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Italian Asylums, and Why They Were Closed. The Radical Psychiatry Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s

John Foot, Univeristy of Bristol

April 12, 2018, (4:00-5:30 pm; Page Hall 20)

By the early 1960s, some 100,000 people were being ‘treated’ inside large, custodial, psychiatric hospitals in Italy. Yet, within twenty years, a law had been passed which would close down this system altogether. How did this transformation happen in the understanding of mental health care and mental illness? This talk looks at the alliance of radical psychiatrists, patients, nurses and activists who challenged the system and looked to ‘free’ the patients from the asylum system. It analyses the theory and practice of the movement, and its contradictions, as well as its local and global connections. Finally, it examines the legacy of the movement and its reforms. Was ‘freedom’, as was often said at the time, ‘therapeutic’?

John Foot is Professor of Modern Italian History in the Department of Italian, University of Bristol. He previously worked in the Italian Department in University College London. His publications include Modern Italy (2003, 2014); Milan since the Miracle. City, Culture and Identity (2001); Calcio. A History of Italian Football (2007); Pedalare. Pedalare. A History of Italian Cycling (2011); Italy’s Divided Memory (2011); and The Man who Closed the Asylums. Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care (2015). All of these books have also been published in Italian. He was co-editor of the journal Modern Italy from 2010-2014. He has also been an Associate Professor in the Australian Catholic University in Sydney (2013-2016).