Social Theory & Health

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 317–326

Agency, materiality and mental illness

  • Sebastian von Peter
Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/sth.2013.3

Cite this article as:
von Peter, S. Soc Theory Health (2013) 11: 317. doi:10.1057/sth.2013.3


Psychiatric discourses and practices have been at the forefront of using and disseminating a voluntary, autonomous and human-focused concept of agency. The following article presents an everyday psychiatric situation as a way of illustrating how non-human agents such as things and material objects influence not only what people do, but also who they are. It will be discussed how agency might be brought out of the interior of the mind into the space of material and social interactions, thereby guiding an individual's behavior through a kind of distributed effect. Thus, agency must be understood in a relational way, as a product of interaction, assigning materiality a more substantial role in changing a person's behavior.



Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian von Peter
    • 1
  1. 1.St. Hedwig HospitalBerlinGermany