A recent piece from historian Erik Linstrum over on Aeon may be of interest to AHP readers. In “The Empire Dreamt Back” Linstrum explores the role of psychoanalysis in British colonial rule. The piece begins:
Every state needs to know about the people it rules. Censuses, property surveys and tax records are familiar and tangible expressions of the state’s need to maintain power by accumulating knowledge. This is not just a matter of tedious bureaucratic record-keeping: especially when confronted with unfamiliar problems, states often turn to cutting-edge technologies and forms of expertise to make sense of the populations under their authority. In the early 20th-century Age of Empire, when European colonies stretched across the world, psychoanalysis was the novel technique of the moment. In an attempt to better understand their colonial subjects in those years, officials in the British empire undertook a curious and little-known research project: to collect dreams from the people of South Asia, Africa and the Pacific. The results were not what they expected.
Influential sexologist and activist Magnus Hirschfeld founded Berlin’s Institute of Sexual Sciences in 1919 as a home and workplace to study homosexual rights activism and support transgender people. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. This episode in history prompted Heike Bauer to ask, Is violence an intrinsic part of modern queer culture? The Hirschfeld Archives answers this critical question by examining the violence that shaped queer existence in the first part of the twentieth century.
Hirschfeld himself escaped the Nazis, and many of his papers and publications survived. Bauer examines his accounts of same-sex life from published and unpublished writings, as well as books, articles, diaries, films, photographs and other visual materials, to scrutinize how violence—including persecution, death and suicide—shaped the development of homosexual rights and political activism.
The Hirschfeld Archives brings these fragments of queer experience together to reveal many unknown and interesting accounts of LGBTQ life in the early twentieth century, but also to illuminate the fact that homosexual rights politics were haunted from the beginning by racism, colonial brutality, and gender violence.
The full volume is available as an open access pdf here.
“On the history of cultural psychiatry: Georges Devereux, Henri Ellenberger, and the psychological treatment of Native Americans in the 1950s,” by Emmanuel Delille. The abstract reads,
Henri Ellenberger (1905–1993) wrote the first French-language synthesis of transcultural psychiatry (“Ethno-psychiatrie”) for the French Encyclopédie Médico-Chirurgicale in 1965. His work casts new light on the early development of transcultural psychiatry in relation to scientific communities and networks, particularly on the role of Georges Devereux (1908–1985). The Ellenberger archives offer the possibility of comparing published texts with archival ones to create a more nuanced account of the history of transcultural psychiatry, and notably of the psychological treatment of Native Americans. This paper examines some key moments in the intellectual trajectories of Devereux and Ellenberger, including Devereux’s dispute with Ackerknecht, the careers of Devereux and Ellenberger as therapists at the Menninger Foundation (Topeka, Kansas) in the 1950s, and their respective positions in the research network developed by McGill University (Montreal, Quebec) with the newsletter Transcultural Research in Mental Health Problems. Finally, I consider their ties to other important figures in this field as it transitioned from colonial medicine to academic medicine, including Roger Bastide (France), Henri Collomb and the Ortigues (France and Africa), as well as Eric Wittkower and Brian Murphy (Canada) and Alexander Leighton (United States and Canada).
The June 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. The issue includes articles on the symptoms of schizophrenia, British colonial lunatic asylums, and “senile dementia” in the decades before 1979. Also in the issue is a classic text on symptoms in psychiatry by Hans W. Gruhle (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“First rank symptoms of schizophrenia: their nature and origin,” by J. Cutting. The abstract reads,
Kurt Schneider’s insight nearly 80 years ago that schizophrenia could be demarcated from other psychoses by a small set of particular delusions and hallucinations powerfully influenced diagnostic practice. The theoretical status of such ‘first rank symptoms’ as a whole, however, has rarely been addressed. But if they are sensitive and specific to the condition, it is about time that their essential nature and potential origin be considered. This is the purpose of the present paper. I argue that these psychopathological phenomena are indeed relatively sensitive and specific to the condition, that their nature can be formulated within a Schelerian model of what constitutes a human being, and that their origin fits anthropological and neuropsychological notions of the make-up of contemporary human beings.
Black Skin, White Coats is a history of psychiatry in Nigeria from the 1950s to the 1980s. Working in the contexts of decolonization and anticolonial nationalism, Nigerian psychiatrists sought to replace racist colonial psychiatric theories about the psychological inferiority of Africans with a universal and egalitarian model focusing on broad psychological similarities across cultural and racial boundaries. Particular emphasis is placed on Dr. T. Adeoye Lambo, the first indigenous Nigerian to earn a specialty degree in psychiatry in the United Kingdom in 1954. Lambo returned to Nigeria to become the medical superintendent of the newly founded Aro Mental Hospital in Abeokuta, Nigeria’s first “modern” mental hospital. At Aro, Lambo began to revolutionize psychiatric research and clinical practice in Nigeria, working to integrate “modern” western medical theory and technologies with “traditional” cultural understandings of mental illness. Lambo’s research focused on deracializing psychiatric thinking and redefining mental illness in terms of a model of universal human similarities that crossed racial and cultural divides.
Black Skin, White Coats is the first work to focus primarily on black Africans as producers of psychiatric knowledge and as definers of mental illness in their own right. By examining the ways that Nigerian psychiatrists worked to integrate their psychiatric training with their indigenous backgrounds and cultural and civic nationalisms, Black Skin, White Coats provides a foil to Frantz Fanon’s widely publicized reactionary articulations of the relationship between colonialism and psychiatry. Black Skin, White Coats is also on the cutting edge of histories of psychiatry that are increasingly drawing connections between local and national developments in late-colonial and postcolonial settings and international scientific networks. Heaton argues that Nigerian psychiatrists were intimately aware of the need to engage in international discourses as part and parcel of the transformation of psychiatry at home.
The April 2014 issue of Medical Historyincludes an article of interest to AHP readers. Lindy Wilbraham (left), of Rhodes University, discusses the relationship between families and colonial lunatic asylums in late-nineteenth century South America. Title and abstract follow below.
“Reconstructing Harry: A Genealogical Study of a Colonial Family ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ the Grahamstown Asylum, 1888–1918,” by Lindy Wilbraham. The abstract reads,
Recent scholarship has explored the dynamics between families and colonial lunatic asylums in the late nineteenth century, where families actively participated in the processes of custodial care, committal, treatment and release of their relatives. This paper works in this historical field, but with some methodological and theoretical differences. The Foucauldian study is anchored to a single case and family as an illness narrative that moves cross-referentially between bureaucratic state archival material, psychiatric case records, and intergenerational family-storytelling and family photographs. Following headaches and seizures, Harry Walter Wilbraham was medically boarded from his position as Postmaster in the Cape of Good Hope Colony of South Africa with a ‘permanent disease of the brain’, and was committed to the Grahamstown Asylum in 1910, where he died the following year, aged 40 years. In contrast to writings about colonial asylums that usually describe several patient cases and thematic patterns in archival material over time and place, this study’s genealogical lens examines one white settler male patient’s experiences within mental health care in South Africa between 1908 and 1911. The construction of Harry’s ‘case’ interweaves archival sources and reminiscences inside and outside the asylum, and places it within psychiatric discourse of the time, and family dynamics in the years that followed. Thus, this case study maps the constitution of ‘patient’ and ‘family’ in colonial life, c.1888–1918, and considers the calamity, uncertainty, stigma and silences of mental illness.
The autumn 2013 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are three all new articles. The history of John Zubek’s (left) sensory deprivation research is explored in an article by Mical Raz, while Andrew Jewett discusses the social science involvement in United States Department of Agriculture research in the 1930s. A further article details the relationship between British sociology and colonialism in the mid-twentieth century. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Alone Again: John Zubek and the Troubled History of Sensory Deprivation Research,” by Mical Raz. The abstract reads,
In the 1950s, sensory deprivation research emerged as an influential new field for behavioral science researchers, supported by the intelligence community. Within a few years, deprivation research had become ubiquitous; images of sensory deprivation were invoked to explain a wide range of phenomena, from religious revelations to the very structure of psychoanalysis. Yet within a decade and a half, this field of research became implicated in cases of torture and abuse. This article examines the history of University of Manitoba psychologist John Zubek, who remained one of the final researchers still conducting sensory deprivation research in the 1970s. It raises questions on how might it be possible to successfully and cautiously perform controversial research.