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The Endurance of Uncertainty: Antisociality and Ontological Anarchy in British Psychiatry, 1950–2010

  • Martyn Pickersgill (a1)

Argument

Research into the biological markers of pathology has long been a feature of British psychiatry. Such somatic indicators and associated features of mental disorder often intertwine with discourse on psychological and behavioral correlates and causes of mental ill-health. Disorders of sociality – particularly psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder – are important instances where the search for markers of pathology has a long history; research in this area has played an important role in shaping how mental health professionals understand the conditions. Here, I characterize the multiplicity of psychiatric praxis that has sought to define the mark of antisociality as a form of “ontological anarchy.” I regard this as an essential feature of the search for biological and other markers of an unstable referent, positing that uncertainties endure – in part – precisely because of attempts to build consensus regarding the ontology of antisociality through biomedical means. Such an account is suggestive of the co-production of biomarkers, mental disorder, and psychiatric institutions.

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