Professor Fernando Vidal (Centre for the History of Science, Autonomous University of Barcelona)
Are we our brains? Starting in the “Decade of the Brain” of the 1990s, “neurocentrism” became widespread in most Western and many non-Western societies. Formidable advances, especially in neuroimaging, have bolstered this “neurocentrism” in the eyes of the public and political authorities, helping to justify increased funding for the brain sciences. The human sciences have also taken the “neural turn,” and subspecialties in fields such as anthropology, aesthetics, education, history, law, sociology, and theology have grown and professionalized at record speed. At the same time, the development of dubious but successful commercial enterprises such as “neuromarketing and “neurobics” have emerged to take advantage of the heightened sensitivity to all things neuro. Skeptics have only recently begun to react to the hype, invoking warnings of neuromythology, neurotrash, neuromania, and neuromadness. While this neurocentric view of human subjectivity is neither hegemonic nor monolithic, it embodies a powerful ideology that is at the heart of some of today’s most important philosophical, ethical, scientific, and political debates. Being Brains critically explores the internal logic of such ideology, its genealogy, and its main contemporary incarnations.
The Pope and the Unconscious. The speeches of Pius XII on Psychotherapy in 1952-1953, Agostino Gemelli’s Commentary, and Psychoanalysis in Italy
Professor Marco Innamorati (University of Rome, Tor Vergata)
The attitude of the catholic environment towards Psychoanalysis followed a strange historical trajectory. The first period, from the first Italian psychoanalytic writing until about 1950, was marked by a complete opposition. After World War II, there were attempts outside Italy to integrate Psychoanalysis within catholic culture, while the Italian Catholics stayed clear from Freud for quite a long time. A very important role was played by the two speeches about Psychotherapy given by Pius XII in 1953, at the opening of two congresses: the World Congress on Psychotherapy, in Rome, and a medical congress in France. The speeches showed an open attitude towards psychotherapeutic practices in general, but contained admonishing words against reductionist and materialist theories. They were interpreted differently in Italy and abroad. In the United States it seemed obvious that Pius XII wanted to open the doors to Psychoanalysis; in Italy the same words were interpreted as an absolute and total prohibition of psychoanalytic therapy. Such a “non expedit” was factually effective until the pontificate of Paul VI. The second interpretation was expressly suggested by Agostino Gemelli, who at the time was the most influent personality of Catholic psychology in Italy. Gemelli published a book containing an in-depth hermeneutics of the Pope’s words, deducing an opposition towards Freud’s psychoanalysis and Jung’s analytical psychology. Actually, the Vatican did not refute neither the American interpretation, nor Gemelli’s. Our talk will deepen the historical context and the reasons for this hermeneutical divide.
The psychologies of utopia and reality. E. H. Carr, 1919-1939.
Alex Woodcock (UCL)
How do theories from across human and social science disciplines connect, merge, and inform one another? In the early to mid-twentieth century, Edward Hallett Carr was one of Britain’s most visible and controversial public intellectuals. His legacy had dwindled to being little more than an academic signpost within History and International Relations. However the turmoil of twenty-first century political world and the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, on which he was an authority, have led to a resurgence of interest in his work. This presentation explores in detail Carr’s relation to his own academic, political, and intellectual context. It will look to understand his life and work from 1919 to 1939 in terms of prevailing trends and formative theories derived from the psychological disciplines. Understanding his intellectual formation in this way allows one to appreciate the nuances and depths of his milestone 1939 IR text, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939, as well as giving an insight into how and why Carr arrived at his historical and political conclusions. Moreover, such a view speaks to wider issues regarding the specific importance of the ‘history of the psychological disciplines’ within the human and social sciences.
C. G. Jung and the Berneuchen Movement: Meditation and Active Imagination in Jungian Psychotherapy and Protestant Spiritual Practice in the 1930s
Dr. Martin Liebscher (UCL)
Active imagination is one of the methodical corner stones of Jungian therapy. Evolved from his self-experimental phase after 1913, Jung tried to establish a psychological and cultural framework for this method. In his university lectures of the late 30s Jung showed the parallels between active imagination and forms of spiritual meditation in Buddhism, Tantrism, and Christianity. During this period, he was in contact with leading clergy men of the Berneuchen circle, a movement that sought to reintroduce meditative spiritual practice in the German protestant church. Using hitherto unknown archival material I will follow the dialogue between Jung and main representatives of the Berneuchen movement and reveal the traces it left in his understanding of spiritual meditation and active imagination as well as in the practice of pastoral care of this protestant group.
The group meets next on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 from 6:00-7:30pm (EST) and will be discussing articles in the special issue of the journal History of the Human Sciences on “Psychology and its Publics.”
Full details, including a schedule of upcoming meetings, can be found here.
AHP readers in the Toronto area will be interested in the upcoming premiere of a new film series on the history of mental health care in Canada. Keys to Our Past premieres the evening of Wednesday, October 4th at Humber College, the site of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. RSVP for the free event here and watch the series trailer above. Full details below.
Keys to Our Past: Mental Health Film Series Premiere
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
7-9pm (doors at 6:30pm)
Join us on the grounds of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital for the premiere of KEYS TO OUR PAST, an original film series about the history of mental health care in Canada created by the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in partnership with the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre. Hear about the creation of the asylum system, changes in treatments over time, and the continuing challenge of stigma directly from the writers, producers, and directors of this unique project.
‘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.