 in Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (course pack) - Dumit, Joseph. 2004. Ways of seeing brains as expert images. Pp. 109 – 133 in Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (course pack) Week 10 (March 20): Sociology in a - Orr, Jackie. 2000. Performing methods: History, hysteria, and the new
Biomedical Era
science of psychiatry. In D. Fee (ed.) Pathology and the Postmodern: Mental Illness as Discourse and Experience, pp. 49 – 73. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (course pack) - Student paper presentations


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