9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Mental Health Issues in Europe II Building I, 1E4

Hybrid knowledge in the mental health field

This paper discusses the development of a new type of knowledge ? hybrid knowledge. Knowledge is culturally specific and socially constructed. It comprises symbolic and structural elements; and it is logical, contextual, relational and collective. In this paper I understand knowledge as all of the following: (1) collective representations held by all members in society ? i.e. lay knowledge; (2) competence and skills held by some specially trained professions ? i.e. professional knowledge; and (3) scientific knowledge held by persons working with abstract and logical procedures (i.e. biomedical knowledge, social science etc).

Hybrid knowledge may be added as a fourth category (4). I argue that the different types of knowledge often express themselves in mixed forms. For example lay knowledge is always an aspect in professional as well as scientific knowledge. Political knowledge is a hybrid form, based on lay knowledge although applies what ever knowledge they find suitable in solving social problems. Administrative knowledge is a combination of political and technical forms. Thus, hybrid knowledge is an amalgamation of politico-administrative, lay and professional types of knowledge.

In this paper I ask whether hybrid knowledge can be found in the public health field related to mental health issues. First, I look into the text production of participants in self help organisations and the main goal is to see how they differ from other texts in the field. Second, I examine new professional texts in order to capture how the mental health clients are diagnosed and treated. I am interested in how terms like "psychiatry" is shifted out with "mental health"; "patient" is replaced with "user" etc. Finally, I analyse the main political documents (Reports to the Storting) in the mental health field and ask how they include the new terminology of the main professional and civil actors. The paper concludes that professional, civil and political texts intermingle, and the texts from the different fields are filled with concepts and rhetoric from the two other actors.