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Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and community mental health care

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  • Medicine
  • Political Science
  • Psychology


This paper describes the patchwork of cottage industries and human warehousing composing Montréal’s ‘community mental health care’ system. It examines the ways in which this system’s clients assemble a collage of ad hoc facilities including homeless shelters, rooming houses, food banks and soup kitchens through which they pursue the fragmented task of daily survival. In their various forms of transit around the city, released psychiatric patients, who rotate in and out of the local psychiatric wards, construe the grammar of urban space. In examining their use of key city sites — malls, fast food outlets, churches and the streets — it becomes apparent that the ‘mad’ have a particular relationship to these places which they pass through and use on certain terms. Examining the nature of their journeys, the scenes on which they are set and the social relationships of space in play, it is evident that the ‘mad’ have a particular (dialogical) relationship to the city: a relationship which they share with other, multiply disenfranchised people. This raises significant social questions concerning the politics of city space, and the kinds of fragmented lives and forms of subjectivity that they produce.

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