Symposium: Film, Observation and the Mind

AHP readers may be interested in an online symposium on Film, Observation and the Mind taking place March 19th 2021 9:45-4:30 GMT. Full information on the event, including a online registration and full abstract for papers can be found here. Details below.

A symposium on the history of scientific and educational film in the ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ disciplines.

Symposium organisers: Dr Bonnie Evans & Professor Janet Harbord

The history of ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ disciplines has often been told with a focus on written materials including case studies and publications. Yet, the advent of cinema brought with it new techniques and methods through which to observe and study the workings of the mind via bodily gestures and behaviour. This one-day symposium will consider the significance of film to the establishment and development of neurology, psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and related disciplines. It will focus on how film observational techniques were employed to validate scientific knowledge and how literary and artistic representations of the self-influenced new scientific models from the late-19th century.

The symposium aims to bring together historians of science and film studies scholars to think critically about new ways to approach the history of scientific and educational film in the ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ disciplines. It creates a forum to consider a number of questions. How were the techniques of early cinema used to create new ways to approach individual case studies? How did film inform statistical analyses? What role did film play in the distinction between atypical and typical states of mind and how were claims of atypicality justified? How did child observational films influence theories of developmental psychology and typical and atypical child development? Conversely, how were films used to challenge and question scientific narratives via approaches influenced by anti-psychiatry and neurodiversity movements. The symposium will be held over one day with the aim of papers leading to an edited volume or journal special issue.

Confirmed speakers: Professor Des O’Rawe (Queen’s University Belfast), Professor Janet Harbord (Queen Mary, University of London), Dr Kim Hajek (LSE), Dr Mathias Winter (Ecole Normale supérieure de Lyon), Dr Bonnie Evans (Queen Mary, University of London), Katie Joice (Birkbeck), Dr Felix Rietmann (University of Fribourg).

Presenters will speak for twenty minutes each followed by twenty minutes of questions and discussion. For more information, please contact Dr Bonnie Evans (


9:45-10:00: Welcome from Janet Harbord (Autism through Cinema)

10:00-11:00: Case Studies: Texts, Observations and Early Film

  • Bonnie Evans: Cinema, the Body and the Mind in its Inception
  • Kim Hajek: ‘She speaks correctly today’: Observations of States of ‘Personality’, 1870–1910

11:00: Break

11:30-12.30: Microanalysis and the Use of Film

  • Katie Joice: Mothering in the Frame: Cinematic Microanalysis and the Pathogenic Mother 1945-67
  • Felix Rietmann: Narrating Infant Experiences: Video-based Microanalysis as a Clinical Tool

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-14:30: Psychoanalysis and Film as Pedagogic Tool

  • Film extracts from Fernand Deligny’s Le Moindre Geste (1971) and François Truffaut’s The Wild Child (1970)
  • Mathias Winter: Psychoanalysis, pedagogy, and cinema: François Truffaut’s The Wild Child and the French history of autism

14:30: Break

15:00-16:00: Observational Styles of Filmmaking

  • Janet Harbord: Filming in clinical settings: negotiating film grammar (1950-1969)
  • Des O’Rawe: Alternative Treatments: Documentary Film and the End of the Asylum

16:00-16:30: Concluding remarks

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.