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.
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.
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.
AHP readers may be interested in a recent book on the history of addiction. The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business by David T. Courtwright. Courtwright was also just interviewed by Lucas Richert on a recent episode of the New Books Network podcast series.
The book is described as follows:
We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. Sugar can be as habit-forming as cocaine, researchers tell us, and social media apps are hooking our kids. But what can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the history and character of the global enterprises that create and cater to our bad habits.
The Age of Addiction chronicles the triumph of what Courtwright calls “limbic capitalism,” the growing network of competitive businesses targeting the brain pathways responsible for feeling, motivation, and long-term memory. We see its success in Purdue Pharma’s pain pills, in McDonald’s engineered burgers, and in Tencent video games from China. All capitalize on the ancient quest to discover, cultivate, and refine new and habituating pleasures. The business of satisfying desire assumed a more sinister aspect with the rise of long-distance trade, plantation slavery, anonymous cities, large corporations, and sophisticated marketing. Multinational industries, often with the help of complicit governments and criminal organizations, have multiplied and cheapened seductive forms of brain reward, from junk food to pornography. The internet has brought new addictions: in 2018, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its International Classification of Diseases.
Courtwright holds out hope that limbic capitalism can be contained by organized opposition from across the political spectrum. Progressives, nationalists, and traditionalists have made common cause against the purveyors of addiction before. They could do it again.
AHP readers may be interested in a recently published book from science writer Lone Frank: “The Pleasure Shock: The Rise of Deep Brain Stimulation and Its Forgotten Inventor.” The book is described by its publisher as follows:
The technology invented by psychiatrist Robert G. Heath in the 1950s and ’60s has been described as among the most controversial experiments in US history. His work was alleged at the time to be part of MKUltra, the CIA’s notorious “mind control” project. His research subjects included incarcerated convicts and gay men who wished to be “cured” of their sexual preference. Yet his cutting-edge research and legacy were quickly buried deep in Tulane University’s archives. Investigative science journalist Lone Frank now tells the complete sage of this passionate, determined doctor and his groundbreaking neuroscience.
More than fifty years after Heath’s experiments, this very same treatment is becoming mainstream practice in modern psychiatry for everything from schizophrenia, anorexia, and compulsive behavior to depression, Parkinson’s, and even substance addiction.
Lone Frank uncovered lost documents and accounts of Heath’s trailblazing work. She tracked down surviving colleagues and patients, and she delved into the current support for deep brain stimulation by scientists and patients alike. What has changed? Why do we today unquestioningly embrace this technology as a cure? How do we decide what is a disease of the brain to be cured and what should be allowed to remain unrobed and unprodded? And how do we weigh the decades of criticism against the promise of treatment that could be offered to millions of patients?
Elegantly written and deeply fascinating, The Pleasure Shock weaves together biography, scientific history, and medical ethics. It is an adventure into our ever-shifting views of the mind and the fateful power we wield when we tinker with the self.
AHP readers interested in the history of childhood and mental health will be interested in a new book from the University of Chicago Press. Deborah Blythe Doroshow’s Emotionally Disturbed: A History of Caring for America’s Troubled Children is described as follows:
Before the 1940s, children in the United States with severe emotional difficulties would have had few options for care. The first option was usually a child guidance clinic within the community, but they might also have been placed in a state mental hospital or asylum, an institution for the so-called feebleminded, or a training school for delinquent children. Starting in the 1930s, however, more specialized institutions began to open all over the country. Staff members at these residential treatment centers shared a commitment to helping children who could not be managed at home. They adopted an integrated approach to treatment, employing talk therapy, schooling, and other activities in the context of a therapeutic environment.
Emotionally Disturbed is the first work to examine not only the history of residential treatment but also the history of seriously mentally ill children in the United States. As residential treatment centers emerged as new spaces with a fresh therapeutic perspective, a new kind of person became visible—the emotionally disturbed child. Residential treatment centers and the people who worked there built physical and conceptual structures that identified a population of children who were alike in distinctive ways. Emotional disturbance became a diagnosis, a policy problem, and a statement about the troubled state of postwar society. But in the late twentieth century, Americans went from pouring private and public funds into the care of troubled children to abandoning them almost completely. Charting the decline of residential treatment centers in favor of domestic care–based models in the 1980s and 1990s, this history is a must-read for those wishing to understand how our current child mental health system came to be.
A new book available from MIT Press may interest AHP readers: Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture by Lucas Richert. The book is described as:
“Antipsychiatry,” Esalen, psychedelics, and DSM III: Radical challenges to psychiatry and the conventional treatment of mental health in the 1970s.
The upheavals of the 1960s gave way to a decade of disruptions in the 1970s, and among the rattled fixtures of American society was mainstream psychiatry. A “Radical Caucus” formed within the psychiatric profession and the “antipsychiatry” movement arose. Critics charged that the mental health establishment was complicit with the military-industrial complex, patients were released from mental institutions, and powerful antipsychotic drugs became available. Meanwhile, practitioners and patients experimented with new approaches to mental health, from primal screaming and the therapeutic use of psychedelics to a new reliance on quantification. In Break on Through, Lucas Richert investigates the radical challenges to psychiatry and to the conventional treatment of mental health that emerged in the 1970s and the lessons they offer for current debates.
Drawing on archives and government documents, medical journals, and interviews, and interweaving references to pop (counter)culture into his account, Richert offers fascinating stories of the decade’s radical mental health practices. He discusses anti–Vietnam War activism and the new diagnosis of post–traumatic stress disorder given to some veterans; the radical psychiatrists who fought the system (and each other); the entry of New Age–style therapies, including Esalen’s Human Potential Movement, into the laissez-faire therapeutic marketplace of the 1970s; the development of DSM III; and the use of LSD, cannabis, and MDMA.
Many of these issues have resonance today. Debates over medical marijuana and microdoses of psychedelics echo debates of the 1970s. With rising rates of such disorders as anxiety and depression, practitioners and patients continue to search for therapeutic breakthroughs.
AHP readers may be interested in Tomas Matza’s recent book Shock Therapy: Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia. Somatosphere is also featuring a book forum on Shock Therapy, with several featured commentaries.
Shock Therapy is described by the publishers as follows:
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia witnessed a dramatic increase in psychotherapeutic options, which promoted social connection while advancing new forms of capitalist subjectivity amid often-wrenching social and economic transformations. In Shock Therapy Tomas Matza provides an ethnography of post-Soviet Saint Petersburg, following psychotherapists, psychologists, and their clients as they navigate the challenges of post-Soviet life. Juxtaposing personal growth and success seminars for elites with crisis counseling and remedial interventions for those on public assistance, Matza shows how profound inequalities are emerging in contemporary Russia in increasingly intimate ways as matters of selfhood. Extending anthropologies of neoliberalism and care in new directions, Matza offers a profound meditation on the interplay between ethics, therapy, and biopolitics, as well as a sensitive portrait of everyday caring practices in the face of the confounding promise of postsocialist democracy.
Lucas Richert’s recently released Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs may be of interest to AHP readers. Richert’s book is described as follows:
Drugs take strange journeys from the black market to the doctor’s black bag. Changing marijuana laws in the United States and Canada, the opioid crisis, and the rising costs of pharmaceuticals have sharpened the public’s awareness of drugs and their regulation. Government, industry, and the medical profession, however, have a mixed record when it comes to framing policies and generating knowledge to address drug use and misuse.
In Strange Trips Lucas Richert investigates the myths, meanings, and boundaries of recreational drugs, palliative care drugs, and pharmaceuticals as well as struggles over product innovation, consumer protection, and freedom of choice in the medical marketplace. Scrutinizing how we have conceptualized and regulated drugs amid the pressing and competing interests of state regulatory bodies, pharmaceutical and for-profit companies, scientific researchers, and medical professionals, Richert asks how perceptions of a product shift – from dangerous substance to medical breakthrough, or vice versa. Through close examination of archival materials, accounts, and records, he brings substances into conversation with each other and demonstrates the contentious relationship between scientific knowledge, cultural assumptions, and social concerns.
Weaving together stories of consumer resistance and government control, Strange Trips offers timely recommendations for the future of drug regulation.