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.
“‘Everybody Likes a Drink. Nobody Likes a Drunk’. Alcohol, Health Education and the Public in 1970s Britain,” by Alex Mold. Open Access. Abstract: Continue reading New Social History of Medicine: Historicizing Hacking’s Concepts, Psychopathy, & More
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The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in its summer seminar series. On Monday July 17th Jelena Martinovic will be presenting “Visual Illusions, Mescaline and Psychopharmacology: Heinrich Klüver’s Form Constants.” Full details below.
Monday 17th July
Dr Jelena Martinovic (Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL)
‘Visual Illusions, Mescaline and Psychopharmacology: Heinrich Klüver’s Form Constants’
Mescaline, the chemical compound of peyote, attracted the interest of Western scientists since the late 19th century, among them Heinrich Klu?ver (1897–1967). A German emigre?, Klu?ver introduced gestalt psychology and the pharmacological tradition of experimenting with psychoactive drugs to the United States in the 1920s. Klu?ver became interested in mescaline for its effects on visual perception and claimed that the substance helps to articulate mechanisms of hallucination. In my talk, I will take up Klu?ver’s brain scientific quest to catalogue visual illusions to question the extent to which his work can elucidate the interrelations of psychopharmacology and the human sciences in the first half of the 20th century. More generally, I will explore how the exemplary focus on visuality, which characterises mescaline research in its constituting years, offers a framework to understand the dissemination of expressive forms in fields such as art therapy, psychopathology and creativity research.
Tickets/registration: https://visual illusions.eventbrite.co.uk
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
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The June 2015 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. Included in the issue are two articles of special interest to AHP readers: Greg Eghigian (right) documents the history of psychopathy in Germany, while Julia Kursell, in the issue’s Focus Section on “The History of Humanities and the History of Science,” describes Hermann von Helmholtz’s work on musicology. Full details, including abstracts, follow below.
“A Drifting Concept for an Unruly Menace: A History of Psychopathy in Germany,” by Greg Eghigian. The abstract reads,
The term “psychopath” has enjoyed wide currency both in popular culture and among specialists in forensic psychiatry. Historians, however, have generally neglected the subject. This essay examines the history of psychopathy in the country that first coined the term, developed the concept, and debated its treatment: Germany. While the notion can be traced to nineteenth-century psychiatric ideas about abnormal, yet not completely pathological, character traits, the figure of the psychopath emerged out of distinctly twentieth-century preoccupations and institutions. The vagueness and plasticity of the diagnosis of psychopathy proved to be one of the keys to its success, as it was embraced and employed by clinicians, researchers, and the mass media, despite attempts by some to curb its use. Within the span of a few decades, the image of the psychopath became one of a perpetual troublemaker, an individual who could not be managed within any institutional setting. By midcentury, psychopaths were no longer seen as simply nosological curiosities; rather, they were spatial problems, individuals whose defiance of institutional routine and attempts at social redemption stood in for an attributed mental status. The history of psychopathy therefore reveals how public dangers and risks can be shaped and defined by institutional limitations.
“A Third Note: Helmholtz, Palestrina, and the Early History of Musicology,” by Julia Kursell. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Isis: Psychopathy in Germany & Helmholtz’s Musicology!
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The December 2014 issue of History of the Human Sciences, the final one under the editorship of James Good, is now available. Articles in this issue include ones on the history of psychopathy, Catholic psychology and psychoanalysis, early physiological psychology in Britain, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Valedictory editorial,” by James M.M. Good. No abstract.
“From phrenology to the laboratory: Physiological psychology and the institution of science in Britain (c.1830–80),” by Tom Quick. The abstract reads,
The claim that mind is an epiphenomenon of the nervous system became academically respectable during the 19th century. The same period saw the establishment of an ideal of science as institutionalized endeavour conducted in laboratories. This article identifies three ways in which the ‘physiological psychology’ movement in Britain contributed to the latter process: first, via an appeal to the authority of difficult-to-access sites in the analysis of nerves; second, through the constitution of a discourse internal to it that privileged epistemology over ontology; and third, in its articulation of a set of rhetorical tools that identified laboratories as economically productive institutions. Acknowledging the integral place of physiological psychology in the institution of science, it is claimed, has the potential to alter our understanding of the significance of current neurological science for historical scholarship.
“Imprimi potest: Roman Catholic censoring of psychology and psychoanalysis in the early 20th century,” by Robert Kugelmann. The abstract reads, Continue reading New History of the Human Sciences: Psychopathy, Catholic Psych, & More
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