A genealogy of (bio)political contestation during the reform of the Mental Health Act 1983 in England and Wales
In 1997 the Department of Health announced their intention to reform the Mental Health Act 1983. Since publishing the first Green Paper in 1999, the proposed reforms have received major criticisms from virtually all 'stakeholders' in mental health care. This PhD offers a genealogy of (bio)political action during the process of reforming the Act. The focus is on the period from August 2002 to September 2003, with particular reference to the activities of self proclaimed 'service users' and 'survivors' in two independent protest groups: 'NO Force' and . Protest Against the Bill'. The methodological premise (chapters two and three) is born from something of a lacuna in post-Foucauldian governmentality studies which, although well posited, offer little in the way of advancing a genealogy of governmental contestation. My focus is twofold. Firstly, by advancing a (post)Foucauldian understanding of resistance - which, with respect to power, 'always comes first' (Deleuze 1988) - I aim to develop the relationship between 'biosociality' or 'life politics' (Rabinow 1996, Rose 200 I) and mental health law. Secondly, I seek to draw on the correlate of governmentality: agonism, taking it into governmental contestations in broadly 'liberal democratic' societies by focusing on what Tully (1999) calls "the free agonic activities of participation" (171). Together these advance my focus on agonistic 'games of truth' enacted during the reform process. This general methodological premise underpins my three major fieldwork chapters. Chapter four focuses on agonism in actu through the process of demonstrating (in the form of a protest march undertaken by No Force). Beginning with, as Barry (200 I) notes, the techniques and technologies "of telling and witnessing the truth" (176), I move through, and beyond Foucault, with respect to the importance of mediatisation and circulation in agonistic truth telling today. Chapter five expands on my understanding of life politics to offer a genealogy of the imbrications between human rights (law) and mental health (law) during the reforms. Here recourse to (human) rights is posited neither simply as a (dangerous) 'empty category' nor exemplary of an expanding 'vital life' but having a distinct genealogy emerging from problematisations in mental health law. Finally, in chapter six, I tum to the use of testimony from 'psychiatric survivors'. This form of biopolitical truth speech is not only illuminating of agonistic games of truth but also of that which is other to it (those who do not speak) and that what falls at the limits ofbiopolitical truth speech (for those who cannot speak).