Becoming aggrieved: An alternative framework of care in black Chicago

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Centering on “Eastwood,” a low-income, African American community on the West Side of Chicago in which I have conducted ethnographic research since 2007, I examine the coping mechanisms developed by residents after Mrs. Lana suffers what her doctors view as a psychotic break. I build upon Judith Butler's conception of grief to reconceptualize madness as a sometimes productive force that allows scholars to see how certain populations are systematically dehumanized. After divulging a brief history of Mrs. Lana's community, wherein I discuss how it came to inhabit the socioeconomic markers of poverty it is known for today, I explore in further detail the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Lana's mental illness. Ultimately, I argue that the story of her “madness” is productive because it gives us valuable insight into the ways in which blacks, especially those living in low-income communities that face a dearth of institutional resources, invert popular expectations of mourning, thereby developing a concept of “becoming aggrieved” that does not merely lament death, but also affirms life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Grief
  • Mental illness
  • Poverty
  • Race


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