Category Archives: General

December 2019 issue of History of Psychiatry

The December 2019 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below:

“Women neuropsychiatrists on Wagner-Jauregg’s staff in Vienna at the time of the Nobel award: ordeal and fortitude,” Lazaros C Triarhou. Abstract:

This article profiles the scientific lives of six women physicians on the staff of the Clinic of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna in 1927, the year when its Director, Julius Wagner-Jauregg, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. They were all of Jewish descent and had to leave Austria in the 1930s to escape from the National Socialist regime. With a solid background in brain science and mental disorders, Alexandra Adler, Edith Klemperer, Annie Reich, Lydia Sicher and Edith Vincze pursued academic careers in the USA, while Fanny Halpern spent 18 years in Shanghai, where she laid the foundations of modern Chinese psychiatry, before going to Canada. At the dawn of their medical careers, they were among the first women to practise neurology and psychiatry, both in Austria and overseas.

“The invisible woman: Susan Carnegie and Montrose Lunatic Asylum,” by Sharlene D Walbaum. Abstract:

In 1779, Susan Carnegie (1743–1821) persuaded the Town Council of Montrose, Scotland, to build a safe haven for those suffering from both poverty and mental illness. As a result, Montrose Lunatic Asylum became not only the first public asylum in Scotland, but among the first in the English-speaking world. Carnegie – born 175 years before women could vote – championed a humane and science-based response to mental illness. Montrose Asylum practised moral treatment a decade before Tuke and Pinel. As a champion of the new mental science, her enduring influence resulted in the hiring of the young W.A.F. Browne. Her story enriches the current wave of scholarship on Scottish psychiatry in particular, and on women in psychiatry in general.

“Humane treatment versus means of control: coercive measures in Norwegian high-security psychiatry, 1895–1978,” by Magne Brekke Rabben, Øyvind Thomassen. Abstract:

This article analyses the use of coercive measures in two national institutions for high-security psychiatry in Norway – Kriminalasylet (Criminal Asylum) and Reitgjerdet – during the period 1895–1978. Historical study of coercion in psychiatry is a fruitful approach to new insight into the moral and ethical considerations within the institutions. We approach the topic through a qualitative study of patient case files and ward reports from the institutions’ archives, as well as a comprehensive quantification of the coercive measures used. The data show shifting considerations of humane treatment and changes in the respect for human dignity in the institutions’ practices. They also show that technological developments, such as the introduction of new psychopharmaceuticals, did not necessarily lead to higher standards of treatment.

“Neurasthenia, psy sciences and the ‘great leap forward’ in Maoist China,” by Wen-Ji Wang. Abstract:

The present study looks into the much-neglected history of neurasthenia in Maoist China in relation to the development of psy sciences. It begins with an examination of the various factors that transformed neurasthenia into a major health issue from the late 1950s to mid-1960s. It then investigates a distinctive culture of therapeutic experiment of neurasthenia during this period, with emphasis on the ways in which psy scientists and medical practitioners manoeuvred in a highly politicized environment. The study concludes with a discussion of the legacy of these neurasthenia studies – in particular, the experiment with the famous ‘speedy and synthetic therapy’ – and of the implications the present study may have for future historical study of psychiatry and science.

“‘Am I mad?’: the Windham case and Victorian resistance to psychiatry,” by Dan Degerman. Abstract:

This article revisits the notorious trial of William Windham, a wealthy young man accused of lunacy. The trial in 1861–2 saw the country’s foremost experts on psychological medicine very publicly debate the concepts, symptoms and diagnosis of insanity. I begin by surveying the trial and the testimonies of medical experts. Their disparate assessments of Windham evoked heated reactions in the press and Parliament; these reactions are the focus of the second section. I then proceed to examine criticism of psychiatry in the newspapers more generally in the 1860s, outlining the political resistance to psychiatry and the responses of some leading psychiatrists. In conclusion, I consider what this says about the politics of medicalization at the time.

“Rape of the lock: note on nineteenth-century hair fetishists,” by Diederik F Janssen. Abstract:

The ostensibly bizarre crime of braid-cutting invited occasional alienist inferences from the late 1850s onwards, until it entered mid-1880s police profiles and forensic-psychiatric taxonomies as a corollary of perversion, specifically sadism and fetishism. Cases were rare, but were reported as late as the mid-1930s and enduringly cited as encompassing a staple variety of fetishism. This note briefly reconstructs entries in German, French and English forensic psychiatry, sexual psychopathology and psychoanalysis.

“Madness, Medicine and Miracle in Twelfth-Century England,” by Claire Trenery. Abstract:

This monograph provides a fresh perspective on how madness was defined and diagnosed as a condition of the mind in the Middle Ages and what effects it was thought to have on sufferers. Records of miracles that were believed to have been performed by saints reveal details of illnesses and injuries that afflicted medieval people. In the twelfth century, such records became increasingly medicalized and naturalized as the monks who recorded them gained access to Greek and Arabic medical material, newly translated into Latin. Nonetheless, by exploring nuances and patterns across the cults of five English saints, this book shows that hagiographical representations of madness were shaped as much by the individual circumstances of their recording as they were by new medical and theological standards.

Psychiatry and Its Discontents

A new book from Andrew Scull may interest AHP readers. Psychiatry and Its Discontents is described by the publisher:

Written by one of the world’s most distinguished historians of psychiatry, Psychiatry and Its Discontents provides a wide-ranging and critical perspective on the profession that dominates the treatment of mental illness. Andrew Scull traces the rise of the field, the midcentury hegemony of psychoanalytic methods, and the paradigm’s decline with the ascendance of biological and pharmaceutical approaches to mental illness. The book’s historical sweep is broad, ranging from the age of the asylum to the rise of psychopharmacology and the dubious triumphs of “community care.” The essays in Psychiatry and Its Discontents provide a vivid and compelling portrait of the recurring crises of legitimacy experienced by “mad-doctors,” as psychiatrists were once called, and illustrates the impact of psychiatry’s ideas and interventions on the lives of those afflicted with mental illness.

Healthy Minds in the Twentieth Century: In and Beyond the Asylum

A new open-access edited volume may interest AHP readers. Healthy Minds in the Twentieth Century: In and Beyond the Asylum is described as follows:

This open access edited collection contributes a new dimension to the study of mental health and psychiatry in the twentieth century. It takes the present literature beyond the ‘asylum and after’ paradigm to explore the multitude of spaces that have been permeated by concerns about mental well-being and illness. The chapters in this volume consciously attempt to break down institutional walls and consider mental health through the lenses of institutions, policy, nomenclature, art, lived experience, and popular culture. The book adopts an international scope covering the historical experiences of Britain, Ireland, and North America. In accordance with this broad approach, contributions to the volume span academic fields such as history, arts, literary studies, sociology, and psychology, mirroring the diversity of the subject matter.

The full book can be found online here.

William Frédéric Edwards and the study of human races in France, from the Restoration to the July Monarchy

William Frédéric Edwards. Engraving after David D’Angers. Wellcome Collection.

A forthcoming article in History of Science will be of interest to AHP readers: “William Frédéric Edwards and the study of human races in France, from the Restoration to the July Monarchy” by Ian B. Stewart. Abstract:

Scholars of the nineteenth-century race sciences have tended to identify the period from c.1820–c.1850 as a phase of transition from philologically to physically focused study. In France, the physiologist William Frédéric Edwards (1776–1842) is normally placed near the center of this transformation. A reconsideration of Edwards’ oeuvre in the context of his larger biography shows that it is impossible to see a clear-cut philological to physical “paradigm shift.” Although he has been remembered almost solely for his principle of the permanency of physical “types,” Edwards was also committed to what he recognized as the new science of “linguistique” and proposed a new branch of comparative philology based on pronunciation. Bearing Edwards’ attention to linguistics in mind, this article reconstructs his racial theories in their intellectual contexts and suggests that at a time of emergent disciplinary specialization, Edwards tried to hold discrete fields together and mold them into a new “natural history of man.”

December 2019 issue of History of the Human Sciences

The December 2019 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Behind the Rhodes statue: Black competency and the imperial academy,” by Robbie Shilliam. Abstract:

Recent criticisms of the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) Oxford campaign have problematized the presence of Black bodies within British higher education by reference to an ideal image of the impartial and discerning academy. In this article, I historically and intellectually contextualize the apprehension, expressed in the debates over RMF Oxford, that an intimate Black presence destabilizes the ethos of higher education. Specifically, I argue that much more than Rhodes’ statue implicates the British academy in the Empire’s southern African interests. I excavate a genealogy of academic debates regarding the effects of an increased proximity of Black presence to empire’s white spaces. These debates were initiated by social anthropologists in the interwar years primarily (albeit not solely) with regards to studies of southern Africa’s urbanizing spaces. What is more, such debates were highly influential to the study of ‘race relations’ in Britain’s postwar era of Commonwealth immigration. Critically, all these debates problematized the cognitive competency of African/Black peoples to inhabit white cultural spaces – including the academy – in ways that were not destabilizing of imperial order. Current campus campaigns such as RMF should not be evaluated against an ideal image of the academy. Rather, they form part of a continued confrontation with the afterlives of academic dispositions that were implicated in the imperial project that Rhodes was integral to.

“Voices off: Stanley Milgram’s cyranoids in historical context,” by Marcia Holmes, Daniel Pick. Abstract:

This article revisits a forgotten, late project by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram: the ‘cyranoid’ studies he conducted from 1977 to 1984. These investigations, inspired by the play Cyrano de Bergerac, explored how individuals often fail to notice when others do not speak their own thoughts, but instead relay messages from a hidden source. We situate these experiments amidst the intellectual, cultural, and political concerns of late Cold War America, and show how Milgram’s studies pulled together a variety of ideas, anxieties, and interests that were prevalent at that time and have returned in new guises since. In discussing the cyranoid project’s background and afterlife, we argue that its strikingly equivocal quality has lent itself to multiple reinterpretations by historians, psychologists, performers, artists, and others. Our purpose is neither to champion Milgram’s work nor to amplify the critiques already made of his methods. Rather, it is to consider the uncertain, allusive, and elusive aspects of the cyranoid project, and to seek to place that project in context, whilst asking where ‘context’ might end. We show how the experiments’ range of meanings, in different temporal registers, far exceeded the explanatory rubric that Milgram and his intellectual critics provided at that time, and ponder the risk for the historian of making anachronistic or teleological assumptions. In short, we argue, cyranoids invite our open-ended exploration of ‘voices offstage’ in social and psychological relations, and offer a useful tool for thinking about historical context and the nature of historical interpretations.

“Pornography addiction: The fabrication of a transient sexual disease,” by Kris Taylor. Abstract:

While pornography addiction currently circulates as a comprehensible, diagnosable, and describable way to make sense of some people’s ostensibly problematic relationship with pornography, such a comprehensive description of this relationship has only recently been made possible. The current analysis makes visible pornography addiction as situated within a varied history of concerns about pornography, masturbation, fantasy, and technology in an effort to bring to bear a conceptual critique of the modern concept of pornography addiction. Such a critique in turn works to offer an alternative to treating the study of pornography addiction as the discovery of a new disease, instead conceiving it as the propagation of old forms of knowledge under a new moniker.

“On ‘modified human agents’: John Lilly and the paranoid style in American neuroscience,” Charlie Williams. Abstract:

The personal papers of the neurophysiologist John C. Lilly at Stanford University hold a classified paper he wrote in the late 1950s on the behavioural modification and control of ‘human agents’. The paper provides an unnerving prognosis of the future application of Lilly’s research, then being carried out at the National Institute of Mental Health. Lilly claimed that the use of sensory isolation, electrostimulation of the brain, and the recording and mapping of brain activity could be used to gain ‘push-button’ control over motivation and behaviour. This research, wrote Lilly, could eventually lead to ‘master-slave controls directly of one brain over another’. The paper is an explicit example of Lilly’s preparedness to align his research towards Cold War military aims. It is not, however, the research for which Lilly is best known. During the 1960s and 1970s, Lilly developed cult status as a far-out guru of consciousness exploration, promoting the use of psychedelics and sensory isolation tanks. Lilly argued that, rather than being used as tools of brainwashing, these techniques could be employed by the individual to regain control of their own mind and retain a sense of agency over their thoughts and actions. This article examines the scientific, intellectual, and cultural relationship between the sciences of brainwashing and psychedelic mind alteration. Through an analysis of Lilly’s autobiographical writings, I also show how paranoid ideas about brainwashing and mind control provide an important lens for understanding the trajectory of Lilly’s research.

“Practice theory and conservative thought,” by Michael Strand. Abstract:

The concept of practice is thematically central to modern conservative thought, as evident in Edmund Burke’s writings on the aesthetic and his diatribe against the French Revolution. It is also the main organizing thread in the framework in the human sciences known as practice theory, which extends back at least to Karl Marx’s ‘Theses on Feuerbach’. This article historicizes ‘practice’ in conservative thought and practice theory, accounts for the family resemblance between the two, and takes apart that family resemblance to reveal differences. The ingredients of practice theory (historical inheritance, embodiment, cognitive limits, loose coupling between conscious thought and action) are in many cases also distinctive traits of conservative thought. But the similarity is deceptive. Practice theory and conservative thought constitute two distinct interpretations of practice, two disparate endeavours for connecting human science with political strategy, and two different formulas for opposing theory and practice. The present study will argue that this is primarily a political opposition for conservative thought, while it is a human-scientific opposition for practice theory. Conservative thought is initially political and then human-scientific; practice theory is initially human-scientific and then political. This article advocates for practice theory against conservative thought as differently amended versions of a politics that recognizes human finitude.

“‘Supposing that truth is a woman, what then?’: The lie detector, the love machine, and the logic of fantasy,” by Geoffrey C. Bunn. Abstract:

One of the consequences of the public outcry over the 1929 St Valentine’s Day massacre was the establishment of a Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory at Northwestern University. The photogenic ‘Lie Detector Man’, Leonarde Keeler, was the laboratory’s poster boy, and his instrument the jewel in the crown of forensic science. The press often depicted Keeler gazing at a female suspect attached to his ‘sweat box’, a galvanometer electrode in her hand, a sphygmomanometer cuff on her arm and a rubber pneumograph tube strapped across her breasts. Keeler’s fascination with the deceptive charms of the female body was one he shared with his fellow lie detector pioneers, all of whom met their wives – and in William Marston’s case, his mistress too – through their engagement with the instrument. Marston employed his own ‘Love Meter’, as the press dubbed it, to prove that ‘brunettes react far more violently to amatory stimuli than blondes’. In this article, I draw on the psychoanalytic concepts of fantasy and pleasure to argue that the female body played a pivotal role in establishing the lie detector’s reputation as an infallible and benign mechanical technology of truth.

“The ‘disabilitization’ of medicine: The emergence of Quality of Life as a space to interrogate the concept of the medical model,” by Arseli Dokumac?. Abstract:

This article presents an archaeological inquiry into the early histories of Quality of Life (QoL) measures, and takes this as an occasion to rethink the concept of the ‘medical model of disability’. Focusing on three instruments that set the ground for the emergence of QoL measures, namely, the Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS, 1948), and the classification of functional capacity as a diagnostic criterion for heart diseases (Bainton, 1928) and as a supplementary aid to therapeutic criteria in rheumatoid arthritis (Steinbrocker, Traeger, and Batterman, 1949) – I discuss how medicine, throughout the emergence of QoL, began to expand its gaze beyond the confines of the body to what that body does in daily life. Building upon Armstrong et al.’s notion of ‘distal symptoms’ (2007) and Wahlberg’s idea of ‘knowledge of living’ (2018), I propose the notion of disabilitization to encapsulate this expansion of the clinical gaze, through which medicine has come to articulate diseases and their treatments in new ways, and in so doing, has inadvertently created disability as a new kind of knowledge category in itself – a category that is defined not through its reduction to mere pathology, but through its dispersal into everyday life. I present this concept not as a periodization, but as a provocative discontinuity with the totalizing history assumed within the medical model of disability, and in so doing, ask what, in fact, holds ‘the medical model’ together, and whether there might be other ways of understanding medicine’s complex relationship to disability than what the concept of the medical model allows us to envisage.