Depression and Politics: Towards the Phenomenology (of the Impossibility) of Collective Event

Sergei Shevchenko, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade. The lecture is scheduled for November 13 at 11:00 a.m. and will be held in the Great Hall of the Institute of Social Sciences (as well as via Zoom).

Ann Cvetkovich made a significant critical statement regarding depression and its relationship with politics. She focused on the role of vulnerability and exclusion in the emergence of ‘political depression,’ which she distinguished from clinical depression. On the other hand, recent research in political psychology has shown that depression can suppress political participation without necessarily affecting one’s understanding of political processes or their internal involvement in them.

These two approaches to understanding the connection between depression and politics – the politicization of psychiatry or the medicalization of politics – can sometimes have anti-political implications in the sense of rejecting traditional party politics or deliberative practices. Such a situation appeared vividly in interwar Germany and Austria. For example, Robert Gaupp, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Tübingen, attributed mass depression to political elites during times of economic instability. Meanwhile, in the 1920s, the German jurist Heinrich Rogge developed psychopolitics as a ‘scientific’ approach to political decision-making.

An alternative perspective emerges when we consider the intersection of political and psychiatric phenomenology. Brigitte Bargetz suggests viewing depression as a form of political sensitivity that grants access to the phenomenology of political emotions. I propose a different approach, linking political phenomenology and the phenomenology of depression by assuming that the political emotions experienced by individuals under dictatorship can contribute to our understanding of depression.

Research in this field highlights how the dynamic between anticipation and fulfilment, as well as the entire space of possibilities, undergoes transformation. Along with this, the sense of the potential for collective unity dissipates. While descriptions of these transformations often draw from personal experiences, exploring political experiences reveals the suppression of a broader spectrum of possibilities, including the emergence of solidarity, collective action, and shared events.

Sergei Shevchenko is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory. He has a PhD in philosophy of medicine and an MSc in biology. His research centres on epistemic injustice in healthcare and ethical and social issues of human enhancement. He is also a founder of the Observatory for Comparative Bioethics, Independent Institute of Philosophy Association (Paris, France).

Meeting ID: 920 3245 2916
Passcode: 717973


Годишњи програм семинара "Филозофија и прихијатрија"

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