Book Spotlight

Sites of Conscience:  Place, Memory, and the Project of Deinstitutionalization

Edited by: Elisabeth Punzi and Linda Steele

Sites of Conscience

Into the twenty-first century, millions of disabled people and people experiencing mental distress were segregated from the rest of society and confined to residential institutions. Deinstitutionalization – the closure of these sites and integration of former residents into the community – has become increasingly commonplace.

But this project is unfinished. Sites of Conscience explores use of the concept of sites of conscience and offers a way to forge new directions in social justice with and for those who have experienced harm. It involves a set of place-based memory activities such as walking tours, survivor-authored social histories, and performances and artistic works in or generated from sites of systemic suffering and injustice. These practices connect histories of place to contemporary social issues in order to move communities toward social change.

Covering diverse national contexts and disciplinary perspectives, this volume proposes that acknowledging the memories and lived experiences of former residents – and keeping the heritage of institutions alive rather than simply closing sites – holds the greatest potential for community recognition, accountability, and action.

Scholars and practitioners in disciplines such as social work, public health, psychology, human rights, transitional justice, history, museum studies, and criminology will find a necessary perspective in this work, and it will also interest Mad activists, disability rights advocates, and disabled people themselves; heritage, museum, and urban planning professionals and scholars will also gain a disability perspective to their work.

The book is part of the Disability Culture and Politics Series


Elisabeth Punzi is a clinical psychologist and an associate professor in the Department of Social Work and the Center for Critical Heritage Studies at Gothenburg University, Sweden. With Christoph Singer and Cornelia Wächter, she is co-editor of Negotiating Institutional Heritage and Wellbeing, and, with Annica Engström, of Mad Studies: Kulturarv och Konst. 

Linda Steele is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. She is the author of Disability, Criminal Justice, and Law. With Claire Spivakovsky and Penelope Weller, she is co-editor of The Legacies of Institutionalisation: Disability, Law and Policy in the ‘Deinstitutionalised’ Community, and, with Gerard Goggin and Jessica Robyn Cadwallader, of Normalcy and Disability: Intersections among Norms, Law, and Culture.

Contributors: Niklas Altermark, Gavin Andrews, Nicole Baur, Verusca Calabria, a conversation with Bec Dean, Lily Hibberd and Wart, Elena Demke, Rory du Plessis, Rob Ellis, Nigel Ingham, an interview with Alex Green, an interview with Janet Overfield-Shaw, Robin Kearns, Evadne Kelly, Helena Lindbom, Justine Lloyd, Nicole Matthews, David T. Mitchell, Graham Moon, Geoffrey Reaume, Carla Rice, Jen Rinaldi, Cecilia Rodéhn, Kate Rossiter, Sharon L. Snyder, Matilda Svensson Chowdhury, Liz Tilley, Jan Walmsley