Cecilia Riving

Cecilia Riving

Researcher, PhD

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Research

In my current research project, I investigate psychiatric patients' life stories 1880–1910. The aim is to produce new knowledge about patients' personal narratives, and underline the importance of the patient's view in both historical research and present psychiatric care. The project is part of the expanding field of medical humanities, where narrative studies of patient stories is a central area of research. Here, my project contributes valuable knowledge on psychiatric patients.

The life stories of psychiatric patients have long been overlooked, mainly because patient files have been considered inadequate as sources. I want to challenge this assumption. My ambition is to develop a new methodological approach, through continuous source criticism. Central questions are: What do patients tell about their social background, relationships, and illness? How are thoughts and emotions represented? How do stories differ depending on social status and gender? The material consists of patient files from the state asylums in Lund and Stockholm, selected from 1880, 1890, 1900, and 1910, and a number of case studies attached to the national statistics.

All patients admitted to asylums had crossed the line that defined what was acceptable in their local communities. Facing the psychiatrist, they were given the opportunity to talk about their experience and social exclusion. The result is a unique source to the social, cultural, religious, intellectual, and emotional world of psychiatric patients.

UKÄ subject classification

  • History

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