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Keywords:

  • anthropology;
  • power;
  • ideology;
  • inpatient issues;
  • institutional dynamics

This article investigates the significance of the smoking-room for psychiatric patients: for their everyday interactions, activities and perceptions of what is meaningful, also for their positioning as agents concerning their own and fellow patients' illnesses and problems. A social constructionist perspective is used as well as concepts anchored in a phenomenology of architecture and local place. This article is a part of ethnographic study of the daily life within a psychiatric ward using participant observation and conversations and interviews with psychiatric inpatient and staff in a psychiatric hospital. Important themes from our analysis were ‘smoking-room as patients’‘panopticon’, ‘smoking-room as the patients' sanctuary’ and ‘patient-led treatment’. We discuss these themes within a framework of seeing the smoking-room as an arena for patient and staff resistance. Patients' resistance is analysed as attempts to maintain their civil status identity and feelings of dignity in an otherwise powerless situation.