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Enticing ghosts to life: exploring the historical and cultural geographies of R.D. Laing

McGeachan, Cheryl (2010) Enticing ghosts to life: exploring the historical and cultural geographies of R.D. Laing. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.

Abstract

Scottish born psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Ronald David Laing, was born in Glasgow in 1927 and died in 1989, aged only 61. Training in medicine at Glasgow University then moving to the discipline of psychiatry, and finally studying psychoanalysis at the famous Tavistock Clinic in London under the guidance of more recognisable analysts such as Charles Rycroft and Donald Winnicott, Laing became a globally renowned figure for his controversial and inspiring views on the subject of mental ill-health. Laing decided to step away from conventional psychiatry by condemning the use of electric shock treatment, lobotomies, and insulin treatment and instead focused on more experimental therapies such as meaningful communication and LSD treatment. Laing desired to investigate the intricate connections between mind and body interactions and through an existential phenomenological approach attempted to understand his patients within the context of their own local, social and familial worlds. Many critics condemned his vision as attempting to romanticise mental suffering but this did not halt Laing gaining a cult following and becoming one of Britain’s most influential, yet forgotten, intellectual figures. This thesis aims to introduce the life and work of Laing to a geographical audience by demonstrating both the geographies of Laing and Laing’s geographies. An increasingly substantial number of geographers working within the sub-fields of psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic geographies have endeavoured to cast a geographical eye over psychoanalytic concepts such as the ‘unconscious’ and key figures in the discipline such as Freud, Kristeva and Lacan, however, Laing remains a curious missing figure in this literature. Through archival research with the Laing collection held in the Special Collections at the University of Glasgow I explore Laing’s early life and work through a geographical lens. In doing so the fragmentary nature of archival work is revealed and its methodological repercussions investigated within the current geographical literature concerned with life writing and biography. Through the construction of a geographical biography of Laing’s early life, beginning with the reconstruction of his childhood city of Glasgow in the 1920s through to his creation of the ‘asylum’ of Kingsley Hall in 1965, I examine how certain spaces, sites and places became fundamental to the formation of Laing’s broader philosophy on mental ill-health and his exploration of different therapeutic practices with seriously disturbed, often schizophrenic, individuals. This geographical dimension is explored in further detail in the concluding section of this thesis as I attempt to unpick the geographies arguably present in Laing’s theoretical work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: R.D. Laing, historical geography, mental health, biography
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Philo, Professor Chris and Sharp, Dr. Joanne
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Miss Cheryl McGeachan
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2323
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:53
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2323

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