Writer and Professor of Modern Italian History, John Foot discusses his latest publication, The Man Who Closed the Asylums (Verso August 2015) – The fascinating story of Franco Basaglia, one of the key intellectual and cultural figures of 1960s counterculture—a contemporary of R.D. Laing who worked to overturn institutions from within and ended up transforming mental health care in Italy.
Inspired by the writings of authors such as Primo Levi, R. D. Laing, Erving Goffman, Michel Foucault and Frantz Fanon, and the practices of experimental therapeutic communities in the UK, Basaglia’s seminal work as a psychiatrist and campaigner in Gorizia, Parma and Trieste fed into and substantially contributed to the national and international movement of 1968. In 1978 a law was passed (the ‘Basaglia law’) which sanctioned the closure of the entire Italian asylum system.
The first comprehensive study of this revolutionary approach to mental health care, The Man Who Closed the Asylums is a gripping account of one of the most influential movements in twentieth- century psychiatry, which helped to transform the way we see mental illness. Basaglia’s work saved countless people from a miserable existence, and his legacy persists, as an object lesson in the struggle against the brutality and ignorance that the establishment peddles to the public as common sense.
John Foot is Professor of Modern Italian History in the School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol. He has published several books on sports and contemporary Italian history. He writes a blog for the Italian magazine Internazionale and has written for the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and History Today. He was Co-editor of the journal Modern Italy between 2010 and 2014.
Graham Music (PHD) is Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at the Tavistock and Portman Clinics and an adult psychotherapist in private practice. His publications include Nurturing Natures,Attachment and Children’s Emotional, Sociocultural and Brain Development (2011), Affect and Emotion(2001), and ‘The Good Life: Wellbeing and the new science of altruism, selfishness and Immoralityl’ (2014). He has a particular interest in exploring the interface between developmental findings and clinical work. Formerly Associate Clinical Director of the Tavstock’s child and family department, he has worked therapeutically with maltreated children for over two decades, has managed a range of services concerned with the aftermath of child maltreatment and neglect and organised many community based psychotherapy services,. He has recently been working clinically with forensic cases at the Portman clinic. He teaches, lectures and supervises on a range of trainings in Britain and abroad.