Category Archives: Books

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming book exploring David Rosenhan’s “On being sane in insane places.” Susannah Cahalan’s The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness will be released in November 2019. The book is described as follows:

For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness-how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people — sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society — went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry’s labels. Forced to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan’s watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever. 

But, as Cahalan’s explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?

Queer Ink: A Blotted History Towards Liberation

Forthcoming from Routledge is Katherine Hubbard’s Queer Ink: A Blotted History Towards Liberation. The book is described as follows:

This historical interdisciplinary book contextualises the Rorschach ink blot test and embeds it within feminist action and queer liberation.

What do you see when you look at an ink blot? The Rorschach ink blot test is one of the most famous psychological tests and it has a surprisingly queer history. In mapping this history, this book explores how this test, once used to detect and diagnose ‘homosexuality’, was later used by some psychologists and activists to fight for gay liberation. In this book the author uses the test in yet another way, as a lens through which we can reveal a queer feminist history of Psychology. By looking closely at the lives and work of some women psychologists and activists it becomes clear that their work was influenced by their own, often queer, lives. By tracing the lives and actions of women who used, were tested with, or influenced by, the Rorschach, a new kind of understanding of gay and lesbian history in Britain is revealed.

Pushing at the borders between Psychology, Sociology, and activism, the book utilises the Rorschach to show how influential the social world is on scientific practice. This is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the history of sexuality and Psychology.

An Impossible Inheritance: Postcolonial Psychiatry and the Work of Memory in a West African Clinic

AHP readers may be interested in a new book from anthropologist Katie Kilroy-Marac An Impossible Inheritance: Postcolonial Psychiatry and the Work of Memory in a West African Clinic. As described by the publisher:

Weaving sound historical research with rich ethnographic insight, An Impossible Inheritance tells the story of the emergence, disavowal, and afterlife of a distinctive project in transcultural psychiatry initiated at the Fann Psychiatric Clinic in Dakar, Senegal during the 1960s and 1970s. Today’s clinic remains haunted by its past and Katie Kilroy-Marac brilliantly examines the complex forms of memory work undertaken by its affiliates over a sixty year period. Through stories such as that of the the ghost said to roam the clinic’s halls, the mysterious death of a young doctor sometimes attributed to witchcraft, and the spirit possession ceremonies that may have taken place in Fann’s courtyard, Kilroy-Marac argues that memory work is always an act of the imagination and a moral practice with unexpected temporal, affective, and political dimensions. By exploring how accounts about the Fann Psychiatric Clinic and its past speak to larger narratives of postcolonial and neoliberal transformation, An Impossible Inheritance examines the complex relationship between memory, history, and power within the institution and beyond.

Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815-1920

A new book describing the global history of phrenology may interest AHP readers. Materials of the Mind: Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815-1920 by James Poskett is described as follows:

Phrenology was the most popular mental science of the Victorian age. From American senators to Indian social reformers, this new mental science found supporters around the globe. Materials of the Mind tells the story of how phrenology changed the world—and how the world changed phrenology.
 
This is a story of skulls from the Arctic, plaster casts from Haiti, books from Bengal, and letters from the Pacific. Drawing on far-flung museum and archival collections, and addressing sources in six different languages, Materials of the Mind is an impressively innovative account of science in the nineteenth century as part of global history. It shows how the circulation of material culture underpinned the emergence of a new materialist philosophy of the mind, while also demonstrating how a global approach to history can help us reassess issues such as race, technology, and politics today.

On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing

AHP readers may be interested in a new book from University of Chicago Press: On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing by Owen Whooley. The book is described as follows:

Psychiatry has always aimed to peer deep into the human mind, daring to cast light on its darkest corners and untangle its thorniest knots, often invoking the latest medical science in doing so. But, as Owen Whooley’s sweeping new book tells us, the history of American psychiatry is really a record of ignorance. On the Heels of Ignorance begins with psychiatry’s formal inception in the 1840s and moves through two centuries of constant struggle simply to define and redefine mental illness, to say nothing of the best way to treat it. Whooley’s book is no antipsychiatric screed, however; instead, he reveals a field that has muddled through periodic reinventions and conflicting agendas of curiosity, compassion, and professional striving. On the Heels of Ignorance draws from intellectual history and the sociology of professions to portray an ongoing human effort to make sense of complex mental phenomena using an imperfect set of tools, with sometimes tragic results.