|Medically unexplained symptoms, hysteria, neurasthenia, hypochondria, psychogenic illness, somatic symptoms, functional illness, malingering—there is ongoing debate amongst specialists in medicine, psychology, sociology, and the medical humanities about how to classify, diagnose, treat, and explain disorders affecting body and mind. Meanwhile, in popular culture, these terms are misunderstood, unknown, or rejected outright—what was once called “psychosomatic” illness is heavily stigmatized amongst lay people, while the associated syndromes have become the site of controversy and antipathy in the provider-patient relationship. The DSM-5 outlines diagnostic criteria for illness anxiety and somatic symptoms disorder; medically unexplained symptoms account for as much as 50% of primary care visits; we make fun of hypochondria in sit-coms; patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and post-treatment lyme disease syndrome form online communities for support and advocacy—all of these constituents might be talking about several different disorders, or one, or none. Despite the common experience of being told that their symptoms are imaginary, all in their heads, patients are experiencing a very real illness phenomenon at the intersection of mind and body. But what is it? Physical or mental Illness? political and social identity? cultural, narrative, and/or discursive construction?
The proposed collection invites interdisciplinary analysis of the phenomenon of “psychosomatic” illness as it is (mis)understood in expert and popular culture. Possible themes or topics include:
Essays should be interdisciplinary in scope and engaging to a diverse, non-specialist audience. Please send 500-word proposals and a CV to Carol-Ann Farkas by February 29 2016. We have a contract with the publisher and are trying to round out the collection. The deadline for the draft manuscript is June 16 2016.
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