Continuing the theme of the history of madness that has organically cropped up in our posts as of late, the Finnish University of Oulu‘s Department of the History of Science and Ideas has launched a new forum for scholars of madness as a substantive topic with a geographic focus on the Nordic region specifically, Europe at large, but with a global scope.
Their mission statement is as follows:
The main purpose of Madness Studies is to provide a useful platform for communication, cooperation and collaboration across national borders and disciplinary boundaries. At this early stage, the primary goal is to compile data about scholars, doctoral students and research groups involved in research activities, as well as inform about conferences, journals, books and primary sources. Potential future forms of activities include a founding of a society and organization of meetings devoted to the multidisciplinary aspects of madness.
Current projects include: modern depression and contemporary culture in Finland, a history of the life and conditions of Danish children and adults who were taken into public care during the period 1945–1980, mental health, medicine and social engineering in 20th century Finland, and perspectives on current forms of social vulnerabilities in contemporary Finnish society.
Current scholars range from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, and Spain in Europe, to Canada, the US, Argentina, and Australia.
Find further details here. Apply to join the network here!
The authors employ examples of Dadd’s art (the majority of which created during his incarceration at Bethlem and Broadmoor hospitals) as a lens to explore the shifting social politics of theories of physiognomy in clinical practice and public perception. The idiosyncratic and atypical subjects of Dadd’s works defied both the early and over-determined categories of mad facial features championed by the renowned anatomist Charles Bell, and the nondistinctive challenge thereto by alienist Alexander Morison. In doing so, the authors argue, Dadd’s interpretation forshadowed more modern approaches to physiognomic diagnostics.
The Paris Review currently features a beautifully illustrated piece from historian Andrew Scull. In “Madness and Meaning” Scull discusses the many depictions of mental illness – religious, medical, pharmaceutical – produced through history. Read the full piece, and see all the evocative images, online here.
The March 17 2015 episode of BBC 3’s Free Thinking with Matthew Sweet featured authors Andrew Scull and Lisa Appignanesi, who discussed the history of madness within Western contexts–the reflexive relations between how it has been conceptualized and experienced, philosophical and theoretical changes in how it has been studied academically and professionally, and the shifting social politics of how it is apprehended and engaged with by the publics at large.
Mindcraft explores a century of madness, murder and mental healing, from the arrival in Paris of Franz Anton Mesmer with his theories of ‘animal magnetism’ to the therapeutic power of hypnotism used by Freud.
Through an immersive scrolling interface including image galleries, video, and interactives, Mindcraft will take you on a journey that asks who really is in control of their own mind, and where does the mind’s power to harm or heal end?
Mindcraft is written by author and curator Mike Jay, and developed by award-winning digital agency Clearleft. Mindcraft can be explored on a desktop browser or tablet.
The December 2013 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in this issue is an article on psychologist Raleigh M. Drake’s work on musical ability, discussion of cognitivism, and a special section on eros. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The extent of cognitivism,” by V. P. J. Arponen. The abstract reads,
In this article, cognitivism is understood as the view that the engine of human (individual and collective) action is the intentional, dispositional, or other mental capacities of the brain or the mind. Cognitivism has been criticized for considering the essence of human action to reside in its alleged source in mental processes at the expense of the social surroundings of the action, criticism that has often been inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. This article explores the logical extent of the critique of cognitivism, arguing that by positing collectively shared knowledge of criteria as the engine of human action many such critiques themselves display latent cognitivism.
“There is no evidence of ‘latent cognitivism’ in Peter Hacker’s treatment of criteria,” by Michael A. Tissaw. No abstract provided.
“On the extent of cognitivism: A response to Michael Tissaw,” by V. P. J. Arponen. No abstract provided.
Yes, we do listen to your suggestions! Earlier this summer, historian of psychology Ryan Tweney left us a comment in response to our post about our roadtrip to the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St Joseph, Missouri. Tweney said we might also enjoy visiting the “Lunatic House” in Bowling Green, Ohio – so we decided to make one last trip before fall was officially upon us.
The Lunatic House in Bowling Green is actually a part of a collection of buildings that now constitute the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. The primary exhibits are located in the oldest and largest building on the property: the infirmary. The displays take you through the rooms, floors, and wings of the building – beginning first with the history of the County Home itself before growing outwards to include medical history, technological developments, and a history of Ohio.
The site is quite unique, as one of the last remaining county poorhouses in Ohio with a majority of the original structures still standing. The poorhouse system dates to the early nineteenth century in the Unites States. Individual counties provided residential institutions (often as part of farm land) to house those who were unemployed or otherwise did not have the financial means to support themselves. Much like other states, every county in Ohio opened its own poorhouse. By mid-century, the Ohio General Assembly ordered these facilities to take in a wider population including the infirm, the elderly, and the mentally ill – renaming the poorhouses “infirmaries.” They later took on the name “county home” in 1919. Continue reading One More Summer Roadtrip: Wood County Lunatic House→
The April 2013 issue of the journal History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in these issue are seven all new articles on topics that include the history of psychiatric ideas about self-harm, madness and the brain, and early British and American sociology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Religion, polygenism and the early science of human origins,” by Terence D. Keel. The abstract reads,
American polygenism was a provocative scientific movement whose controversial claim that humankind did not share a common ancestor caused a firestorm among naturalists and the lay public beginning in the 1830s. This article gives specific attention to the largely overlooked religious ideas marshaled by American polygenists in their effort to construct race as a unit of analysis. I focus specifically on the thought of the American polygenist and renowned surgeon Dr Josiah Clark Nott (1804–73) of Mobile, Alabama. Scholars have claimed that in his effort to establish a properly modern scientific view of race Nott was one of the first American naturalists to publicly denounce the notion of common human descent (monogenesis) as proclaimed in the Bible. I argue that despite his rejection of monogenesis, Nott’s racial theory remained squarely within the tradition of Christian ideas about the natural world. American polygenism provides an example of how scientific and religious ideas worked together in the minds of American antebellum thinkers in the development of novel theories about race and human origins.
BBC Radio 4 has just aired an episode on the history of mental illness. The episode, Mad Houses, explores three museums of madness in Europe in anticipation of the establishment of a museum of mental illness at Bedlam Hospital in the coming years.
As described on Radio 4’s website,
Ken Arnold explores how three European countries variously tell the history of mental illness. What do museums of madness tell us about who we were and who we are? Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at the Wellcome Trust, visits three of Europe’s old ‘mad houses’ that are now museums in Aarhus in Denmark, Haarlem in the Netherlands and Ghent in Belgium. Two of these institutions still function as psychiatric hospitals. Each has unusual, beautiful and terrifying objects on show ranging from straight-jackets to lobotomy tools, and also collections of ‘outsider art’, but each is also strikingly successful at evoking for their visitors different (and sometimes wildly different) views of madness – strange, worrisome, extreme mental states.
Ranging from a pitch-dark solitary confinement cell to the brightly coloured papier-mache dolls made by long term inmates, from the era of shackles to the era of the talking cure, the history of Europe’s reaction to the madness in its midst as shown by these museums is long and still shifting. Britain doesn’t yet have a national museum of mental illness or psychiatry. Bedlam Hospital in London will take on this role in years to come. What might we learn from the mad houses of Europe?
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.