The Social Life of Mental Symptoms

Project: National Science and Technology CouncilNational Science and Technology Council Academic Grants

Project Details


The symptom is an essential concept for both psychopathology and clinical practices. Extending from project applicant’s previous studies on delusion and clinical insight, this study is to investigate the conceptual and empirical history of the symptom, and plans to make an ethnographic study of the symptom embedded within the context of the psychiatric institution. Three main theoretical models for the symptom are biomedicine, psychodynamics, and phenomenology. These models define the symptom differently, and therefore shape into different patterns of practice. Recently, discussions of the symptom from philosophy, semiotics, and social sciences have moved beyond the clinical realm, and dig into the deeper and broader issues related to the symptom:, such as subjectivity, illness narrative, social institution, and the development of psychiatric knowledge and technology. Based on these new trends, this study is to propose the theoretical potential of relating the symptom to such issues as body, object, subjectivity and information. As for the “social life” part of this project, it is based on the frameworks from psychiatric ethnography, hospital ethnography and organizational study to examine what transformations will happen to the symptom when it travels through the institutional space, and what impacts will these transformations bring to the illness person and the institution respectively. Through the framework of three narrative perspectives, the study is to analyze the process and view brought up by embedding the symptom into the space of the psychiatric institution. The aim is to deepen the theoretical understanding of the symptom, and to improve related clinical practices.

Project IDs

Project ID:PE10501-0505
External Project ID:MOST104-2410-H182-002-MY2
Effective start/end date01/08/1631/07/17


  • Symptom
  • Psychopathology
  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences
  • Social Live
  • Illness Narrative


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