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The staff of madness: The visualization of insanity and the othering of the insane

Sforza Tarabochia, Alvise (2021) The staff of madness: The visualization of insanity and the othering of the insane. History of Psychiatry, 32 (2). pp. 176-194. ISSN 0957-154X. E-ISSN 1740-2360. (doi:10.1177/0957154X21989224) (KAR id:83055)

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In this article I trace a history of the most ubiquitous visual symbol of madness: the staff. First, I argue that the staff, in its variants (such as the pinwheel) and with its attachments (such as an inflated bladder), represents madness as air. It thus represents madness as an invisible entity that must be made visible. Secondly, I claim that the staff – being iconic of other ‘unwanted’ categories such as vagabonds – represents the insane as outsiders. Also in this case, the staff serves the purpose of making madness visible. Through this interpretation I show that the urge to make madness visible outlives icons of insanity such as the staff, making it a constant presence in popular culture and medical practice.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0957154X21989224
Uncontrolled keywords: Air; Madness; Otherness; Vagrancy; Visibility
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Alvise Sforza Tarabochia
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2020 13:16 UTC
Last Modified: 11 May 2021 15:30 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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