Social History of Medicine: Madness & Sexuality, Child Psychiatry, & More

The May 2014 issue of Social History of Medicine includes several articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Madness and Sexual Psychopathies as the Magnifying Glass of the Normal: Italian Psychiatry and Sexuality c.1880–1910,” by Chiara Beccalossi. The abstract reads,

By focusing on Italian psychiatric debates about sexual inversion this article shows how Italian psychiatrists came to argue that there was no clear-cut boundary between normal sexual behaviour and sexual perversion, and traces the debates and fields of knowledge that contributed to the development of such a position. First, it shows how French psychiatry shaped Italian views on sexual psychopathies. Second, it demonstrates that in Italy, psychiatric research on so-called sexual psychopathies was from its inception part of a wider debate about the blurred boundary between sanity and insanity. Third, it reveals how sexologists embraced various theories of evolution, which implied that sexual perversions were latent in any normal individual. The article argues that despite the fact that in Italy same-sex desires were pathologised in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, historical accounts that emphasise such a pathologisation obscure psychiatric positions that endeavoured to normalise same-sex desires.

“The Rise of Child Psychiatry in Portugal: An Intimate Social and Political History, 1915–1959,” by Angela Marques Filipe. The abstract reads,

In recent decades, the study of the history of medicine and psychiatry has grown and interest has been developed in the particular social and institutional configuration of fields such as child psychiatry. That historical literature has, however, accounted mainly for the Anglo-American world and a research gap persists with regard to other national contexts. Drawing on a historiography of medical archives in Portugal, this paper aims to analyse the social, institutional and political conditions behind the rise of child psychiatry. Such an analysis will inquire into the international, national and local factors that played a part in that historical process and suggests a periodisation beginning in 1915, when the Medical-Pedagogic Institute was first created, and concluding in 1959, when ‘child neuropsychiatry’ was finally recognised by the Portuguese Medical Board.

“Heroes and Hysterics: ‘Partisan Hysteria’ and Communist State-building in Yugoslavia after 1945,” by Ana Anti?. The abstract reads,

This article investigates a novel type of war neurosis defined by Yugoslav psychiatrists in the aftermath of the Second World War. This uniquely Yugoslav war trauma—‘partisan hysteria’—was diagnosed exclusively in Communist resistance soldiers—partisans—and did not manifest itself in the form of battle exhaustion or anxiety, as was the case in other armies. Rather, it demonstrated a heightened willingness to fight, and consisted of simulations of wartime battles. Yugoslav psychiatrists argued that ‘partisan hysteria’ most frequently affected uneducated and immature partisans, who were given important political responsibilities but experienced severe trauma due to their own inadequacy. I argue that ‘partisan hysteria’ served as an opportunity for upper-middle-class psychiatric professionals to criticise the increasing upward social mobility after the socialist revolution of 1945. Surprisingly, this touched upon an issue that had already provoked deep disquiet within the Communist Party, and resonated with the Party’s own concerns regarding social mobility.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She completed her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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