Vortrags- und Seminarreihe: Elena Vogman & Marlon Miguel – The ›Pathology of Freedom‹

Vortrags- und Seminarreihe mit Elena Vogman & Marlon Miguel am 5., 12. & 19. Mai und 19. Juni 2022
Im Rahmen der ›Spring School‹ der Parrhesia: School of Philosophy e.V., Berlin

Pathology of Freedom

Zur Vorlesungs- und Seminarreihe

The publication of Frantz Fanon’s Psychiatric Writings (Writings on Alienation and Freedom, [2015] 2018) marks a turning point not only in the history of critical psychiatry but also in the way we can approach the theory and history of decolonial thought. Reading colonial violence through the prism of mental illness implied for Fanon an understanding of mental illness as a ‘pathology of freedom’. This course explores a series of Fanon’s crucial decolonial concepts in their entanglement with the methods and tools of institutional psychotherapy: a clinical and political movement that emerged in the context of Second World War and the extermination policy aimed at psychiatric patients. Fanon’s collaboration with the resistance fighter and revolutionary doctor François Tosquelles at the Saint-Alban psychiatric clinic in Lozère in 1953 and his subsequent implementation and transformation of institutional psychotherapy in the Blida-Joinville clinic in Algeria both form central ‘scenes’ for our analysis. These scenes will be accompanied and deepened by a close reading of a number of texts and visual materials. We will also explore the role of different media and art practices, such as filming and photography, writing and publishing, drawing and sculpture for the formation of the so-called milieus of healing crucial to the practice of both Fanon and Tosquelles.

Week 1. Introduction: Decolonial Perspectives on Psychiatry (5. Mai)

In this first session, we will introduce Frantz Fanon’s trajectory, from his encounter with the Catalan psychiatrist François Tosquelles and the institutional psychotherapy developed at the Saint-Alban clinic to the work undertaken in Algeria. How do Fanon’s methods relate to institutional psychotherapy and simultaneously displace it against the backdrop of the violence of colonial war?


  • Nancy Luxon, ‘Fanon’s Psychiatric Hospital as a Waystation to Freedom’, Theory, Culture & Society 0(0), pp. 1–21, 2021, DOI: 10.1177/0263276420981612

Week 2. Apocalypse and Milieus of Reconstruction: The Tools of Institutional Psychotherapy (12. Mai)

François Tosquelles showed how the experience of the apocalypse, or the ‘end of the world’, is recurrent for persons suffering from psychosis. But far from a simple delirium, this experience is an organic psychosomatic reaction that seeks to create a coherent form of life that would enable the individual to endure. Tosquelles, along with Georges Canguilhem, understands himself as part of a tradition extending from Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan that radically challenges notions of the normal and the pathological, of order and disorder.

  • Translated excerpts from François Tosquelles

Week 3. Mental Illness as a ‘Pathology of Freedom’ (Fanon) (19. Mai)

Fanon adopts from the French psychiatrist Henri Ey the idea that mental illness implies a ‘pathology of freedom’. To understand this statement and grasp the meaning of ‘freedom’, we propose to introduce a constellation of figures (such as Ey, Louis Le Guillant and Marcel Mauss) and concepts (such as ‘milieu’ and ‘atmosphere’).

  • ›Day hospitalization in psychiatry: Value and limits. Part two: doctrinal considerations)‹, Frantz Fanon: Writings on Alienation and Freedom, ed. by Jean Khalfa and Robert J.C. Young, trans. by Steven Corcoran (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), pp. 495-509.

Week 4. The ‘Pathology of Atmosphere’ and How Media Produce Milieus (26. Mai)

After having conceptualized mental illness as a ‘pathology of freedom’, Fanon relates it to the ‘bloody atmosphere’ of the colonial war in Algeria. How does mental illness relate to this colonial atmosphere? And what role do media play in reconstructing a ‘healing milieu’? In this session, we will analyze how Fanon reintroduces the media work already practiced in Saint-Alban, and in particular the importance of film for his method. We will also watch a film made in the context of his work with refugees from the Algerian war (J’ai huit ans).

  • ›Colonial War and Mental Disorders‹, in Wretched of the Earth, chap. 5, trans. by Richard Philcox (New York: Grove Press, 2005), pp. 181-233.

Week 5. The Two Faces of Violence (2. Juni)

In his book Necropolitics, Achille Mbembe takes up Fanon’s reflections made in the context of the Algerian colonial war, underlining two types of violence. On the one hand, there is a colonial- and racist-type of violence, a mythical violence that functions through a permanent division between ‘them’ and ‘us’. On the other hand, there is a ‘regenerative’ violence capable of producing other forms of life. These two forms of violence are intertwined in the colonial context and also relate to both traumatic experiences and healing strategies.

  • ›Fanon’s Pharmacy‹, in Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics, trans. by Steven Corcoran (Durham: Duke University Press), pp. 117-155.


All courses will be taught in a hybrid format (in person and on Zoom). Video recordings are made available for those unable to attend. Course readings can be accessed online before the school begins. Links to the Zoom classroom are sent out prior to the course starting. All payment must be made via credit card or Paypal account during enrolment.

Datum/Zeit: 5., 12., 19., 26. Mai & 2. Juni 2022, 19.00 – 21.00 Uhr
Ort: Parrhesia: School of Philosophy, Gerichtstraße 45 (im Hof), 13347 Berlin, Deutschland UND Online (Zoom)
Teilnahmegebühr: 50-80€ (1 Kurs), 68-105€ (2 Kurse), 80-120€ (3 Kurse) (Significant discounts apply for those enroling in multiple courses: Preistabelle)
Kontakt: For any questions please email parrhesiaberlin[a]gmail.com.

Next Post Previous Post