Tag Archives: culture-bound syndrome

Special Issue: “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China”

The March 2015 issue of the journal History of Science is a special issue on “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China.” Guest edited by Howard Chiang (right), the issue includes several articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Among these articles are ones on Pavlovianism during the Maoist era, the origins of zaolian (early love) as a form of juvenile delinquency, and debates over koro. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Editorial: “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China,” by Howard Chiang. No abstract.

“Disciplining China with the scientific study of the state: Lu Zhengxiang and the Chinese Social and Political Science,” by John H. Feng. The abstract reads,

This paper discusses the Chinese Social and Political Science Association and its impact on China’s inclination to Wilsonianism. The CSPSA was founded in Beijing in 1915. Two primary supporters were Lu Zhengxiang (China’s Foreign Minister) and Paul S. Reinsch (American Minister to China during the Wilson administration). It chose English as its official language in order to have dialogues with American scholars. The CSPSA had strong interests in constitutionalism, international relations and international law. As it pondered how to discipline China, it demonstrated its inclination to the American scientific study of the state. Epistemologically, this led to the political converge between China and the US during the Great War.

“From palaeoanthropology in China to Chinese palaeoanthropology: Science, imperialism and nationalism in North China, 1920–1939,” by Hsiao-pei Yen. The abstract reads,

Before the establishment of the Cenozoic Research Laboratory (Xinshengdai yanjiushi) in 1929, paleoanthropological research in China was mainly in the hands of foreigners, individual explorers as well as organized teams. This paper describes the development of paleoanthropology in China in the 1920s and 1930s and its transformation from the international phase to an indigenized one. It focuses on the international elite scientist network in metropolitan Beijing whose activities and discoveries led to such transformation. The bond between members of the network was built on shared scientific devotion, joint field experience, and social activities. However, such scientific internationalism was not immune from imperialistic and nationalistic interests and competition as most members of the network also belonged to institutions of the dominant hegemonic powers, such as the French Paleontological Mission and the American Museum of Natural History, operating by the logic of international system of imperialism. While these foreign institutions enjoyed relatively unrestricted access to the Chinese frontier and Mongolia in the early 20th century to discover and collect for the establishment of what they saw as universal scientific knowledge, in the late 1920s rising Chinese and Mongolian nationalisms began to interpret these activities as violations to their national sovereignty. The idea of establishing a “Chinese” institute to carry out paleoanthropological research in China took shape in such milieu. This paper highlights the entanglement between scientific internationalism, imperialism, nationalism in China in the early 20th century and the complicated process of knowledge formation at various national and personal levels.

“Pavlovianism in China: Politics and differentiation across scientific disciplines in the Maoist era,” by Zhipeng Gao. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue: “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China”

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Feb. 9 Talk! BPS History of Psych Disciplines Seminar Series

The British Psychological Society’History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk as part of its spring term BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On February 9, Ivan Crozier of the University of Sydney, “Culture-Bound Syndromes as Theory-Bound Objects: Koro, boundary working, and transcultural psychiatry.” Full details follow below.

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG (map)*

Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Monday 9 February 2015

Professor Ivan Crozier (University of Sydney), “Culture-Bound Syndromes as Theory-Bound Objects: Koro, boundary working, and transcultural psychiatry.” The abstract reads,

Transcultural psychiatry lies at the fringe of general western psychopathology. It embodies many of the commitments of the broader discipline, but because it deals with patients from non-western cultures, it has developed its own diagnostic categories to deal with the ‘new’ psychiatric syndromes ‘discovered’ within colonised populations since the end of the nineteenth century. These categories include koro, latah, and amok, the three exemplary syndromes evoked when discussing the central theoretical construct of transcultural psychiatry: culture-bound syndromes. How these non-western syndromes are understood changes over time, and the variations between conceptualisations of mental illnesses in non-western cultures can be used to show how the sub-field of transcultural psychiatry relates to the diagnostic criteria of general psychopathology, while at the same time carving out a space for itself as a semi-autonomous field with its own objects of study. That is, transcultural psychiatry uses boundary working to expand its remit by enveloping new objects from non-western cultures. It is not the same as general psychiatry, because it focuses on different psychiatric objects, uses different theories to understand these objects, and adapts the central concepts of general psychiatry to understand these objects. Transcultural psychiatry is at the forefront of the psychiatric expansion under global mental health strategies that a number of people have recently commented upon (eg. Miller, 2014).

The transcultural psychiatric syndrome examined in this paper is koro – the patient’s fear that their penis is shrinking, and if it retracts completely into the abdomen, that they will die. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, koro is not specifically considered a mental illness, but is primarily a somatic illness. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century that it was articulated as a psychiatric syndrome. Since, it has been multiply understood; each time there is a major change in the central theoretical assumptions of general western psychiatry – from Emil Kraepelin to Psychoanalysis to the DSMIII – koro is rearticulated to fit with the new theory. This makes it an unstable “boundary object”.

This paper will examine these three important episodes in the history of koro to illustrate how major changes at the centre of psychiatric theory affect the transcultural psychiatry that is practices at the fringe of the discipline. The episodes are: (1) Kraepelin’s (1904) comparative psychiatry, which used koro as an exemplar of a mental illness found in another culture as a variation of a universal condition; (2) PM Yap and the construction of “culture-bound syndromes” (1965), where koro was used as a model for “culture-bound psychogenic illnesses” within a psychodynamic framework; (3) Gaw & Bernstein and the attempt to include culture-bound syndromes in the forthcoming DSMIV (1991), with their epidemiological rendering of koro that was a part of an ongoing process to draw a boundary between psychoanalysis (that had formerly dominated transcultural psychiatry) and transcultural psychiatric practices more aligned with the psychiatry of the DSMIII, which involved splitting koro into two forms (epidemic or “cultural”, and individual). In all of these cases, the psychiatrists had to reconstruct koro to fit their theoretical interests.

These episodes show how culture-bound syndromes are theory-bound objects in a constant flux of renegotiation depending on the dominant theoretical models used in psychiatry. Studying transcultural psychiatry allows us to question the limits of western psychiatric knowledge, because it considers the differences between general western psychiatric conditions, which are often thought to be universal (such as schizophrenia), and conditions in other cultures that are not (usually) found in western patients (such as koro). CBS are understood not as bound by the cultures in which they are manifest, but by the culture of psychiatry that is currently accepted. Studying the boundary objects of this discipline can help us understand how transcultural psychiatric knowledge is constructed.

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New Issue: History of Medicine & Allied Sciences

The January 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are a number of articles that may be of interest to historians of psychology and related fields. A special issue devoted to recent developments in the intellectual history of medicine, the issue includes articles on sexual inversion, shell shock (right), koro as a culture-bound syndrome, and the rise of hypnosis in Germany, among other topics. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Recent Developments in the Intellectual History of Medicine: A Special Issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine,” by Chiara Beccalossi and Peter Cryle. An extract from this introduction to the special issue reads,

The history of medicine is probably best thought of as a wide range of different types of inquiry, rather than a single, well-defined field. It can involve, among other things, the history of institutions, technologies, and outstanding individuals. The articles gathered in this special issue are offered specifically as contributions to the intellectual history of medicine. Each shows, in its own way, how a particular disorder became conceptualized or how a particular set of difficulties was made into a topic of debate. Inquiry of this kind is not quite the same thing as a history of ideas—if by the latter one understands only the study of ideas as they traverse medical writing—since our concern is not with major ideas in the field of medicine, as such. One of our working assumptions is that intellectual history ought to be no grander an enterprise than social history at its most focused, or cultural history at its most closely bounded. We will simply examine ways of thinking that prevailed at given points in history, indicating the material consequences to which they gave rise. By seeking to articulate thought, writing, and professional practice, we are responding to the challenge Michel Foucault laid down for historians. But the histories offered here are not “Foucauldian” in the manner of histories that focus primarily on articulating epistemic “rupture” and unprecedented conceptual “invention.” The point of our contributions is to examine the contexts in which new kinds of thinking emerged gradually, and often unevenly. We seek, as Foucault did at his best, to highlight the circumstantial nature of thought and the intellectually productive nature of circumstance.

This special issue had its beginnings in a seminar series conducted in 2009 by the Center for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland…

“Female Same-sex Desires: Conceptualizing a Disease in Competing Medical Fields in Nineteenth-century Europe,” by Chiara Beccalossi. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of Medicine & Allied Sciences

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