Medical Hypnosis in Imperial Germany

The Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just made available, through advanced access, a forthcoming article on the history of medical hypnosis in Germany. The article, “An Object of Vulgar Curiosity”: Legitimizing Medical Hypnosis in Imperial Germany,” explores the German medical profession’s attempts to gain authority over hypnotism and remove the practice from the parapsychological realm. The piece is written by Heather Wolffram, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Queensland. The abstract reads,

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German medical hypnotists sought to gain a therapeutic and epistemological monopoly over hypnosis. In order to do this, however, these physicians were required to engage in a complex multi-dimensional form of boundary-work, which was intended on the one hand to convince the medical community of the legitimacy and efficacy of hypnosis and on the other to demarcate their use of suggestion from that of stage hypnotists, magnetic healers, and occultists. While the epistemological, professional, and legal boundaries that medical hypnotists erected helped both exclude lay practitioners from this field and sanitize the medical use of hypnosis, the esoteric interests, and sensational public experiments of some of these researchers, which mimicked the theatricality and occult interests of their lay competitors, blurred the distinctions that these professionals were attempting to draw between their “legitimate” medical use of hypnosis and the “illegitimate” lay and occult use of it.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.