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 July 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore cinematic representations of brainwashing, scientific expertise and the politics of emotion, and more. Full details below.
“Brainwashing the cybernetic spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960s cinematic spectacle and the sciences of mind,” by Marcia Holmes. Abstract:
This article argues that the mid-1960s saw a dramatic shift in how ‘brainwashing’ was popularly imagined, reflecting Anglo-American developments in the sciences of mind as well as shifts in mass media culture. The 1965 British film The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie, starr. Michael Caine) provides a rich case for exploring these interconnections between mind control, mind science and media, as it exemplifies the era’s innovations for depicting ‘brainwashing’ on screen: the film’s protagonist is subjected to flashing lights and electronic music, pulsating to the ‘rhythm of brainwaves’. This article describes the making of The Ipcress File’s brainwashing sequence and shows how its quest for cinematic spectacle drew on developments in cybernetic science, multimedia design and modernist architecture (developments that were also influencing the 1960s psychedelic counter-culture). I argue that often interposed between the disparate endeavours of 1960s mind control, psychological science and media was a vision of the human mind as a ‘cybernetic spectator’: a subject who scrutinizes how media and other demands on her sensory perception can affect consciousness, and seeks to consciously participate in this mental conditioning and guide its effects.
The December 2016 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatric classification in the DSM, Italian colonial psychiatry, the phrenological studies of skulls, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Italian colonial psychiatry: Outlines of a discipline, and practical achievements in Libya and the Horn of Africa,” by Marianna Scarfone. The abstract reads,
This article describes the establishment of psychiatry in Italy’s former colonies during the period 1906–43, in terms of the clinical and institutional mechanisms, the underlying theories and the main individuals involved. ‘Colonial psychiatry’ (variously called ‘ethnographic’, ‘comparative’ or ‘racial’ psychiatry) – the object of which was both to care for mentally afflicted colonists and local people and also to understand and make sense of their pathologies – received most attention in colonial Libya, starting in the first months of the Italian occupation (1911–12) and then taking institutional form in the 1930s; in the colonies of what was known as ‘Italian East Africa’, on the other hand, less was said about psychiatric care, and practical achievements were correspondingly limited.
The November 2016 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore split brain research, Vygotsky’s influence in Argentina, recent changes in Swedish psychology, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The other side of the brain: The politics of split-brain research in the 1970s–1980s,” by Michael E. Staub. The abstract reads,
In the course of the 1970s and 1980s, theories derived from neuropsychological research on the bisected brain came rapidly to achieve the status of common sense in the United States and Canada, inflecting all manner of popular and academic discussion. These theories often posited that the right hemisphere was the seat of creative expression, whereas the left hemisphere housed rationality and language. This article analyzes the political and cultural implications of theories about the split brain. Gender relations, educational reform, management theory, race relations, and countercultural concepts about self-expression all quickly came to be viewed through the lens of left-brain/right-brain neuropsychological research. Yet these theories were often contradictory. On the one hand, some psychophysiological experiments premised that the brain was inherently plastic in nature, and thus self-improvement techniques (like mindfulness meditation) could be practiced to unfurl the right hemisphere’s intuitive potentialities. On the other hand, other psychophysiological experiments concluded that Native Americans as well as African Americans and persons from “the East” appeared inherently to possess more highly developed right-brain talents, and therefore suffered in the context of a left-hemisphere-dominated Western society. In both instances, psychologists put neuroscientific research to political and social use. This article thus connects a story from the annals of the neurosciences to the history of psychological experimentation. It analyzes the critical impact that speculative ideas about the split brain were to have not only on the post-1960s history of psychology but also on what soon emerged after the 1990s as the social neuroscience revolution.
The February 2016 issue of History of Psychology is now online. The issue includes an opening editorial note from incoming editor Nadine Weidman on her plans for the journal. Articles in the issue explore studies of evil by Ernest Becker and Stanley Milgram, the influence of William Blatz on Mary Ainsworth’s attachment theory, and Foucault’s work on mental illness. The issue also includes an article on cyclical trends in the history of psychiatry by Hannah Decker, along with commentary from Allen Frances and Ronald Pies and a response from the author. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“History of Psychology,” by Nadine Weidman. The abstract reads,
The editor of History of Psychology discusses her plan to vary the journal’s content and expand its scope in specific ways. The first is to introduce a “Spotlight” feature, a relatively brief, provocative thought piece that might take one of several forms. Along with this new feature, she hopes further to broaden the journal’s coverage and its range of contributors. She encourages submissions on the history of the psy-sciences off the beaten path. Finally, she plans to continue the journal’s tradition of special issues, special sections, and essay reviews of two or more important recently published books in the field.
“Ernest Becker and Stanley Milgram: Twentieth-century students of evil,” by Jack Martin.
Both Stanley Milgram and Ernest Becker studied and theorized human evil and offered explanations for evil acts, such as those constituting the Holocaust. Yet the explanations offered by Becker and Milgram are strikingly different. In this essay, brief biographical records of their lives are provided. Differences in their research methods and theories are then examined and traced to relevant differences in their lives, education, and careers. Especially important in this regard were their personal experiences of evil and the scholarly practices and traditions of social scientific and humanities scholarship that characterized their graduate education and scholarly work. The final parts of the essay are devoted to a comparative and integrative analysis of their respective approaches to the question of evil, especially as manifest during the Holocaust, and a brief exegesis of their disciplinary commitments.
The December 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore multiaxial assessment in the DSM-III, electroconvulsive therapy, and veridical hallucinations in France, among other topics. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Félix Voisin and the genesis of abnormals,” by Claude-Olivier Doron. The abstract reads,
This article traces the genealogy of the category of ‘abnormals’ in psychiatry. It focuses on the French alienist Felix Voisin (1794–1872) who played a decisive role in the creation of alienist knowledge and institutions for problem children, criminals, idiots and lunatics. After a presentation of the category of ‘abnormals’ as understood at the end of the nineteenth century, I identify in the works of Voisin a key moment in the concept’s evolution. I show how, based on concepts borrowed from phrenology and applied first to idiocy, Voisin allows alienism to establish links between the medico-legal (including penitentiary) and medical-educational fields (including difficult childhood). I stress the extent to which this enterprise is related to Voisin’s humanism, which claimed to remodel pedagogy and the right to punish on the anthropological particularities of individuals, in order to improve them.
As part of Mental Health Week events in Reggio Emilia, Italy the Museum for the History of Psychiatry is holding a one-day conference on “Psychiatry and Other Cultures: A Historical Perspective.” The conference will take September 26th, 2015. The full program and registration details follow below.
“Psychiatry and other cultures: A historical perspective”
September 26th 2015
Museum for the history of psychiatry
Via Amendola, 2- Padiglione Lombroso
H 8.30 Participants registration
Welcome address Gaddomaria Grassi
Opening session Luigi Benevelli
The “Devereux case” in the history of ethnopsychiatry, Alessandra Cerea
Transcultural psychiatry, decolonization and nationalism: Comparisans between Nigeria and India, Matthew M. Heaton
Beyond colonial psychiatry? The indigenization of psychiatry of British India, 1900-1940, Waltraud Ernst
Psychiatry in the ltalian colanies of Africa, Marianna Scarfone
H 12.00 Conference conclusion
Epistemology of Cultural Psychiatry, German E. Berrios
Questions and discussions
For info and registration send an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In an article forthcoming in Theory & Psychology Mariagrazia Proietto and Giovanni Pietro Lombardo explore the history of the idea of “crisis” in psychology through the lens of Italian psychology. The article is now available OnlineFirst here. Full title and abstract follow below.
“The “crisis” of psychology between fragmentation and integration: The Italian case,” by Mariagrazia Proietto and Giovanni Pietro Lombardo. The abstract reads,
Crisis, as a construct, recurs in the history of psychology and has attracted the attention of psychological historians and philosophers in recent years, who have given life not only to a debate about psychological historiography, but also to a philosophical-epistemological reflection about the foundations of scientific psychology. These scholars, however, ignore the Italian literature on the theme, which is rich with useful details for both areas. After an analysis of the different meanings historically applied to the term crisis, this article examines the history of Italian psychology with a description of the origins and developments and with special attention paid to the construct of crisis. The analysis covers both the output of early 20th-century Italian psychologists on the theme, and how this has been treated in historians’ reconstruction of the theme. The article provides new historiographical elements within the framework of international research on the crisis.
“Madness and Sexual Psychopathies as the Magnifying Glass of the Normal: Italian Psychiatry and Sexuality c.1880–1910,” by Chiara Beccalossi. The abstract reads,
By focusing on Italian psychiatric debates about sexual inversion this article shows how Italian psychiatrists came to argue that there was no clear-cut boundary between normal sexual behaviour and sexual perversion, and traces the debates and fields of knowledge that contributed to the development of such a position. First, it shows how French psychiatry shaped Italian views on sexual psychopathies. Second, it demonstrates that in Italy, psychiatric research on so-called sexual psychopathies was from its inception part of a wider debate about the blurred boundary between sanity and insanity. Third, it reveals how sexologists embraced various theories of evolution, which implied that sexual perversions were latent in any normal individual. The article argues that despite the fact that in Italy same-sex desires were pathologised in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, historical accounts that emphasise such a pathologisation obscure psychiatric positions that endeavoured to normalise same-sex desires.
“The Rise of Child Psychiatry in Portugal: An Intimate Social and Political History, 1915–1959,” by Angela Marques Filipe. The abstract reads,
In recent decades, the study of the history of medicine and psychiatry has grown and interest has been developed in the particular social and institutional configuration of fields such as child psychiatry. That historical literature has, however, accounted mainly for the Anglo-American world and a research gap persists with regard to other national contexts. Drawing on a historiography of medical archives in Portugal, this paper aims to analyse the social, institutional and political conditions behind the rise of child psychiatry. Such an analysis will inquire into the international, national and local factors that played a part in that historical process and suggests a periodisation beginning in 1915, when the Medical-Pedagogic Institute was first created, and concluding in 1959, when ‘child neuropsychiatry’ was finally recognised by the Portuguese Medical Board.
“Heroes and Hysterics: ‘Partisan Hysteria’ and Communist State-building in Yugoslavia after 1945,” by Ana Anti?. The abstract reads,
This article investigates a novel type of war neurosis defined by Yugoslav psychiatrists in the aftermath of the Second World War. This uniquely Yugoslav war trauma—‘partisan hysteria’—was diagnosed exclusively in Communist resistance soldiers—partisans—and did not manifest itself in the form of battle exhaustion or anxiety, as was the case in other armies. Rather, it demonstrated a heightened willingness to fight, and consisted of simulations of wartime battles. Yugoslav psychiatrists argued that ‘partisan hysteria’ most frequently affected uneducated and immature partisans, who were given important political responsibilities but experienced severe trauma due to their own inadequacy. I argue that ‘partisan hysteria’ served as an opportunity for upper-middle-class psychiatric professionals to criticise the increasing upward social mobility after the socialist revolution of 1945. Surprisingly, this touched upon an issue that had already provoked deep disquiet within the Communist Party, and resonated with the Party’s own concerns regarding social mobility.
The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines
Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544,* 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ (map)
Wednesday 14 November
Professor Ramón del Castillo (Universdad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid), “Madness and rules: A case for Wittgenstein.” The abstract reads,
This talk explores Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology through exploring his work on comedy, tragedy, jokes and humour, showing the connection between his understanding of these and his conception of philosophy. Wittgenstein one said that a serious and philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes. His philosophical work was serious and included some jokes. However he was not a good joker, and his perception of social life was as limited as his sense of humour. It argues that Wittgenstein’s later ideas on rules and language-games are better understood if we think in terms of different types of jokes. It explains the diverse types of what Wittgenstein called ‘gramatical jokes’ (from the logical ones to the performative ones), and also indicates the relevance of certain types of humour in illuminating the background of linguistic games (using examples from sports and social acts).
Wednesday 21 November
Dr Maria Teresa Brancaccio (left) (Maastricht University), “War trauma in France and Italy (1920s-1980s).” The abstract reads,
In the twentieth century, medical-psychological theories on the health effects of war- related suffering as well as their social recognition presented large variations in different European countries. Focusing on the medical debates and on the diagnostic categories adopted in France and in Italy in the aftermaths of the two World Wars, the paper will investigate how changes in medical, social and political thinking influenced the understanding of war trauma in the two countries.