ACAP psychology lecturer Dr Fiona Ann Papps (pictured at the back row, far left) was a session chair and presenter at the 9th Global Conference on Madness, held at Oxford University from 10 to 12 July this year. The three-day event was devoted to looking at madness from historical, social, gender, storied and theoretical perspectives.
Fiona has devoted much of her career to researching issues related to body image and sexuality, and their representation in the media. Literature, madness, death and dying are some of her other academic interests. At the 2016 Madness Conference many of her expert subject areas intersected.
“It was when I began to tutor students in primary and secondary education programs that I became intellectually aware of the importance of media as agents of socialisation,” said Fiona.
“However, it wasn’t until I began the research toward my doctoral degree that I developed a critical lens for appraising media influence – it became clear to me that media operate as one institution among many, offering unstable and contradictory messages around what it means to do gender and to be gendered. We take up – but also resist – these messages in complicated, nuanced and layered ways. These realizations encouraged an enduring fascination with the media, the body, sexuality and gender, and appearance – and the ways in which cultural messages and our own responses to these can promote positive psychological functioning – but also undermine it.”
Fiona’s conference presentation was based on her paper, ‘Madness as Discipline in Memoirs of Borderline Personality Disorder’. It explores madness as a disciplinary strategy in the memoirs of three women diagnosed with BPD in different circumstances, and discusses their unique reactions to and reference points for the condition.
An attendee since 2013 and past contributor of editing services to the conference, this was Fiona’s first time as a presenter.
“The event builds on the philosophy of psychological sciences as we teach it at ACAP. My participation allows me to offer a perspective in my teaching that is multiply informed and that can share with students the contemporary debates in the discipline as they are articulated from a variety of standpoints,” she said.
“Connecting with national and international scholars deepens our engagement with the discipline and with research. New ideas germinate from this cross-fertilisation. ACAP students can only benefit from the renewed perspective that professional development activities facilitate. Indeed, student projects often emerge from ideas that academics have developed on the basis of their professional activities.”