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Article: Constituting “lived experience” discourses in mental health: The ethics of racialized identification/representation and the erasure of intergeneration colonial violence

Joseph, A. J. (2019). Constituting “lived experience” discourses in mental health: The ethics of racialized identification/representation and the erasure of intergeneration colonial violence. Journal of Ethics in Mental Health10(1), 1-23


The term “lived experience” has been used widely in mental health literature and research to claim a proximity to authority and authenticity in relation to voice and identity. Through an examination of literature from the perspectives of Critical Mental Health, Mad Studies, and Critical Disability Studies, “people with lived experience” discourses are contested for perpetuating social relations of white supremacy. The ethics of “lived experience” discourses are questioned for their role in (re)positioning of modernistic ideas of experience and Eurocentric systems of identification as dominant. “Lived experience” in mental health research is often understood as inseparably connected to those who have used or been coerced by Western models of mental health services, often those specifically formed by or with biomedical psychiatry. This omits appreciations of the over-criminalization and dehumanization of racialized people and indigenous peoples who struggle with distress and suffering. Racialized and indigenous peoples often find themselves at the mercy of criminal justice and immigration systems, while mental health services are differentially accessed or imposed. Mental health for racialized and indigenous peoples is often referenced to support prosecution, to establish threat, risk, biomedical inferiority, and ideas of dangerousness. While contributions from Mad Studies and Critical Disability Studies have helped many to appreciate the value of the voices of those who have experienced the effects of services and systems, the ethics of self-identification alongside systemic and structural analyses of identification/representation for racialized and indigenous peoples are often inadequate. The divergent identification/representation processes, practices, and technologies that essentialize criminality, alienism, and biological inferiority for racialized and JEMH · Open Volume 10 | Page 2 © 2019 Journal of Ethics in Mental Health (ISSN: 1916-2405) ARTICLE indigenous peoples are analyzed through an attention to the erasure and devaluing of the repercussions of intergeneration colonial violence and subjugation. An appreciation of identity and experience as a social, historical, and political confluence is offered as an ethical response to the technologies of identification/representation that order hierarchies of voice and agency and attempt to silence ongoing practices of racist and eugenic colonial violence.


Constituting “Lived Experience” Discourses in Mental Health: The Ethics of Racialized Iden
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