A new article has been published online first by the journal of the Social History of Medicinethat will be of interest to our readership. Katariina Parhi and Petteri Pietikainen write on “Socialising the Anti-Social: Psychopathy, Psychiatry and Social Engineering in Finland, 1945–1968.” The abstract reads as follows:
This article argues that in Finland during the two decades after the Second World War, the diagnosis of psychopathy represented a failed attempt to adjust ‘difficult’ individuals to the social order. Discussing the social and medical character of the diagnosis, we examine psychopathy using the analytic and historical framework of social engineering in post-war Finland. We utilise patient records, official documents and psychiatric publications and analyse the diagnostic uses of psychopathy and its associations with social maladjustment. We also address the question of how mental health care in the less-developed northern part of Finland grappled with behavioural deviance, and especially with behaviour deemed ‘anti-social’. Contextualising psychopathy as a marker of individual disorganisation within the development of social organisation, this article contributes to historical scholarship that maps mental disorders onto the historical development of the nation.
Location: SELCS Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London
Speaker: Arthur Eaton (UCL)
Seminar title: History telling: A biography pf psychohistory
In June 1976 the American Psychiatric Association published a document entitled The Psychiatrist as Psychohistorian. In that report, a committee investigated the dangers – including the threat to United States national security – of a phenomenon called psychohistory. What is psychohistory? Why is it relatively unknown today? In this presentation, I will explore these questions and argue that psychohistory is best conceived of as an interdiscipline – born out of the marriage between two ‘parent’ disciplines: psychoanalysis and history. I will discuss the ‘rise and fall’ of the psychohistorical movement, highlight the conceptual difficulties of a hybrid discipline, and speak about my own search for psychohistory.
History of Psychology invites submissions for a special issue on the history of psychology and psychiatry in the global world.
Until recently, historical research in the history of psychology and psychiatry tended to focus on the development of these disciplines in the western world exclusively. When the rest of the world was taken into account, it was often portrayed as the recipient of western insights and not as a place where psychological and psychiatric knowledge originated or where practitioners made genuine contributions to both fields. Over the past two or three decades, historians of psychiatry have devoted ample energy to the history of colonial psychiatry, analyzing developments in the non-western world. Historians of psychology, however, have arguably paid less attention to developments in the non-western world.
In this special issue, we seek to consolidate and extend the historical analysis of psychology and psychiatry beyond the Atlantic or western world. We welcome original contributions on initiatives and developments in the colonial era. In addition, we seek to expand historical interest in the post-colonial era, starting with the Cold War and coming up to the present.
The submission deadline is May 15, 2017.
The main text of each manuscript, exclusive of figures, tables, references, or appendices, should not exceed 35 double spaced pages (approximately 7,500 words). Initial inquiries regarding the special issue may be sent to the guest editors, Hans Pols (University of Sydney) <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Harry Yi-Liu Wu (University of Hong Kong) <email@example.com> or the regular editor, Nadine Weidman <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
HHS includes interesting pieces about interactions between American and German eugenicists during the interwar period, methodological suggestions for conducting histories of ‘the self,’ and mid-century Argentinian sociology and American imperialism. History of Psychiatry offers a piece that questions established narratives which have associated the decline in LSD therapy with prohibitive regulation, a survey of theories under the theory of mind umbrella, a history of the use of graphology in German psychiatry through 1930, an examination of the problematization of sexual appetite in the DSM, and a history of the use of European psychiatric hospitals by the Ottoman Empire (and the repatriation of mentally-ill Ottoman subjects from European countries). Not least, in the Soc Hist of Med, there’s a piece on the use of physical treatments by British military psychiatry during WWII, and also one on the hybrid forms of African-Amerindian-European healing practices employed by enslaved African healers during the colonization of the interior of Brazil.
Find the links to each article and their abstracts below, after the jump.
Robert Allan Houston, historian of English social history at St. Andrews in Scotland is producing a podcast series with the straightforward title ‘History of Psychiatry.’
Houston’s approach is simultaneously accessible and nuanced; the series is a nice listen of its own accord, but would also make for a quality teaching resource. He has posted three episodes so far, each a nicely digestible length hovering around ten minutes (as he puts it, “bite sized.” Their topics are as follows:
1.1 Psychiatry And Its Subject
1.2 An Historian’s Approach to Psychiatry: The Aims of the Series
2.1 Melancholia and Mania: The Main Classifications
While providing the first in-depth history of the LaFargue Clinic (1946-57), the book focuses on the figures who came together in a seemingly unlikely union to found it: Richard Wright, the prominent author; Frederic Wertham, a German-American psychiatrist now known for his advocacy for censorship of comic books; and The Reverend Shelton Hale Bishop, an important Harlem pastor. Wright’s literary prowess, work for the Communist party, and brush with Chicago School sociology met with Wertham’s socially-conscious and uncompromising brand of psychoanalysis to challenge mainstream psychiatric theory and its discriminatory practices in the Jim Crow North. Those who could afford it were charged 25 cents for sessions in the basement of St. Philip’s Episcopal church in Harlem, and 50 cents for court testimonials. A thoroughgoing grassroots effort, ignored by philanthropists and state funding, the LaFargue Clinic throws mid-20th Century mental health and race relations into relief, and is sure to stir interest in the untold stories of projects like it.
UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Monday 30 May 2016
Dr. Shilpi Rajpal (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali)
“Psychiatrists, Psychiatry and the Colonial State in the first half of Twentieth Century India”
By the mid twentieth century some psychiatrists were performing important roles in transforming the nature of psychiatry in India. Wider exposure to international trends was an important feature of the twentieth century psychiatry in India as its enthusiastic practitioners not only travelled widely but also experimented with new methods of treatment. These efforts were frequently confined to individuals and cannot be generalized. The colonial state maintained an apathetic attitude towards the mentally ill and mental illness. Nonetheless, the concept of a specialist emerged in this period. Some of these specialists dedicated their lives to the cause of studying insanity and some of the central asylums became hubs for psychiatric deliberations. These deliberations were among these individuals and the colonial state. These negotiations were sometimes successful but at other times failed. What should be kept in mind is that innovation and interest depended entirely on the zeal of the superintendent-in-charge. His motivation was his own as the government did not have much stake in the process. The change also included bringing psychiatry in India in line with international developments in the field. These changes however should not be understood in terms of teleological growth. The paper attempts to analyze the novelties in terms of psychoanalysis and other international factors such as the mental hygiene movement. It focuses on debates in the official circles, and juxtaposes these individual efforts to governmental attempts to revamp the psychiatric infrastructure.
Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)
Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.
From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.
UPDATE: The date of this talk has now changed to Tuesday 31st May. The time and place remain the same.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has just aired a piece on the controversial history of Oak Ridge, the forensic mental health division of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene, Ontario. (The Oak Ridge building officially closed in 2014, but Waypoint continues to house Ontario’s only maximum security forensic hospital.) “The Secrets of Oak Ridge” aired March 1st, 2016 as part of the CBC’s national news program The National and is described simply as: “Allegations of treatment with LSD, sleep deprivation, torture. The painful legacy of an Ontario psychiatric facility. Reg Sherren reports.”
The 15-minute piece, driven by the narrative of one man’s experiences in the institution in the 1970s, describes some of the treatment practices at the institution at this time and questions the ethics of those involved. A provocative indictment of the institution and its doctors, the segment unfortunately lacks any counterpoint regarding the ethics of the therapeutic practices employed at the hospital. Absent any discussion of the greater context of psychiatry at this time, the treatment of patients at Oak Ridge is presented as unequivocally cruel, unusual, and unethical. This is certainly the experience of the former patient featured in “The Secrets of Oak Ridge.”
And from our present-day vantage point we may well feel similarly. Taking the context of 1960s and 70s psychiatry into account, however, the ethics, or lack thereof, of the program are less clearcut. At the time, Oak Ridge’s use of LSD and other psychopharmaceuticals – alongside other therapies – was seen as a positive form of treatment and a promising advance in the field. Where the CBC segment is most successful is in presenting the patient’s voice, as he recounts his experiences at the hospital. Respecting this patient’s experience, while putting that experience into historical context is a fine balancing act, one, unfortunately, “The Secrets of Oak Ridge” does not attempt. Contextualizing these treatment practices does not mean invalidating the experiences of this or any other patient, but it is necessary for a more complete understanding of what transpired at this hospital in this moment in time.
As we’ve reported previously on AHP, the recently launched Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit produced by former AHP contributor Jennifer Bazar, is an excellent and under-utilized source for this much needed information. Details and fuller context for the social therapy program discussed in the CBC segment can be found on this page of the site. (It should also be noted that a class action lawsuit against the hospital and the program’s doctors, on behalf several patients, is as yet undecided.)
This study examines experiences of individual patients and psychiatrists in the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins between 1913 and 1917. The dynamics of these patient-psychiatrist interactions elucidate the well-known conceptual shift in explanations of mental illness during the twentieth century, from somatic models rooted in the logic of “neurasthenia” and damaged nerves to psychodynamic models based on the notion of “subconscious conflict.” A qualitative analysis of 336 cases categorized as functional disorders (a catchall term in this period for illnesses that could not be confirmed as organic diseases), shows that patients explained their symptoms and suffering in terms of bodily malfunctions, and, particularly, as a “breakdown” of their nervous apparatus. Psychiatrists at the Phipps Clinic, on the other hand, working under the direction of its prominent director, Adolf Meyer, did not focus their examinations and therapies on the body’s nervous system, as patients expected. They theorized that the characteristic symptoms of functional disorders—chronic exhaustion, indigestion, headaches and pain, as well as strange obsessive and compulsive behaviors—resulted from a distinct pathological mechanism: a subconscious conflict between powerful primal and social impulses. Phipps patients were often perplexed when told their physical symptoms were byproducts of an inner psychological struggle; some rejected the notion, while others integrated it with older explanations to reconceptualize their experiences of illness. The new concept also had the potential to alter psychiatrists’ perceptions of disorders commonly diagnosed as hysteria, neurasthenia, or psychoneuroses. The Phipps records contain examples of Meyer and his staff transcending the frustration experienced by many doctors who had observed troubling but common behaviors in such cases: morbid introspection, hypochondria, emotionalism, pity-seeking, or malingering. Subconscious conflict recast these behaviors as products of “self-deception,” which both absolved the sufferer and established an objective clinical marker by which a trained specialist could recognize functional disorder. Using individual case studies to elucidate the disjunction between patients’ and psychiatrists’ perspectives on what all agreed were debilitating illnesses, this analysis helps to illuminate the origins of a radical transformation in psychiatric knowledge and popular culture in the twentieth century—from somatic to psychodynamic explanations of mental illness.
The February 2016 issue of History of Psychology is now online. The issue includes an opening editorial note from incoming editor Nadine Weidman on her plans for the journal. Articles in the issue explore studies of evil by Ernest Becker and Stanley Milgram, the influence of William Blatz on Mary Ainsworth’s attachment theory, and Foucault’s work on mental illness. The issue also includes an article on cyclical trends in the history of psychiatry by Hannah Decker, along with commentary from Allen Frances and Ronald Pies and a response from the author. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“History of Psychology,” by Nadine Weidman. The abstract reads,
The editor of History of Psychology discusses her plan to vary the journal’s content and expand its scope in specific ways. The first is to introduce a “Spotlight” feature, a relatively brief, provocative thought piece that might take one of several forms. Along with this new feature, she hopes further to broaden the journal’s coverage and its range of contributors. She encourages submissions on the history of the psy-sciences off the beaten path. Finally, she plans to continue the journal’s tradition of special issues, special sections, and essay reviews of two or more important recently published books in the field.
“Ernest Becker and Stanley Milgram: Twentieth-century students of evil,” by Jack Martin.
Both Stanley Milgram and Ernest Becker studied and theorized human evil and offered explanations for evil acts, such as those constituting the Holocaust. Yet the explanations offered by Becker and Milgram are strikingly different. In this essay, brief biographical records of their lives are provided. Differences in their research methods and theories are then examined and traced to relevant differences in their lives, education, and careers. Especially important in this regard were their personal experiences of evil and the scholarly practices and traditions of social scientific and humanities scholarship that characterized their graduate education and scholarly work. The final parts of the essay are devoted to a comparative and integrative analysis of their respective approaches to the question of evil, especially as manifest during the Holocaust, and a brief exegesis of their disciplinary commitments.