BONUS EPISODE: ‘The scariest word in the English language: a public lecture on schizophrenia’

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This special bonus episode of The Familiar Strange brings you a public lecture by Dr Gabrielle Carey and our own Dr Julia Brown. Gabrielle is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction, essayist, a lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, and an occasional documentary filmmaker. Her research areas include James Joyce, Elizabeth von Arnim, and, most recently, mental illness and families. Gabrielle is currently the H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellow at the ANU, where she and Julia have started collaborating on the topic of schizophrenia. For those unfamiliar, Julia did her PhD on the lived experiences of clozapine-treated schizophrenia in the UK and Australia.

This episode is somewhat of a sequel to the recent ABC Radio National interview Gabrielle and Julia did with Lynne Malcolm for All in the Mind: The Silence Around Schizophrenia’. We encourage you to listen to this first.

In this public lecture, Gabrielle and Julia hoped to achieve at least two things. First, to humanise and reduce fear around the condition of schizophrenia (a heavily neglected social issue in Australia). They were very heartened by the turn out of 130 audience members on a cold Canberra night! Second, they wanted to show how two disciplines (literature and anthropology) can complement each other in the name of  better communicating lived experiences of difficult subject matter. 

Lucia Joyce

Lucia Joyce, James Joyce’s daughter, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia

Special thanks to the ANU Humanities Research Centre, particularly Dr Russell Smith and Professor Will Christie, for organising the event, and to Pamela Lourandos and Penny Brew for arranging the recording. Special thanks also to journalist extraordinaire Jane Faure-Brac.


Gabrielle Carey and Julia Brown after their public lecture

Links and citations

Gabrielle reads from Sylvia Nasar’s biography of John Nash, A Beautiful Mind and Jay Neugeboren’s book Transforming Madness. She also discusses the film Angel Baby, and Anne Deveson’s book Tell Me I’m Here: One family’s experience of schizophrenia.

Julia, after outlining some of the questionable but nonetheless critical statistics on schizophrenia across cultures,  discusses her fieldwork findings in light of ‘seven things that may help’ according to Tanya Luhrmann and Jocelyn Marrow’s edited volume Our Most Troubling Madness (2016:220-222):

1) Minimise diagnosis talk – people need to be defined by identities beyond schizophrenia

2) Don’t worry about what hearing voices implicates pathologically (focus on resultant behaviour > phenomenon of voices)

3) Enable people to work, to improve their social purpose

4) Minimise social isolation and encourage gentle social tolerance from within families

5) Safe and secure housing

6) People who hear voices should engage with and negotiate with them as though they are people, so as to maximise agency

7) Compassion and respect for people with schizophrenia should match what is given to anybody

The citations Julia listed on her PowerPoint slides that may be particularly useful for further reading:

Brown, JEH & Dennis, S. 2017 ‘Actively Negotiating the Mind–Body Divide: How Clozapine-Treated Schizophrenia Patients Make Health for Themselves’. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 41(3):368-381.

Hopper, K. 2008. ‘Outcomes Elsewhere: Course of Psychosis in “Other Cultures”’. In Society and Psychosis. Edited by C Morgan, K McKenzie & P Fearon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 198-216.

Jenkins, JH.2015. Extraordinary Conditions: Culture and Experience in Mental Illness. Oakland: University of California Press.

Jenkins, JH & Carpenter-Song. 2008. ‘Stigma Despite Recovery: Strategies for living in the aftermath of psychosis’. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 22(4): 381-409.

Luhrmann, TM.2007. ‘Social Defeat and the Culture of Chronicity: Or, Why Schizophrenia Does So Well Over There and So Badly Here’. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 31(2):135-172.

Luhrmann, TM 2012. ‘Beyond the Brain’. Wilson Quarterly <;

Luhrmann, TM & Marrow, J. 2016. Our Most Troubling Madness: Case Studies in Schizophrenia Across Cultures. Berkeley: University of California Press.

McGrath, J. 2005. ‘Myths and Plain Truths about Schizophrenia – the NAPE lecture’. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 111(1): 4-11.

Morgan et al. 2014. ‘Psychosis prevalence and physical, metabolic and cognitive co-morbidity: data from the second Australian national survey of psychosis’. Psychological Medicine. 44(10):2163-76

Myers, NAL.2015. Recovery’s Edge: An Ethnography of Mental Health Care and Moral Agency.  Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

NHMC 2012. ‘A Contributing Life: The 2012 report card on mental health and suicide prevention’. Australian Mental Health Commission.

SANE Australia. ‘Research Reveals that Recovery from Schizophrenia is Possible’ <;

In the lead up to this lecture, Gabrielle and Julia also wrote an article for The Canberra Times, titled: ‘Schizophrenia: The lone wolf of mental illnesses‘.


This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Shownotes are by Julia Brown.
Our Executive Producers are Deanna Catto and Matthew Phung.

Music is by Pete Dabro:

[Image of Lucia Joyce was retrieved via wikimedia commons; image of Gabrielle and Julia was taken by Deanna Catto] 

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