The most recent issue of Social History of Medicine includes several articles of interest to AHP readers. Articles in this issue historicize Ian Hacking’s concepts via the example of Munchausen syndrome, describe the development of public health alcohol education in Britain, and explore psychopathy as social engineering in Finland. Full details below.
“Concepts, Diagnosis and the History of Medicine: Historicising Ian Hacking and Munchausen Syndrome,” by Chris Millard. Open Access. Abstract:
Concepts used by historians are as historical as the diagnoses or categories that are studied. The example of Munchausen syndrome (deceptive presentation of illness in order to adopt the ‘sick role’) is used to explore this. Like most psychiatric diagnoses, Munchausen syndrome is not thought applicable across time by social historians of medicine. It is historically specific, drawing upon twentieth-century anthropology and sociology to explain motivation through desire for the ‘sick role’. Ian Hacking’s concepts of ‘making up people’ and ‘looping effects’ are regularly utilised outside of the context in which they are formed. However, this context is precisely the same anthropological and sociological insight used to explain Munchausen syndrome. It remains correct to resist the projection of Munchausen syndrome into the past. However, it seems inconsistent to use Hacking’s concepts to describe identity formation before the twentieth century as they are given meaning by an identical context.
The July 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore cinematic representations of brainwashing, scientific expertise and the politics of emotion, and more. Full details below.
“Brainwashing the cybernetic spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960s cinematic spectacle and the sciences of mind,” by Marcia Holmes. Abstract:
This article argues that the mid-1960s saw a dramatic shift in how ‘brainwashing’ was popularly imagined, reflecting Anglo-American developments in the sciences of mind as well as shifts in mass media culture. The 1965 British film The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie, starr. Michael Caine) provides a rich case for exploring these interconnections between mind control, mind science and media, as it exemplifies the era’s innovations for depicting ‘brainwashing’ on screen: the film’s protagonist is subjected to flashing lights and electronic music, pulsating to the ‘rhythm of brainwaves’. This article describes the making of The Ipcress File’s brainwashing sequence and shows how its quest for cinematic spectacle drew on developments in cybernetic science, multimedia design and modernist architecture (developments that were also influencing the 1960s psychedelic counter-culture). I argue that often interposed between the disparate endeavours of 1960s mind control, psychological science and media was a vision of the human mind as a ‘cybernetic spectator’: a subject who scrutinizes how media and other demands on her sensory perception can affect consciousness, and seeks to consciously participate in this mental conditioning and guide its effects.
The June 2013 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles on diagnostic categories in the DSM, erogtism in Norway, and relationship between Japanese and German psychiatry before World War II. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Ergotism in Norway. Part 2: The symptoms and their interpretation from the eighteenth century onwards,” by Torbjørn Alm and Brita Elvevåg. The abstract reads,
Ergotism, the disease caused by consuming Claviceps purpurea, a highly poisonous, grain-infecting fungus, occurred at various places scattered throughout Norway during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By focusing on these cases we chart the changing interpretations of the peculiar disease, frequently understood within a religious context or considered as a supernatural (e.g. ghostly) experience. However, there was a growing awareness of the disease ergotism, and from the late eighteenth century onwards it was often correctly interpreted as being due to a fungus consumed via bread or porridge. Also, nineteenth-century fairy-tales and regional legends reveal that people were increasingly aware and fearful of the effects of consuming infected grain.
The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines
Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544,* 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ (map)
Wednesday 14 November
Professor Ramón del Castillo (Universdad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid), “Madness and rules: A case for Wittgenstein.” The abstract reads,
This talk explores Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology through exploring his work on comedy, tragedy, jokes and humour, showing the connection between his understanding of these and his conception of philosophy. Wittgenstein one said that a serious and philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes. His philosophical work was serious and included some jokes. However he was not a good joker, and his perception of social life was as limited as his sense of humour. It argues that Wittgenstein’s later ideas on rules and language-games are better understood if we think in terms of different types of jokes. It explains the diverse types of what Wittgenstein called ‘gramatical jokes’ (from the logical ones to the performative ones), and also indicates the relevance of certain types of humour in illuminating the background of linguistic games (using examples from sports and social acts).
Wednesday 21 November
Dr Maria Teresa Brancaccio (left) (Maastricht University), “War trauma in France and Italy (1920s-1980s).” The abstract reads,
In the twentieth century, medical-psychological theories on the health effects of war- related suffering as well as their social recognition presented large variations in different European countries. Focusing on the medical debates and on the diagnostic categories adopted in France and in Italy in the aftermaths of the two World Wars, the paper will investigate how changes in medical, social and political thinking influenced the understanding of war trauma in the two countries.