Bonds of time and space: Divination and the psychiatric encounter

A piece forthcoming in a special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, and now online, will interest AHP readers: “Bonds of time and space: Divination and the psychiatric encounter,” by Emily Baum. Abstract:

This essay examines the intersections between divination and psychiatry in the context of modern Chinese history. Throughout the 20th century, subsequent political regimes attempted to drive an ontological wedge between psychiatry, which was deemed scientific, and divination, which was deemed superstitious. While the dichotomy between science and superstition remains a powerful ideology today, it belies the use of divination as a psychotherapeutic tool. Occult practices such as fortune telling and shamanism complement the application of technical psychiatric skills by serving a crucial moral and interpersonal function, one that has important implications for the practice of mental healthcare both within and beyond Asia.

Listening Like a Computer: Attentional Tensions and Mechanized Care in Psychiatric Digital Phenotyping

A new piece in Science, Technology, and Human Values may interest AHP readers: “Listening Like a Computer: Attentional Tensions and Mechanized Care in Psychiatric Digital Phenotyping,” by Beth M. Semel. Abstract:

This article explores negotiations over the humanistic versus mechanized components of care through an ethnographic account of digital phenotyping research. I focus on a US-based team of psychiatric and engineering professionals assembling a smartphone application that they hope will analyze minute changes in the sounds of speech during phone calls to predict when a user with bipolar disorder will have a manic or depressive episode. Contrary to conventional depictions of psychiatry as essentially humanistic, the discourse surrounding digital phenotyping positions the machine as a necessary addition to mental health care precisely because of its more-than-human sensory, attentional capacities. The bipolar research team likewise portrays their app as capable of pinpointing sonic signs of mental illness that humans, too distracted by semantic meaning, otherwise ignore. Nevertheless, the team members tasked with processing the team’s data (audio recordings of human research subject speech) must craft and perform a selectively attentive machinic subject position, which they call “listening like a computer”: a paradoxical mode of attention (to speech sound) and inattention (to speech meaning). By tracing the team’s discursive and on-the-ground enactments of care and attention as both humanistic and machinic, I tune a critical ear to the posthuman promises of digital phenotyping.

Speaking of Psychology Podcast Episode: The history of LGBTQ psychology from Stonewall to now, with Peter Hegarty

A recent episode of the American Psychological Association podcast Speaking of Psychology features historian of psychology Peter Hegarty on “The history of LGBTQ psychology from Stonewall to now.” The episode is described as follows:

Over the past decades, the focus of LGBTQ activism has shifted and evolved, from the AIDS crisis in the 1980s to the fight for marriage equality to the focus on transgender rights today. Peter Hegarty, PhD, author of the book “A Recent History of Lesbian and Gay Psychology: From Homophobia to LGBT,” discusses how psychological research has reflected and responded to these changes, how it has helped move the needle in the fight for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. court system, and his own research on auditory gaydar and continuing discrimination against LGBTQ people.

A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication

A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication by Michael Friendly and Howard Wainer may interest AHP readers. The book was also recently featured in the New Yorker. As described by the publisher, the book is

A comprehensive history of data visualization—its origins, rise, and effects on the ways we think about and solve problems.

With complex information everywhere, graphics have become indispensable to our daily lives. Navigation apps show real-time, interactive traffic data. A color-coded map of exit polls details election balloting down to the county level. Charts communicate stock market trends, government spending, and the dangers of epidemics. A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication tells the story of how graphics left the exclusive confines of scientific research and became ubiquitous. As data visualization spread, it changed the way we think.

Michael Friendly and Howard Wainer take us back to the beginnings of graphic communication in the mid-seventeenth century, when the Dutch cartographer Michael Florent van Langren created the first chart of statistical data, which showed estimates of the distance from Rome to Toledo. By 1786 William Playfair had invented the line graph and bar chart to explain trade imports and exports. In the nineteenth century, the “golden age” of data display, graphics found new uses in tracking disease outbreaks and understanding social issues. Friendly and Wainer make the case that the explosion in graphical communication both reinforced and was advanced by a cognitive revolution: visual thinking. Across disciplines, people realized that information could be conveyed more effectively by visual displays than by words or tables of numbers.

Through stories and illustrations, A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication details the 400-year evolution of an intellectual framework that has become essential to both science and society at large.

Histories of Sexology: Between Science and Politics

AHP readers may be interested in the soon-to-be-published edited book Histories of Sexology: Between Science and Politics. Edited by Alain Giami and Sharman Levinson, the book is described as follows:

Histories of Sexology: Between Science and Politics takes an interdisciplinary and reflexive approach to the historiography of sexology. Drawing on an intellectual history perspective informed by recent developments in science and technology studies and political history of science, this book examines specific social, cultural, intellectual, scientific and political contexts that have given shape to theories of sexuality, but also to practices in medicine, psychology, education and sexology. Furthermore, it explores various ways that theories of sexuality have both informed and been produced by sexologies—as scientific and clinical discourses about sex—in Western countries since the 19th century.

The Algorithms of Mindfulness by Johannes Bruder

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in Science, Technology, and Human Values: “The Algorithms of Mindfulness,” by Johannes Bruder. Abstract:

This paper analyzes notions and models of optimized cognition emerging at the intersections of psychology, neuroscience, and computing. What I somewhat polemically call the algorithms of mindfulness describes an ideal that determines algorithmic techniques of the self, geared at emotional resilience and creative cognition. A reframing of rest, exemplified in corporate mindfulness programs and the design of experimental artificial neural networks sits at the heart of this process. Mindfulness trainings provide cues as to this reframing, for they detail each in their own way how intermittent periods of rest are to be recruited to augment our cognitive capacities and combat the effects of stress and information overload. They typically rely on and co-opt neuroscience knowledge about what the brains of North Americans and Europeans do when we rest. Current designs for artificial neural networks draw on the same neuroscience research and incorporate coarse principles of cognition in brains to make machine learning systems more resilient and creative. These algorithmic techniques are primarily conceived to prevent psychopathologies where stress is considered the driving force of success. Against this backdrop, I ask how machine learning systems could be employed to unsettle the concept of pathological cognition itself.

New Series on PBS: Mysteries of Mental Illness

AHP readers may be interested in a new series airing on PBS in the United States starting tonight, June 22nd:

Mysteries of Mental Illness explores the story of mental illness in science and society, tracing the evolution of this complex topic from its earliest days to present times. The four-part series examines the dramatic attempts across generations to unravel the mysteries of mental illness and give voice to contemporary Americans across a spectrum of experiences.

An Olympic boxer struggling with OCD… a Harlem pastor wrestling with depression… a transgender lawyer recovering from years of self-loathing… a young activist coming to terms with her schizophrenia… Around one in four people suffer from mental illness. Yet a diagnosis of a mental disorder still carries a stigma that a heart condition or other physical ailment doesn’t, largely because mental illness has been so poorly understood for so long. 

The landmark series Mysteries of Mental Illness places the stories of those living with mental illness today in a broader historic, scientific, and social context. The series traces how our understanding of mental illness has evolved from an ancient conception of spiritual affliction to the latest 21st century neurobiological breakthroughs. 

At a time when mental health has been thrust to the fore by Covid 19, Mysteries of Mental Illness provides an invaluable framework to create deeper national understanding and dialogue

The series is accompanied by a series of short videos and web resources that may also be of interest.

Psychedelic psychodrama: Raising and expanding consciousness in Jane Arden’s The Other Side of the Underneath (1973)

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in History of the Human Sciences: “Psychedelic psychodrama: Raising and expanding consciousness in Jane Arden’s The Other Side of the Underneath (1973),” by Sophia Satchell-Baeza. Abstract:

Jane Arden’s debut feature film The Other Side of the Underneath (1973) is an adaptation of the radical feminist play A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches (1971). In both the play and the later film, the all-female cast re-enact personal and archetypal situations using autobiographical material, which was collectively gathered from group therapy sessions led by the director. Psychedelic drugs were also consumed during the group therapy sessions. In this article, I will situate Arden’s distinct approach to performance in the film within the framework of psychodrama, focusing specifically on the role that psychedelic drugs play in unleashing performers’ repressed feelings of trauma, rage, and desire; these emotions are harnessed into a dynamic mode of performance that amplifies the cathartic possibilities of women’s speech. The film’s heady brew of radical feminist politics, group therapy, and countercultural self-actualisation is both challenging and contentious. I argue that Arden’s pursuit of consciousness liberation through psychodrama and psychedelics—in other words, through ‘raising’ and ‘expanding’ consciousness—is best understood as a concerted attempt to align countercultural and radical feminist tactics for unravelling repressive forms of social conditioning.

CCHP Film Night, June 17th: 1943 U.S. Air Force film “Cadet Classification,” narrated by Ronald Reagan

A free film night this Thursday, June 17th hosted by the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology will be of interest to AHP readers. As CCHP announced:

To celebrate this year’s virtual meeting of Cheiron: The International Society for the History of Behavioral & Social Sciences, the CCHP will be hosting a Virtual Film Night this Thursday, June 17th at 5:00pm ET.

Join us live on our YouTube channel for a screening of the 1943 U.S. Air Force film “Cadet Classification,” narrated by then-lieutenant Ronald Reagan. CCHP Assistant Director Dr. Jennifer Bazar and Archives Assistant Tony Pankuch will introduce the film and present original World War II artifacts and documents from the Archives of the History of American Psychology. Viewers can take part in a Q&A session during & after the film via live chat. You can access the live screening here:

Conference: Madness, Media, Milieus. Félix Guattari in Context. June 17, 18, and 21, 2021

AHP readers may be interested in the conference “Madness, Media, Milieus. Félix Guattari in Context” taking place this week and next. Full details below.

Organized by Henning SchmidgenMathias SchönherElena Vogman

With Andrew Goffey, Angela Melitopoulos, Marlon Miguel, François Pain, Peter Pál Pelbart, Anne Querrien, and Anne Sauvagnargues

This conference explores Félix Guattari’s (1930–1992) multifaceted oeuvre as largely informed by his many years of active work at the psychiatric clinic of La Borde. Guattari’s therapeutic experiments with media – such as typewriters, film, and audio recordings, his cooperation with artists and architects, and the publication of newspapers and books decisively shaped the machine-thought that he would later develop, most predominantly in collaboration with philosopher Gilles Deleuze. While Guattari expanded Institutional Psychotherapy and its umwelt-theoretical concepts into a theory and praxis of transversality, the concept of the machine moved into the center of his thought.

In contradistinction to conventionally understood ‘technical objects‘, Guattari’s concept of the machine denotes a concatenation of heterogenous components traversed by a capacity, a desire, a surplus. What role do Guattari’s psychiatric practices play in the genesis of this machinic vitalism? How do desiring-machines transform the traditional understanding of the psyche? In which way do they undermine dichotomies such as aesthetics vs. politics, individual vs. collective, subject vs. object? Finally, how do Guattari’s experimental interventions at the interface of politics and psychiatry open perspectives on present problems such as artificial intelligence, behavioral tracking, or digital cultures?

This conference is the opening event of the research project »Madness, Media, Milieus. Reconfiguring the Humanities in Postwar Europe« directed by Elena Vogman. It argues that media form and transform our milieus, from geopolitical landscapes to our most intimate environs. The project studies a series of media and milieu practices developed in different settings of Institutional Psychotherapy since the 1940s. It examines efforts to produce environments, institutions, and milieus that would facilitate processes of psychological therapy and healing, in particular by psychiatrists and activists such as François Tosquelles, Jean Oury, Fernand Deligny, Frantz Fanon and Félix Guattari.

Drawing on newly discovered archives, the project explores the fundamental role of art and media which crucially contributed to the emergence of psychiatric milieus. At the same time, it investigates the productive repercussions of these media-milieu practices in critical humanities discourses. The project argues that these practices had a crucial impact on the humanities in postwar Europe, in particular post-structuralism and post-colonial studies, but also media theory, film studies, and science and technology studies. Media mold and modify milieus: This is the general hypothesis that will be reflected in four individual sub-projects carried out by historians of art, science, and technology, culminating in a joint exhibit presenting largely unseen texts, images, and films.


Thursday, 17 June 2021

5:00 – 5:15 pmIntroduction and Welcome by Marlon Miguel, Henning Schmidgen
and Elena Vogman
5:15 – 5:45 pmAnne Querrien: Machines of Care
5:45 – 6:10 pmDiscussion
6:10 – 6:20 pmBreak
6:20 – 7:00 pmFrançois Pain: From One Machine to Another (screening and comment)
7:00 – 7:30 pmConversation between Anne Querrien and François Pain and Discussion

Friday, 18 June 2021 

5:00 – 5:30 pmHenning Schmidgen: Guattari’s Architectures
5:30 – 5:50 pmDiscussion
5:50 – 6:00 pmBreak
6:00 – 6:30 pmAndrew Goffey: Patric Subjectivation and Machinic Environment
6:30 – 6:50 pmDiscussion

Monday, 21 June 2021

5:00 – 5:30 pmAngela Melitopoulos: Machinic Animism and
the Revolutionary Practice of Geo-Psychiatry (based
on the audio-visual research Assemblages, 2010, and Matri LInear B, 2021)
5:30 – 5:50 pmDiscussion
5:50 – 6:00 pmBreak
6:00 – 6:30 pm Peter Paul Pelbart: De L’Atmosphère
6:30 – 6:50 pmDiscussion
6:50 – 7:00 pmBreak
7:00 – 7:30 pmAnne Sauvagnargues: tba.
7:30 – 7:50 pmDiscussion
7:50 – 8:00 pmConcluding Remarks by Mathias Schönher

» Schedule for download

»Madness, Media, Milieus. Reconfiguring the Humanities in Postwar Europe« is sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation and has its permanent basis at the Faculty of Media, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

All updates on the workshop and more information on the research project can be found on the website:

[Zoom links are available via request. Please register by email: felix.brieden[at]]