Conference: Learning from mad knowledge

The 15th annual Critical Perspectives Conference takes place in University College Cork on 15 and 16 November 2023. 

This year’s theme focuses on the concept of mad knowledge. Mad knowledge has been historically invalidated by academic and professional disciplines. Despite the rhetoric of ‘social inclusion’ and ‘co-production’, service users/survivors/mad people continue to be viewed as non-credible knowers in relation to their own experiences. This is a form of injustice that renders them powerless within the systems that are meant to support them. This year’s conference provides opportunities to consider mad knowledge and the challenges involved in learning with and from Madness and distress. The conference will consider:

  • The diversity of mad knowledge
  • The processes that marginalise mad knowledge
  • Issues of credibility and representation 
  • What it means to learn from mad knowledge 
  • The implications of this learning for education and practice systems 
  • How we create environments to honour, and nurture mad knowledge

Over the two days of the conference, there will be 5 keynote presentations and 27 presentations during 5 concurrent sessions. The keynote presentations will also be offered online. Presenters come from as far as Canada and the USA, but also from Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scotland, England, and of course Ireland. The conference organisers feel very honoured for presenters to make the effort to come to Cork to present and their work.

The 5 keynote presenters, and the focus of their presentations are:

Sarah Carr, Independent Mental Health and Social Care Knowledge Consultant, Survivor Researcher and ex-Academic and Tina Coldham, Mental Health User Consultant, Trainer & Researcher, both from England, who will be talking about the implications of disability discrimination for nurturing mad knowledge 

Lydia Sapouna, Lecturer, School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, co-founder of the Critical Voices Network, Ireland, who will offer critical reflections on education and activism in her learning from madness.

Marina Lykovounioti, Hearing Voices Athens, Greece, and Lykourgos Karatzaferis, Psychiatrist and co-founder of the Hearing Voices Network Athens will share their experiences as activists in the Hearing Voices movement, identifying questions, dreams, limits and contradictions 

Owen Ó Tuama, Voice-hearer, Psych-Survivor, Peer Specialist, Gardener, Musician, Barman, Amateur Natural Historian, NW Ireland, Borderlands, will reflect of what knowing his mad knowledge means for and to him.

Lisa Archibald, Co-Director/ Training Coordinator, Intentional Peer Support and Mad Studies Student, Scotland, asks whether experiential wisdom is a curse or a commodity?

The focus of the concurrent presentations range from critical perspectives around the themes of: peer support; Mad voices and reform; learning from mad knowledge and wisdom; mad resistance against eating ordered violence; the value of mad studies; epistemic injustice in psychiatry; lost voices from the asylum; working with people experiencing homelessness; listening to the lived experiences of prisoners; psychiatric  hegemony, and an emerging resistance; psychiatric paradigms and the stigma of mental illness; recovery as a transformative concept; lived experience in policy and decision-making processes; working with voices and other unusual experiences; update on the work of the Hearing Voices Network Ireland; Mad in Ireland update one year on; cultivating a new vision for mental health in Ireland: Kyrie Farm.

This conference, now well established and valued both nationally and internationally, is organised annually by Lydia Sapouna from the School of Applied Social Studies and Harry Gijbels (retired) from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, in partnership with the Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI). 

At the time of writing, there were still some places available, so if interested in coming to Cork, email Harry Gijbels at and make sure you give your name and indicate the day(s) you wish to attend (either Wednesday 15 November, Thursday 16 November, or both days). You’ll receive a confirmation email if places are still available. 

If coming to Cork is not possible, then register for the keynotes presentations, which will be offered online:

The conference details are regularly updated on on and on