Tag Archives: psychiatry

New HHS: Sleep Laboratories, Psychiatry in Penguin Books, & More

The October 2015 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore participant observation in a sleep laboratory (right), publications on psychiatric topics in Penguin Books, and social scientific representations of consumer debt. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“On a not so chance encounter of neurophilosophy and science studies in a sleep laboratory,” by Nicolas Langlitz. The abstract reads,

This article was inspired by participant observation of a contemporary collaboration between empirically oriented philosophers of mind and neuroscientists. An encounter between this anthropologist of science and neurophilosophers in a Finnish sleep laboratory led to the following philosophical exploration of the intellectual space shared by neurophilosophy and science studies. Since these fields emerged in the 1970s, scholars from both sides have been visiting brain research facilities, but engaged with neuroscientists very differently and passionately fought with each other over the reduction of mind to brain. As a case in point, this article looks at the philosophical controversy over the dreaming brain. It serves as a window on the problem space opened up by the demise of positivist conceptions of science, now inhabited by both neurophilosophy and science studies. Both fields face the problem of how to bridge the gap between empirical research and conceptual work. At a time when ontological speculation has made a comeback in these areas of research, studies on how epistemic objects manifest themselves in the material culture of neuroscience could help neurophilosophers to become better materialists. In the sleep laboratory, however, the materiality of dreams continues to be elusive. In dreaming science studies and neurophilosophy encounter a phenomenon that – at least in 2015 – still invites a positivist rather than a materialist attitude.

“Debt, consumption and freedom: Social scientific representations of consumer credit in Anglo-America,” by Donncha Marron. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HHS: Sleep Laboratories, Psychiatry in Penguin Books, & More

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New Book: Under the Strain of Color: Harlem’s Lafargue Clinic and the Promise of an Antiracist Psychiatry

Gabriel N. Mendes, an Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies and of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of California, San Diego, has a new book out: Under the Strain of Color: Harlem’s Lafargue Clinic and the Promise of an Antiracist Psychiatry. As described on the Cornell University Press website,

In Under the Strain of Color, Gabriel N. Mendes recaptures the history of a largely forgotten New York City institution that embodied new ways of thinking about mental health, race, and the substance of citizenship. Harlem’s Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic was founded in 1946 as both a practical response to the need for low-cost psychotherapy and counseling for black residents (many of whom were recent migrants to the city) and a model for nationwide efforts to address racial disparities in the provision of mental health care in the United States.

The result of a collaboration among the psychiatrist and social critic Dr. Fredric Wertham, the writer Richard Wright, and the clergyman Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, the clinic emerged in the context of a widespread American concern with the mental health of its citizens. It proved to be more radical than any other contemporary therapeutic institution, however, by incorporating the psychosocial significance of antiblack racism and class oppression into its approach to diagnosis and therapy.

Mendes shows the Lafargue Clinic to have been simultaneously a scientific and political gambit, challenging both a racist mental health care system and supposedly color-blind psychiatrists who failed to consider the consequences of oppression in their assessment and treatment of African American patients. Employing the methods of oral history, archival research, textual analysis, and critical race philosophy, Under the Strain of Color contributes to a growing body of scholarship that highlights the interlocking relationships among biomedicine, institutional racism, structural violence, and community health activism.

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Sept 26th Conference: “Psychiatry and Other Cultures: A Historical Perspective”

As part of Mental Health Week events in Reggio Emilia, Italy the Museum for the History of Psychiatry is holding a one-day conference on “Psychiatry and Other Cultures: A Historical Perspective.” The conference will take September 26th, 2015. The full program and registration details follow below.

“Psychiatry and other cultures: A historical perspective”
September 26th 2015
Museum for the history of psychiatry
Via Amendola, 2- Padiglione Lombroso
Reggio Emilia

H 8.30 Participants registration

H 9.00
Welcome address Gaddomaria Grassi

H 9.30
Opening session Luigi Benevelli

H 10.00
The “Devereux case” in the history of ethnopsychiatry, Alessandra Cerea

Transcultural psychiatry, decolonization and nationalism: Comparisans between Nigeria and India, Matthew M. Heaton

Beyond colonial psychiatry? The indigenization of psychiatry of British India, 1900-1940, Waltraud Ernst

Psychiatry in the ltalian colanies of Africa, Marianna Scarfone

H 12.00 Conference conclusion
Epistemology of Cultural Psychiatry, German E. Berrios

H 13.00
Questions and discussions

For info and registration send an e-mail at: bombardieric@ausl.re.it

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History and the Hoffman Report: A Round-Up

Chances are you, like us, have been following the fall out from the American Psychological Association’s Hoffman Report, which details how the organization colluded with the United States government to ensure psychologists remained part of its torture program. While there are a ton of opinion pieces floating around in the wake of the report, we thought we’d highlight a few pieces that take a particularly historical view on the current situation.

Over on the Hidden Persuaders blog, part of a project on Cold War era brainwashing efforts, Marcia Holmes has written “What we’re reading now: The APA report.” Holmes details the events leading up to the Hoffman Report and situates psychology’s involvement in torture in relation to the emergence of “operational psychology.” The fundamental tension between “operational psychology” and ethics, Holmes argues, may never be resolved. Read the full piece online here.

BBC Radio program Witness has produced an episode on “CIA Mind Control Experiments” in the 1950s. While this piece is not directly about the Hoffman Report, it documents  the long history of relations between psychology and the CIA:

In the 1950s the CIA started attempting to brainwash psychiatric patients. They wanted to develop methods which could be used against enemies in the Cold War. Hear from one man whose father was experimented on in a Canadian psychiatric hospital.

The full 10-minute episode can be heard online here.

Finally historian Laura Stark, writing in Inside Higher Ed, explains “Why Ethics Codes Fail.” Stark, having previously written about the first ethics code adopted by the APA in 1973, argues that,

The APA’s current ethics mess is a problem inherent to its method of setting professional ethics policy and a problem that faces professional organizations more broadly. Professions’ codes of ethics are made to seem anonymous, dropped into the world by some higher moral authority. But ethics codes have authors. In the long term, the APA’s problems will not be solved by repeating the same process that empowers a select elite to write ethics policy, then removes their connection to it.

All ethics codes have authors who work to erase the appearance of their influence. Personal interests are inevitable, if not unmanageable, and it may be best for the APA — and other professional groups — to keep the link between an ethics policy and its authors. Take a new lesson from the Hippocratic oath by observing its name. The APA should make its ethics policies like most other papers that scientists write: give the code of ethics a byline.

Read the full piece online here.

If there are other historically focused responses to the Hoffman Report that we’ve missed please feel free to add them in the comments!

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Special Issue of Medical History on Skill in Medicine & Science

MDHThe new issue of Medical History  (guest edited by Nicholas Whitfield and Thomas Schlich at the Social Studies of Medicine program at McGill) is focused on the theme of skill in the history of medicine and science. The editorial is historiographically interesting as a survey of skill as an historical category (among many relevant to both the histories of medicine and psychology, including the history of observation, objectivity, emotion, and the senses).

Additionally, articles of interest include those about: Adolf Meyer’s influence on 20th century psychiatric clinical skills; the “discourse of skills” used to establish post-War British neuropathology; the norms of conduct within the first generation of neurosurgeons 1900-1930; and the debates between animal behaviorists and molecular biologists on best practices in the experimental manipulation of mouse DNA  (and the interpretation thereof). There are also a number of pertinent reviews on books about: insanity and colonialism in post-emancipation Caribbean; gender and class in turn of the 20th century British asylums; and the analysis of Nazi psychology at Nuremberg.


Selected abstracts read as follows: Continue reading Special Issue of Medical History on Skill in Medicine & Science

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Resource: Online Guide to Medical Humanities Dissertations

Margaret DeLacy over at the H-Scholar network has linked to a resource that could be of interest to our readership: a large collection of ProQuest info for dissertations from subject areas within the umbrella of the ‘medical humanities’ that has been compiled by the University of Pittsburgh’s History of Medicine Librarian, John Erlen.

Find the main list of subjects here.

Erlen has been contributing to the collection on a monthly basis since 2001, and when you click on each topic of interest it takes you to his most recent addition. However at the top of each page there is also the option to “browse all available months for this topic,” which takes you to the full sub-list for the subject area (e.g. Psychiatry/Psychology and History).


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Remembering Oak Ridge: A Digital Exhibit

Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (circa 2000s). Aerial photograph of Oak Ridge. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge digital archive and exhibit
Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (circa 2000s). Aerial photograph of Oak Ridge. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge digital archive and exhibit

AHP‘s very own contributor Jennifer Bazar  has curated a fascinating online historical archive and exhibit on the Oak Ridge forensic mental health division of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene, Ontario. Find the exhibit here.

Established in 1933 and closed last year (2014), the Oak Ridge division at Waypoint was Ontario’s only maximum security forensic hospital served by both the provincial criminal justice and mental health systems. The exhibit opens the locked doors of its eighty one year history “to dispel the misconceptions and stereotypes that surround forensic mental health care centres and their clients,” and compellingly tells its unique story by sharing artefacts, photographs, and archival documents “to demonstrate how treatment practices, security restrictions, and individual experiences both changed and remained consistent” throughout the institute’s existence. Exhibit sections include: Origins, Building, Legislation, Treatment, Daily Life, Patients, Staff, Research, and Community.

You can also browse through the exhibit content here (400+ items total: photos, docs, artefacts, audio, video), and please look forward to further additions to the collection over the next year including “personal experiences from patient case records, interviews, and oral histories with former staff members of the Oak Ridge division.”


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New Books in STS Interview: Matthew Heaton’s Black Skin, White Coats

New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network, has posted an interview with Matthew Heaton about his recent book Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry

As described on the publisher’s website,

Black Skin, White Coats is a history of psychiatry in Nigeria from the 1950s to the 1980s. Working in the contexts of decolonization and anticolonial nationalism, Nigerian psychiatrists sought to replace racist colonial psychiatric theories about the psychological inferiority of Africans with a universal and egalitarian model focusing on broad psychological similarities across cultural and racial boundaries. Particular emphasis is placed on Dr. T. Adeoye Lambo, the first indigenous Nigerian to earn a specialty degree in psychiatry in the United Kingdom in 1954. Lambo returned to Nigeria to become the medical superintendent of the newly founded Aro Mental Hospital in Abeokuta, Nigeria’s first “modern” mental hospital. At Aro, Lambo began to revolutionize psychiatric research and clinical practice in Nigeria, working to integrate “modern” western medical theory and technologies with “traditional” cultural understandings of mental illness. Lambo’s research focused on deracializing psychiatric thinking and redefining mental illness in terms of a model of universal human similarities that crossed racial and cultural divides.

Black Skin, White Coats is the first work to focus primarily on black Africans as producers of psychiatric knowledge and as definers of mental illness in their own right. By examining the ways that Nigerian psychiatrists worked to integrate their psychiatric training with their indigenous backgrounds and cultural and civic nationalisms, Black Skin, White Coats provides a foil to Frantz Fanon’s widely publicized reactionary articulations of the relationship between colonialism and psychiatry. Black Skin, White Coats is also on the cutting edge of histories of psychiatry that are increasingly drawing connections between local and national developments in late-colonial and postcolonial settings and international scientific networks. Heaton argues that Nigerian psychiatrists were intimately aware of the need to engage in international discourses as part and parcel of the transformation of psychiatry at home.

The full interview can be heard online here.

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The Anatomist, The Alienist, The Artist & changing expressions of madness in Victorian Britain

JHN physiognomy comparison article
Left: Bell’s ‘The Maniac,’ 1806. Right: detail of Dadd’s ‘Agony– Raving Madness,’ 1854. Depictions contrasted in the article.

The Journal of the History of the Neurosciences has published an article online by S. Huddleston and G. A. Russell (out of the Department of Humanities in Medicine, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine) on the 19th century case of painter and murderer Richard Dadd.

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.

Find the abstract and full text here.


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Mediating Shell Shock: The 1918 Film ‘War Neuroses’ as Clinical Controversy

sgt-bissettBPS’ May volume of The Psychologist includes an insightful historical piece by Edgar Jones (out of the Institute for Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience at King’s College London). His article, Filming Trauma, assesses the influence and controversy in Britain surrounding the clinical research of Arthur Hurst on treatment of shell shock as a medical emergency within their military forces.

Jones identifies Hurst’s provocative footage of disordered movement as having lasting historical impact on our comprehension of how shell shock presented itself and was understood by contemporaries of the first World War; he then asserts the film was a non-representative and highly mediated rendition of the condition as experienced by the soldiers in that context. Jones goes on to elucidate the skeptical response of other psychiatric professionals to Hurst’s methods and claims to unprecedented and outstanding therapeutic efficacy, for which Hurst provided little explanation or followup.

An engaging read! Find it as pdf, or post.

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