The art of egress: Madness, horror, and the pedagogy of depsychiatrization

Mikko O. Koivisto

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This doctoral dissertation investigates stereotypical cultural representations of people with psychiatric disabilities, or psychiatrized people, and delineates strategies for critically encountering them. Representations are interpreted as implications of larger power relations; not merely as indicators of the existence of such power, but as functional components of the power mechanism. Previous studies indicate that cultural imageries of psychiatrized people are generally dehumanizing and objectifying, and it has been argued that these representations can be challenged by promoting critical firsthand experiences of disability. However, this imposes the weight of responsibility on the disabled subject. The dominant stereotypes and images oblige the psychiatrized subject to convince the society that, unlike the typical psychiatrically disabled characters in television and cinema, s/he is, for example, able to work, able to parent, and able to not commit homicide. In complying with the requirement to defend oneself against the prejudices, the disabled subject inevitably ends up legitimizing the mechanism underlying and constituting the very requirement. What can the disabled subject do within these parameters? This dissertation argues that a profound critique and resistance of the hegemonic notions of psychiatric disabilities require approaches that go beyond the binary strategy of acceptance and disavowal. The body of data analyzed in the dissertation consists of the work by hip hop artists who have disclosed their experiences of disability through their work. Their works are interrogated regarding their potential to expose, acknowledge, and refer to stereotypes and prejudices while simultaneously refusing to neither approve nor disapprove of them. In addition to realistic, genuinely autobiographical accounts, some of these rappers have incorporated into their narratives pejorative stereotypes of violence and crime, enmeshing the overtly stereotypical imagery of psychiatric disability with the accounts of their subjective experiences. Through this enmeshing they not so much criticize the prevailing politics as they encounter the subject positions and stereotypes imposed on the disabled subject through their art; they confront the political forces of representation and subjection on the level of their functioning. Instead of arguing against them, they perform maneuvers through which they simultaneously embrace, reject, distort, and ridicule the dominant stereotypes and prejudices. This dissertation refers to these strategies of resistance provided by the rappers as egresses due to their capacity to escape the confining images and subject positions. The notion of egress enables art education to assume a critical stance towards ableist forms of representation, and pave the way for the emergence of a pedagogy of depsychiatrization—a pedagogical stance which acknowledges, and resists, the psychiatrization of disabled subjects through mechanisms of representation.
Translated title of the contributionThe art of egress : madness, horror, and the pedagogy of depsychiatrization
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Tavin, Kevin, Supervising Professor
  • Sandahl, Carrie, Thesis Advisor
  • Tavin, Kevin, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8729-0
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8730-6
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • egress
  • pedagogy of depsychiatrization
  • stereotypical cultural representations
  • psychiatrized people

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