The September 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore the diagnosis of moral insanity and the French ethical tradition in psychiatry. Also explored are the laboratory in the asylum, the post-mortem in the asylum, the sphygmograph in the asylum, and much more. Full details below.
“Moral insanity and psychological disorder: the hybrid roots of psychiatry,” by David W Jones. Abstract:
This paper traces the significance of the diagnosis of ‘moral insanity’ (and the related diagnoses of ‘monomania’ and ‘manie sans délire’) to the development of psychiatry as a profession in the nineteenth century. The pioneers of psychiatric thought were motivated to explore such diagnoses because they promised public recognition in the high status surroundings of the criminal court. Some success was achieved in presenting a form of expertise that centred on the ability of the experts to detect quite subtle, ‘psychological’ forms of dangerous madness within the minds of offenders in France and more extensively in England. Significant backlash in the press against these new ideas pushed the profession away from such psychological exploration and back towards its medical roots that located criminal insanity simply within the organic constitution of its sufferers.
Historian Chris Millard writes in The Atlantic about “The Dangers of Over-Policing Motherhood.” Using the case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy as an example, Millard explores the impact of shifting understandings of the emotional support offered by mothers in the twentieth century. As Millard writes,
Towering over mid-century discussions of motherhood is the figure of John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst of children whose ideas on “attachment theory” and “maternal deprivation” became exceptionally influential. Bowlby waxed lyrical about the importance of a stable mother figure, arguing from research in foster homes that a life of instability, delinquency and psychological problems follow in the wake of inconsistent mothering. Bowlby followed other U.K.-based psychoanalysts such as Anna Freud and Melanie Klein in arguing that small children’s social relations are incredibly important, and disruption of mothering in the early years has wide-reaching psychic and social consequences.
Note the double-edged sword of motherhood here. Attracting the praise of being a “good mother” was always accompanied by the threat that you might fall from the perch at any moment and cause devastating harm to your child. Hence the amplification of mechanisms of control, censure and punishment that go hand in hand with the valorization and surveillance of parenting. Deep within the medical and psychological frameworks promoting motherhood in this period, there lurks male anxiety over female power and influence.
This concern played out over the question of how much time parents should spend at the hospital with their child…
In the early decades of the twentieth century, two intertwined changes began to shape the direction of German society. The baptism of the German film industry took place amid post-World War I conditions of political and social breakdown, and the cultural vacuum left by collapsing institutions was partially filled by moving images. At the same time, the emerging human sciences—psychiatry, neurology, sexology, eugenics, industrial psychology, and psychoanalysis—began to play an increasingly significant role in setting the terms for the way Germany analyzed itself and the problems it had inherited from its authoritarian past, the modernizing process, and war. Moreover, in advancing their professional and social goals, these sciences became heavily reliant on motion pictures.
Situated at the intersection of film studies, the history of science and medicine, and the history of modern Germany, Homo Cinematicus connects the rise of cinema as a social institution to an inquiry into the history of knowledge production in the human sciences. Taking its title from a term coined in 1919 by commentator Wilhelm Stapel to identify a new social type that had been created by the emergence of cinema, Killen’s book explores how a new class of experts in these new disciplines converged on the figure of the “homo cinematicus” and made him central to many of that era’s major narratives and social policy initiatives.
Killen traces film’s use by the human sciences as a tool for producing, communicating, and popularizing new kinds of knowledge, as well as the ways that this alliance was challenged by popular films that interrogated the truth claims of both modern science and scientific cinema. In doing so, Homo Cinematicus endeavors to move beyond the divide between scientific and popular film, examining their historical coexistence and coevolution.
It began humbly enough. In 1892, Granville Stanley Hall, professor of psychology and president of Clark University, invited 26 American psychologists to join him in forming a psychological association. A dozen invitees attended the first organizational meeting, in Hall’s office, on July 8, 1892. There, they founded the American Psychological Association. The participants learned that many psychologists who could not attend the meeting, such as John Dewey and Lightner Witmer, had agreed to join, and they selected two psychologists who had not been originally invited, Hugo Münsterberg of Harvard and Edward Titchener of Cornell. They elected Hall as the first president and scheduled their first meeting, at the University of Pennsylvania, for December of that year.
From its inception, membership in the APA was inclusive, at least with respect to religion and gender. The charter members included Edward Pace, a Catholic, and Joseph Jastrow, a Jew, who devised conventions for reporting that evolved into APA style. Two women, Mary Calkins and Christine Ladd-Franklin, were elected members in 1893.
But membership did not guarantee equal standing. Calkins studied at Harvard under James and Münsterberg, who judged her dissertation on learned paired associates to be the best produced in the Department of Philosophy. Yet Harvard declined to award her a degree because Harvard did not then grant degrees to women. Calkins went on to found her own laboratory and psychology program at Wellesley College. She became the first woman elected to the American Psychological Association (1905) and to the American Philosophical Association (1918). (In 1902 Harvard grudgingly offered her a degree from Radcliffe College, which she declined as “second-best.”)
The most recent issue of Social History of Medicine includes several articles of interest to AHP readers. Articles in this issue historicize Ian Hacking’s concepts via the example of Munchausen syndrome, describe the development of public health alcohol education in Britain, and explore psychopathy as social engineering in Finland. Full details below.
“Concepts, Diagnosis and the History of Medicine: Historicising Ian Hacking and Munchausen Syndrome,” by Chris Millard. Open Access. Abstract:
Concepts used by historians are as historical as the diagnoses or categories that are studied. The example of Munchausen syndrome (deceptive presentation of illness in order to adopt the ‘sick role’) is used to explore this. Like most psychiatric diagnoses, Munchausen syndrome is not thought applicable across time by social historians of medicine. It is historically specific, drawing upon twentieth-century anthropology and sociology to explain motivation through desire for the ‘sick role’. Ian Hacking’s concepts of ‘making up people’ and ‘looping effects’ are regularly utilised outside of the context in which they are formed. However, this context is precisely the same anthropological and sociological insight used to explain Munchausen syndrome. It remains correct to resist the projection of Munchausen syndrome into the past. However, it seems inconsistent to use Hacking’s concepts to describe identity formation before the twentieth century as they are given meaning by an identical context.
Before the 1960s, doctors were generally in control of the treatment of drug addicts. And that made a certain sense, because drug addicts had something that looked a lot like a disease or mental illness. The trouble was that doctors had no effective way to treat drug addiction. Their best idea–Federal “narcotics farms,” one in Kentucky and one in Texas–kept junkies clean, but only by keeping them away from the drugs those junkies craved. In that sense, they were no more effective than prisons, though in fairness drug farms offered various treatment regimens that enabled some addicts to get and stay clean. Other than locking them up, the medical establishment had no good answer to the question “How do you cure someone of narcotics addiction?” Essentially, then, junkies (who could not spontaneously “kick,” and a lot do) usually ended up in one of three places: on the street, behind bars, or dead.
Enter Charles Dederich. In 1958, Dederich, a veteran of AA and ex-drug addict, decided that addicts should take their treatment into their own hands, much like Bill Wilson and Bob Smith had done with AA in the late 1930s. He took what he learned in AA, adapted it, and created a long-term residential “therapeutic community” expressly for addicts and run by addicts. He called it Synanon, and with it he started what Claire D. Clark calls “the recovery revolution.”
“Introduction to Pragmatism and Psychologism,” by Rosa M. Calcaterra and Roberta Dreon. No Abstract.
“Anti-Psychologism and Neutrality: The Radical Empiricism of Husserl and James,” by Roberta Lanfredini. Abstract:
Both the phenomenology of Husserl and the pragmatist phenomenology of James can be categorized by the formula “radical empiricism,” which is explicit in James and implicit, but no less pervasive, in Husserl. For both of them, radical empiricism is additionally conjoined with an equally radical anti-psychologism. The problem is that the two terms “radical empiricism” and “anti-psychologism” take on a radically different meaning in the two authors. This essay aims to investigate the structural differences between two perspectives that, while following completely different courses, seem to share the same objective: to elaborate a philosophy which at no point moves away from the experiential plane.
‘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.
“‘The difference being a woman made’ Untold Lives in personal and intellectual context,” by Alexandra Rutherford and Katharine Milar. Abstract:
To mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of Scarborough and Furumoto’s classic work Untold Lives, and to honor the intellectual legacy of Elizabeth Scarborough (1935–2015), we introduce this special issue devoted to the histories of women, gender, and feminism in psychology. We provide a short biographical sketch of Elizabeth, highlighting her own marriage-career dilemma, then contextualize the publication of Untold Lives within the historiography on women in psychology at that time. We conclude by discussing intersectionality as an analytic framework for the history of psychology as a way to extend and enrich this historiography.
“‘Making better use of U.S. women’: Psychology, sex roles, and womanpower in post-WWII America,” by Alexandra Rutherford. Abstract:
The relationship between American psychology and gender ideologies in the two decades following World War II was complicated and multivalent. Although many psy-professionals publicly contributed to the cult of domesticity that valorized women’s roles as wives and mothers, other psychologists, many of them women, reimagined traditional sex roles to accommodate and deproblematize the increasing numbers of women at work, especially working mothers. In this article, I excavate and highlight the contributions of several of these psychologists, embedding their efforts in the context of the paradoxical expectations for women that colored the postwar and increasingly Cold War landscape of the United States. By arguing that conflict was inherent in the lives of both women and men, that role conflict (when it did occur) was a cultural, not intrapsychic, phenomenon, and that maternal employment itself was not damaging to children or families, these psychologists connected the work of their first-wave, first-generation forebears with that of the explicitly feminist psychologists who would come after them.
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.'”