Unhinged: Zoom, Crisis, Disabling Communication in the Ivy League


  • Erin Soros Society for Humanities, Cornell University




Madness, Psychosis, Disability, Consent, Listening, Zoom


Unhinged evokes how institutions of higher learning police their boundaries through codes of professionalism and sanity. It examines what kinds of bodies and minds are permitted to walk across campus grounds, to take up an office, enter a classroom, present research, speak in a Zoom meeting. Hiring a Mad scholar means more than ticking the requisite diversity box. The presence of madness within a scholarly setting disrupts boundaries between reason and unreason, between legitimacy and illegitimacy, between what should be heard and what should be silenced. The essay considers specifically a moment of failed listening, when assumptions were made about what a mad person means, as if she has no say in defining herself and her needs. What results is not a theoretical intervention into a given text, but into a living moment: the ethics of care within academic settings and the difficult translation of conceptual framework from page to face. This lyrical meditation ultimately imagines what madness might have to offer the forums of academia, what listening to madness might teach us about the signifying resonance of unordinary linguistics and why a sentence uttered in an international atrocity might need to break. The analysis subverts assumptions of pathology and risk, revealing how the negation of a madwoman's agency and voice is itself a danger.


Ahtone, T., & Lee, R. (2020). Ask Who Paid for America’s Universities. The New York Times, May 7. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/07/opinion/land-grant-universities-native-americans.html

Bollas, C. (2012) Catch Them Before They Fall: The Psychoanalysis of Breakdown. London: Routledge.

Bollas, C. (2015). When the Sun Bursts: The Enigma of Schizophrenia. New Haven, CT/London: Yale University Press.

Brown, A. C. & Harvey, J. X. K. (Eds.) (2017). Madness in Black Women’s Diasporic Fictions. New York: Palgrave.

Cervenak, S. J. (2014). Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom. Durham NC: Duke UP.

Cixous, H. (1976). The Laugh of the Medusa. (K. Cohen & P. Cohen, Trans.). Signs, 1(4), 875–893. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0097-9740%28197622%291%3A4%3C875%3ATLOTM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V

Davoine, F. (2007). The Characters of Madness in the Talking Cure. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 17(5), 627–638. https://doi.org/10.1080/10481880701629877

Davoine, F., & and Gaudillière, J-M. (2004). History Beyond Trauma: Whereof One Cannot Speak, Thereof One Cannot Stay Silent. New York: Other Press.

Donaldson, E.J. (Ed.). (2018). Literatures of Madness: Disability Studies and Mental Health. New York: Palgrave.

Donaldson, E.J., Savarese, R., & Yergeau, M. (Eds.) (Forth.). The Futures of Neurodiversity. MLA Commons.

Dufourmantelle, A., & Derrida, J. (2000). Of Hospitality. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Elliott, A. (2019). A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. Toronto, Canada: Doubleday.

Gilbert, S. M. & Gubart, S. (2000). The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the 19thCentury Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP. (Original work published 1979).

Harris, L. M., Campbell, J. T., & Brophy, A. L. (Eds.). (2019). Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.

Ingram, R. (2016). Doing Mad Studies: Making (Non)Sense Together. Intersectionalities: A Global Journal of Social Work Analysis, Research, Polity, and Practice, 5(3), 11–17.

La Marr Jurelle, B. (2020). How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ledent, B., O’Callaghan, E., & Tunca, D. (Eds.). (2018). Madness in Anglophone Caribbean Literature: On the Edge. New York: Palgrave.

Lindberg, T. (2015). Birdie. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Lyotard, J-F. (1989). The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Macharia, K. (2018). On Quitting. The New Inquiry, September 19. https://thenewinquiry.com/on-quitting/

Mailhot, T. (2018). Heart Berries. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press.

Mason, J. L., & Crevar, N. (Eds.), (Forth). Madwomen in Social Justice Movements, Literature and Art. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press.

Meerai, S., Abdillahi, I., Poole, J. (2016). An Introduction to Anti-Black Sanism. A Global Journal of Social Work Analysis, Research, Polity, and Practice. 5(3), 18–35.

Oliveira Moreira de, J., & Drawin, C. R. (2015). Possible relation between psychosis and the unconscious: a review of “The Unconscious,” by Freud. Frontiers in Pshychology, 6, 1001. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01001

Pickens, T. A. (2019). Black Madness: Mad Blackness, Madness. Durham: Duke Univeristy Press.

Price, M. (2011). Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life. Minneaopolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Saks, E.L. (2007). The Centre Does Not Hold: My Journey Through Madness. New York: Hyperion.

Shah, S. (2019). Even if You Can’t See It: Invisible Disability and Neurodiversiy. The Kenyon Review Online, Jan/Feb. https://kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2019-janfeb/selections/sejal-shah-656342/

Wang, E. W. (2019). The Collected Schizophrenias. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Graywolf Press.




How to Cite

Soros, E. (2020). Unhinged: Zoom, Crisis, Disabling Communication in the Ivy League. Sociologica, 14(2), 13–25. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.1971-8853/11297



Special Feature