‘Nerves’ enjoyed a central place in German debates about war at the beginning of the 20th Century. Politicians, scientists, the public, and the military discussed the extent to which a future war would strain the nerves of German society. Concepts of ´strength of nerves´ as well as of ´weakness of nerves´ were increasingly used as combat terms during the First World War. The massive scale of experiences of psychological injuries and suffering only added to this phenomenon. The social and political administration of the medical treatment of psychological war disabilities presided over post-war discourses of managing the consequences of war. Simultaneously, a new spiritual mobilization for war followed in the Weimar Republic, which, after 1933, ‘synchronized’ almost all aspects of social life in the Third Reich.
Current scholarship has devoted substantial historical research to the treatment and accommodation of psychological war-disabled veterans. This conference focuses on contemporary discourses on nerves in politics, society, science, and the military and aspires to elaborate the interaction as well as their practical consequences of these discourses for the period of 1900 and 1933. At this conference nerves are understood as a code and a construct that are central in negotiating identity. Both, contemporary discourses on nerves as well as individual and collective experiences of psychological mobilization and suffering will be presented and analyzed. The focus of the conference papers is on Germany, but in a wider European context.
Venue: Freie Universität Berlin, Fabeckstraße 23-25, 14195 Berlin, Room: 2.2059
‘Kingsley Hall: An Island? Exploring Archival Accounts of Life at the Hall’
Kingsley Hall was radical therapeutic community established by R. D. Laing in 1965 (and that ran until 1970) in the East End of London. Here I turn to archival accounts of life at the Hall by residents and visitors. These accounts are from a book (never published) about Kingsley Hall and other communities established by the Laing network in the 70s. In his introduction to the book (the most stable title of which was Asylum: To Dwell in Strangeness), Laing engages in a debate with his former collaborator, David Cooper, who had spoken derisively of the Hall and other communities as “happy islands”, isolated zones of pseudo-freedom. Following a consideration of the aims, scope, history and marketability of the book project, I take the island metaphor as my starting point for exploring archival materials. This route allows me to trace significant connections and dissonances among several contributors to Asylum: To Dwell in Strangeness, and offers rich possibilities for interrogating the nature of the Hall and the radical psychiatry associated with R. D. Laing. In particular, I want to examine debates around the politics of the Kingsley Hall project; the relation of the Hall to its surrounding area in the East End; as well as the relation of Laing and his project to mainstream psychiatry, and to 1960s counterculture.
Directed by Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson, the piece recounts highlights of the field’s history as interpreted by Slater (and her detractors) by way of an interpretive bungee cord box. They include the author of the book as a character to guide further critical analysis of what the tales recounted in the volume, as well as the controversy that surrounded the takes in it, can tell us about the sociology and philosophy of science and scholarship more broadly.
According to the company’s website it is “inspired by the fascinating book by Lauren Slater, Opening Skinner’s Box is a whistle-stop tour of the scientific quest to make sense of what we are and who we are, told through ten great psychological experiments and the stories of the people who created them.”
The NYT ran an interesting piece by Eric Grode discussing the troupe’s directorial and productive decisions, and the ways in which their production processes intentionally resembled or related to the production of science.
A favourite quote from that article: “‘For me the box is about the scientific method,’ Mr. Simpson said. ‘You need to create something of a closed system so that it’s repeatable. But that’s kind of a useful pretense because nothing is a closed system. We have to remember that it’s not true,’ he continued, although ‘it’s O.K. to pretend that it’s true because you can learn a lot of useful stuff that way.'”
The Tavistock Institute is hosting a 4 day festival, Reimagining Human Relations in Our Time, October 17th-20th to mark its 70th anniversary. For those interested in the history of the Tavistock Institute events on Thursday October 19th are on the theme of “In the Shadow and Light of the Archive.” As the Festival’s site notes “This theme takes a historical lens to reflect on the meaning of the Tavistock Institute’s work including the ways in which our archive contributes to organisational development practice; moving from the seminal work as shadows towards standing on the shoulders of giants.” More generally,
Reimagining Human Relations in Our Time is a festival celebrating 70 years of the Tavistock Institute. At the heart of the festival is the Institute’s archive which over the last two years has been intricately and delicately catalogued at Wellcome Library. These two things coinciding, our anniversary and the launch of the archive, are a great cause for celebration in particular the insights of our forebears as they tackled past societal challenges and their application to our work today. For instance how can we respond to an environment at tipping point, ageing and social care, displaced people and populations, crises in faith, identity and leadership, our wellbeing at work?
The festival website is the starting place for you to begin your research and participation with access to a rich programme which offers opportunities to take part, reflect, dream, debate, consider, and perform. With its online booking system and easy to view programme you will be able to curate your own festival experience.
Find out more about this anniversary festival, including full programming details, here.
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.
On Thursday October 19th the British Psychological Society is holding its 7th annual Stories of Psychology event, this year on the theme of “Women in Psychology: From Invisibility to Influence.” The event marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the BPS Psychology of Women Section. To register for this all day event click here. Full details follow below.
Women in Psychology: From Invisibility to Influence A BPS Flagship Event
In conjunction with BPS History & Philosophy of Psychology Section
Thursday 19th October 2017, 10.30am–4.30pm
The seventh annual Stories of Psychology public event on aspects of the history of psychology takes its theme this year as ‘Women in Psychology’. 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the BPS Psychology of Women Section, and we are pleased to have collaborated with the Section to produce the programme for the day.
The event is aimed at a general audience so will be of interest not only to psychologists and historians but also to anyone with an interest in women’s issues and social history.
Professor Elizabeth Valentine (Royal Holloway)
Dr Katherine Hubbard (University of Surrey)
Dr Nick Midgley (Anna Freud Centre)
Professor Jan Burns (Canterbury Christ Church University)
Professor Dame Vicki Bruce (Newcastle University)
Interview with Susie Orbach (psychotherapist and writer)
There will also be panel discussions and the launch of Senate House Library’s travelling exhibition ‘Pioneer Women Psychologists at the University of London’.
The registration fee includes welcome refreshments and a light buffet lunch.
What is the place of psychotherapies in twentieth century societies? What impact have they had? How should one go about studying and assessing this? These are among the question explored in this conference, which looks at psychotherapies from the outside. It suggests new ways in which the interconnections, intersections, contrasts and clashes in transcultural histories of psychotherapies may be explored.
10.45- 11.15am Registration/Coffee
11.15-11.30am Professor Sonu Shamdasani (chair) (UCL) Introduction
11.30-12.15pm Dr. Gavin Miller (University of Glasgow) The Jet-Propelled Couch and Beyond: Psychotherapy in Post-War Speculative Culture
12.15-1.00pm Dr. Rachael Rosner (Independent Scholar, Boston, USA) The Problem of Place in the History of Psychotherapy
2.30-3.15pm Professor Cristiana Facchinetti (Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Between Vanguards and the Alienated: Art and Therapeutics (Brazil, 1920-1940)
3.15-4.00pm Dr. Sarah Marks (Birkbeck College) Suggestion, Persuasion and Work: Psychotherapies in the Soviet Sphere
4.30-5.15pm Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL) From Neurosis to a New Cure of Souls: C. G. Jung’s Remaking of the Psychotherapeutic Patient
Dee McQuillan (UCL), “Excavating an English Psycho-Analyst: James Strachey’s Papers and Work 1909-1945”
To what extent can studying a psychologist’s private life and personality contribute to the understanding of their work? In sharp contrast to his contemporaries, such as Edward Glover, John Rickman or Joan Riviere, James Strachey left an enormous quantity of manuscripts, mostly in the form of personal letters. While Strachey was not an avid writer in his own right — Ernest Jones complained about his lack of productivity — excavating the wealth of personal paperwork that he left presents an ideal opportunity to explore this question.
Monday 5th June
Dr Ernst Falzeder (UCL) ‘How Jung Became the First President of the International Psychoanalytical Association’
It shocked Freud’s closest followers at the time that he wanted, in 1910, a Swiss gentile to become lifetime president of a new international organization of psychoanalysts. This talk sketches the background and repercussions of this “coup.”
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
Monday 8th May
Professor Greg Eghighian (Penn State University) – NASA/American Historical Association Fellow in Aerospace History
‘From Crackpots to Survivors: How Contact With Aliens Was Pathologised‘
While the first reports of flying saucer sightings appeared in 1947, it was not until the 1950s that witnesses began claiming to have encountered extraterrestrial visitors. Throughout the fifties and sixties, the reports of “contactees” tended to emphasize the shyness and benign nature of extraterrestrials. Over the course of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, however, the stories increasingly revolved around terrifying encounters with coercive aliens engaged in performing human experiments. And as the tales became more gruesome, psychiatrists and psychotherapists began playing a growing role in analyzing and counseling self-professed “abductees.” In this talk, I will discuss how and why this happened and some of the consequences it has had for contactees, clinicians, and critics.
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London