Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 71-84

First online:

Psychiatry and Postmodern Theory

  • Bradley LewisAffiliated withUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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Psychiatry, as a subspecialty of medicine, is a quintessentially modernist project. Yet across the main campus, throughout the humanities and social sciences, there is increasing postmodern consensus that modernism is a deeply flawed project. Psychiatry, the closest of the medical specialties to the humanities and social sciences, will be the first to encounter postmodern theory. From my reading, psychiatry, though likely defensive at first, will eventually emerge from a postmodern critique, not only intact, but rejuvenated. Postmodern theory, at its best, provides a liberating effect on modernist practices, freeing them from an enslavement to Method and Objectivity in order to allow the more human (all charges of “antihumanism” not withstanding) to emerge as valued and respected. The net result could be the evolution of a new postmodern psychiatry and a new model of medicine which would be much more enjoyable to practice and much more connected to the concerns of patients.