Emeritus Professor Johann Louw, University of Cape Town

‘What is normal behaviour for a five-year old child?’ ‘Is it normal for me to feel like this after my recent troubles?’ These are familiar questions that are often followed by another: ‘What do you mean – “normal”?’ This two-lecture course will examine the concept of normality and how its modern variant emerged; what exactly is understood by it and implications for people’s everyday lives. The first lecture will examine the historical origins of ‘normality’ and how it became a central component in the way people manage their lives. The second lecture will look at the implications of diagnosing ‘abnormality’ and at how mental disorders are defined and diagnosed in modern, mostly Western, societies. The publication in 2013 of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) unleashed a storm of protest about many aspects of its classification system. The most significant point of contention, which this course will discuss, was its definition of a mental disorder.



1.    Different versions of the norm

2.    Identifying and describing deviations from normality


Recommended reading 

McNally, R.J. What is mental illness? 2011. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Rose, N. 1999. Governing the soul. London: Free Association Press.


Date: Thursday 25–Friday 26 January 
Time: 11.15 am
COURSE FEES Full: R205,00  Staff: R100,00  Reduced: R55,00