A New Outlook on Psychosomatics?: June’s Special Issue

Brandy Schillace in conversation with Dr. Monica Greco

What are Biopolitics? And what, for that matter, are psychosomatics? Join us today on the podcast to hear a preview of our June special issue with Monica Greco.

Let’s look at an example: ‘Smokers and obese people “soft targets” for NHS savings’, says a surgeon quoted in The Guardian, 22nd April 2016. The rationing of services to patients with so-called lifestyle diseases remains a controversial proposition, worthy of newspaper headlines that typically prompt lavish commentary from readers. Even among experts, debate on these issues often appears trapped in the unhelpful alternative between blaming individuals for their behavioural ‘choices’, or appealing to forms of determinism – whether biological or environmental – in order to excuse them. The special issue takes a long look at questions of responsibility, motivation, choice and self-management by engaging with the multiple connotations of the term ‘psychosomatic’, (often defined as physician illness with a root cause in mental factors). The articles also seek to reclaim some of the possibilities associated historically with the project of a ‘psychosomatic medicine’. This critical task is particularly important today in the context of a resurgence of political rhetoric that opposes ‘shirkers’ and ‘strivers’ and that foregrounds individual responsibility, while questioning benefit entitlements and the authenticity of illnesses or disabilities. This issue stems from a Wellcome-funded symposium held at the University of Cambridge in July 2016, and the intention is to include contributions from the original speakers at that event as well as an especially commissioned article. The special issue will be the first of its kind in bringing together clinical, philosophical, historical and social-theoretical perspectives on the problem of personal agency in relation to ‘psychosomatic’ understandings of health and illness.

Listen to the podcast here.

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