Special Issue: Madness and psychiatry in East Asian countries in the modern period

The September 2022 issue of History of Psychiatry is a special issue dedicated to “Madness and psychiatry in East Asian countries in the modern period.” Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Introduction: Madness and psychiatry in East Asian countries in the modern period,” Akihito Suzuki, Wen-Ji Wang. Abstract:

In the past decades, there has been an increasing scholarly interest in understanding the development of psychiatry and mental health in non-Western worlds in the modern period. Several collective efforts have been made on the East Asian part, and this special issue has selected the examples of the countries of China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Articles have utilized social and political constructions of psychiatric discourse, as well as the use of case files to research patients’ experiences in mental hospitals. Through these historiographies, connections and meanings of East Asian psychiatry are discussed in both global and local contexts.

“Managing Chineseness: neurasthenia and psychiatry in Taiwan in the second half of the twentieth century,” Wen-Ji Wang. Abstract:

The present study investigates the role of Taiwanese psychiatrists in turning neurasthenia into a culture-specific disease in the late twentieth century. It first delineates the shift in both explanatory models of psychoneuroses and patient population in post-World War II Taiwan. Neurasthenia became a focus of international attention in the 1970s and 1980s with the advance of cultural psychiatry, and, as China was closed to the outside world, Taiwanese psychiatrists were influential in framing the cultural meaning of neurasthenia. With the rise of post-socialist China, Taiwan lost its status as a key laboratory of Chinese studies. This paper argues that the history of neurasthenia during the period was closely associated with the professional development and national identity of Taiwanese psychiatrists.

“Hypnosis, psychoanalysis, and Morita therapy: the evolution of Koky? Nakamura’s psychotherapeutic theories and practices,” Yu-Chuan Wu. Abstract:

Psychotherapy had developed into a dynamic and diverse field in pre-war Japan. Apart from thousands of spiritually oriented lay psychotherapists, there were a few quasi-professional practitioners who insisted on a rational approach and experimented with a variety of psychotherapeutic methods. Among them was Koky? Nakamura, whose quest for a viable psychotherapeutic method is intriguing and illuminating. This paper examines the evolution of Nakamura’s theories and practices by dividing it into three stages: hypnotic suggestion, psychoanalysis, and Morita therapy. His pragmatic and adaptive approach to psychotherapy provides not only an interesting example for studying the spread of psychotherapy across nations and cultures, but also valuable clues to understanding its nature as a body of knowledge and therapeutic method.

“Maoism and mental illness: psychiatric institutionalization during the Chinese Cultural Revolution,” Emily Baum, Zhuyun Lin. Open access. Abstract:

This article offers a preliminary analysis of psychiatric treatment during the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the basis of interviews and rare case records obtained from ‘F Hospital’ in southern China. In contrast to the prevailing view of psychiatry during this time, which highlights either rampant patient abuse or revolutionary ideology, we show that psychiatric treatment at this facility was not radically altered by the politics of the Maoist period. Instead, treatments were informed by a predominantly biomedical understanding of mental illness, one that derived from the prior training of the facility’s lead physicians. Although political education was nominally incorporated into patient rehabilitation and outpatient care, it was not a constitutive element of inpatient treatment during the acute phase of illness.

“Psychiatric hospital, domestic strategies and gender issues in Tokyo, c. 1920–45,” Akihito Suzuki. Abstract:

This paper explores domestic dynamics in the complex making of institutional psychiatry in Japan in c. 1920–45. It mainly examines gender issues between the relatively long-lasting system of the family care of mentally ill members and the use of freshly introduced systems of psychiatric hospitals. I shall look at the record of Ohji Brain Hospital (1901–45) in Tokyo, which has several thousands of case histories mainly in Tokyo c. 1920–45. From the analysis of the cases of male and female patients, as well as the complex situations of their households and kin groups, I shall look at the gender issues in the making of the psychiatric hospital regime.

“Relaying station for empires’ outcasts: managing ‘lunatics’ in pre-World War II Hong Kong,” Harry Yi-Jui Wu. Abstract:

This article explores how ‘lunatics’ emerged and how they were managed beyond the capacity of institutionalization in colonial Hong Kong in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. The story contests the conventional historiography about madmen that focuses on institutions. Unlike in Britain or in other East Asian colonial cities, inpatients stayed at the asylum only for very short periods. Instead of psychiatric admission, they were then transported by ship, either to Canton in China or to London for further care until after World War II. This article analyses how this was done to maintain a ‘clean’ cityscape, as well as an instrument to ensure the smooth operation of the port city.

“End of an era or a moment of reshuffling: fragmentation of entry-level training in China’s psycho-boom,” Hsuan-Ying Huang. Abstract:

This article examines the fragmentation of entry-level training in China’s psycho-boom since the state terminated its certification for psychological counsellors in 2017. Initially, the policy change was perceived as the end of an era marked by rapid yet disorderly development. The stringent state regulation that many people anticipated, however, did not occur. The certification’s ending turned out to be a moment of reshuffling that gave existing key players – including the Registry System under the Chinese Psychological Society, other quasi-official organizations and their partners in the training industry, and digital start-up companies – a new chance to vie for growth and dominance in the space it left behind. The heat of the psycho-boom continues, as do the chaos and struggles within it.

“Distinguishing between neurosis and psychosis: discourses on neurosis in colonial Korea,” Kyu-hwan Sihn. Abstract:

This article analyses the origins and formation of medical and social discourses on neurosis in colonial Korea. With the introduction of Western medicine after the Opening of Korea in 1876, neurasthenia and hysteria began to be understood as neurotic diseases, and their importance was further highlighted during the colonial period of 1910–45. The article also addresses the role of neuropsychiatry in forming discourses on neurosis. In medical communities during the colonial period, the main source of these discourses gradually shifted from internal medicine to neuropsychiatry. In particular, Korean neuropsychiatrists distinguished between neurosis and psychosis as a way to reinforce their authority. Neuropsychiatrists tried to explain the temperamental and environmental factors of neurosis from a psychoanalytic standpoint.

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.