Category Archives: Books

State of Madness: Psychiatry, Literature, and Dissent After Stalin

New from Northern Illinois University Press is State of Madness: Psychiatry, Literature, and Dissent After Stalin by Rebecca Reich. The book is described on the publisher’s website as follows:

What madness meant was a fiercely contested question in Soviet society. State of Madness examines the politically fraught collision between psychiatric and literary discourses in the years after Joseph Stalin’s death. State psychiatrists deployed set narratives of mental illness to pathologize dissenting politics and art. Dissidents such as Aleksandr Vol’pin, Vladimir Bukovskii, and Semen Gluzman responded by highlighting a pernicious overlap between those narratives and their life stories. The state, they suggested in their own psychiatrically themed texts, had crafted an idealized view of reality that itself resembled a pathological work of art. In their unsanctioned poetry and prose, the writers Joseph Brodsky, Andrei Siniavskii, and Venedikt Erofeev similarly engaged with psychiatric discourse to probe where creativity ended and insanity began. Together, these dissenters cast themselves as psychiatrists to a sick society.

By challenging psychiatry’s right to declare them or what they wrote insane, dissenters exposed as a self-serving fiction the state’s renewed claims to rationality and modernity in the post-Stalin years. They were, as they observed, like the child who breaks the spell of collective delusion in Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In a society where normality means insisting that the naked monarch is clothed, it is the truth-teller who is pathologized. Situating literature’s encounter with psychiatry at the center of a wider struggle over authority and power, this bold interdisciplinary study will appeal to literary specialists; historians of culture, science, and medicine; and scholars and students of the Soviet Union and its legacy for Russia today.

Brainwaves: A Cultural History of Electroencephalography

Another book to add to your to reading list! Cornelius Borck’s Brainwaves: A Cultural History of Electroencephalography was recently published by Routledge. The book is described as follows:

In the history of brain research, the prospect of visualizing brain processes has continually awakened great expectations. In this study, Cornelius Borck focuses on a recording technique developed by the German physiologist Hans Berger to register electric brain currents; a technique that was expected to allow the brain to write in its own language, and which would reveal the way the brain worked. Borck traces the numerous contradictory interpretations of electroencephalography, from Berger’s experiments and his publication of the first human EEG in 1929, to its international proliferation and consolidation as a clinical diagnostic method in the mid-twentieth century. Borck’s thesis is that the language of the brain takes on specific contours depending on the local investigative cultures, from whose conflicting views emerged a new scientific object: the electric brain.

Correspondance D’Alfred Binet: Archives Familiales (1883-1916)

Our day of new books continues with a new French-language volume of the correspondence of Alfred Binet. Edited and introduced by Alexandre Klein, Correspondance D’Alfred Binet: Archives familiales (1883-1916) is described as:

Cet ouvrage offre une immersion rare dans la vie quotidienne d’Alfred Binet à travers sa correspondance et de nombreuses photographies. Ce corpus inédit regroupant des lettres personnelles et professionnelles rédigées entre 1883 et 1915 permet d’aborder la figure de l’un des fondateurs de la psychologie scientifique sous un angle plus intime et personnel et de retracer la réception américaine de son oeuvre qui fut la source du succès mondial de son test d’intelligence.

[via Google Translate] This book offers a rare immersion in the daily life of Alfred Binet through his correspondence and many photographs. This unpublished corpus of personal and professional letters written between 1883 and 1915 makes it possible to approach the figure of one of the founders of scientific psychology from a more personal and personal angle and to trace the American reception of his work which was the source of the global success of his intelligence test.

The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave experiment Gina Perry

A new book from Gina Perry on the classic Robbers Cave study is forthcoming from Scribe. The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment is described as follows:

In 1954, a group of boys attended a remote summer camp where they were split into two groups, and encouraged to bully, harass, and demonise each other. The results would make history as one of social psychology’s classic — and most controversial — studies: the Robbers Cave experiment.

Conducted at the height of the Cold War, the experiment officially had a happy ending: the boys reconciled, and psychologist Muzafer Sherif demonstrated that while hatred and violence are powerful forces, so too are cooperation and harmony. Today it is proffered as proof that under the right conditions warring groups can make peace. Yet the true story of the experiments is far more complex, and more chilling.

In The Lost Boys, Gina Perry explores the experiment and its consequences, tracing the story of Sherif, a troubled outsider who struggled to craft an experiment that would vanquish his personal demons. Drawing on archival material and new interviews, Perry pieces together a story of drama, mutiny, and intrigue that has never been told before.

Forensic Psychology in Germany: Witnessing Crime, 1880-1939

A new book from Heather Wolffram on the history of forensic psychology in Germany will be of interest to AHP readers. Forensic Psychology in Germany: Witnessing Crime, 1880-1939 is described as follows:

This book examines the emergence and early development of forensic psychology in Germany from the late nineteenth century until the outbreak of the Second World War, highlighting the field’s interdisciplinary beginnings and contested evolution. Initially envisaged as a psychology of all those involved in criminal proceedings, this new discipline promised to move away from an exclusive focus on the criminal to provide a holistic view of how human fallibility impacted upon criminal justice. As this book argues, however, by the inter-war period, forensic psychology had largely become a psychology of the witness; its focus narrowed by the exigencies of the courtroom. Utilising detailed studies of the 1896 Berchtold trial and the 1930 Frenzel trial, the book asks whether the tensions between psychiatry, psychology, forensic medicine, pedagogy and law over psychological expertise were present in courtroom practice and considers why a clear winner in the “battle for forensic psychology” had yet to emerge by 1939.