Janice Haaken - Trauma and Mental Health in Social Movements

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Janice Haaken is a professor emeritus of psychology at Portland State University, a clinical psychologist, and a documentary filmmaker. In addition to her work as a professor at Portland State University, Haaken has taught as a Fulbright scholar at Durham University (UK) and University College Cork (Ireland) and as a visiting professor at London School of Economics (UK), York University (UK), and University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Her documentaries, including Guilty Except for Insanity (2009), Mind Zone: Therapists Behind the Front Lines (2014), Milk Men: The Life and Times of Dairy Farmers (2016), and Our Bodies Our Doctors (2019), focus on people and places on the social margins, drawing out their insights on the world around them. Jan has received numerous awards for her filmmaking, most recently the Lena Sharpe Persistence of Vision award at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival.

Haaken publishes extensively in psychoanalysis and feminism, the history and politics of diagnosis, trauma, culture, and memory, and the dynamics of storytelling. In addition to Pillar of Salt: Gender, Memory and the Perils of Looking Back(2000) and Hard Knocks: Psychology and the Dynamics of Storytelling (2010), her new book is called Psychiatry, Politics, and PTSD: Breaking Down (2021).

In this interview, she discusses her background in anti-psychiatry and other social movements and her experience liaising between theory and praxis in feminist movements, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo. Weaving a history of how both radical and normative ideas and diagnoses in mental health play out in social movements, Jan draws upon her books and films to discuss how activists and mental health professionals alike can better reflect upon their practices and the role they play within larger social systems. We close by following her recent work, which unpacks the benefits and drawbacks of the PTSD diagnosis for personal narratives, collective memory-making, the US military, NGOs, and global mental health critics.

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