The most recent issue of Social History of Medicine includes several articles of interest to AHP readers. Articles in this issue historicize Ian Hacking’s concepts via the example of Munchausen syndrome, describe the development of public health alcohol education in Britain, and explore psychopathy as social engineering in Finland. Full details below.
“Concepts, Diagnosis and the History of Medicine: Historicising Ian Hacking and Munchausen Syndrome,” by Chris Millard. Open Access. Abstract:
Concepts used by historians are as historical as the diagnoses or categories that are studied. The example of Munchausen syndrome (deceptive presentation of illness in order to adopt the ‘sick role’) is used to explore this. Like most psychiatric diagnoses, Munchausen syndrome is not thought applicable across time by social historians of medicine. It is historically specific, drawing upon twentieth-century anthropology and sociology to explain motivation through desire for the ‘sick role’. Ian Hacking’s concepts of ‘making up people’ and ‘looping effects’ are regularly utilised outside of the context in which they are formed. However, this context is precisely the same anthropological and sociological insight used to explain Munchausen syndrome. It remains correct to resist the projection of Munchausen syndrome into the past. However, it seems inconsistent to use Hacking’s concepts to describe identity formation before the twentieth century as they are given meaning by an identical context.
“‘Everybody Likes a Drink. Nobody Likes a Drunk’. Alcohol, Health Education and the Public in 1970s Britain,” by Alex Mold. Open Access. Abstract: Continue reading New Social History of Medicine: Historicizing Hacking’s Concepts, Psychopathy, & More
A call for papers has been issued for a research symposium on alcohol consumption across cultures that will take place at St. Anne’s College, Oxford at the end of June, 2016. Full details follow below.
Alcohol flows across cultures: Drinking cultures in transnational and comparative perspective
Wednesday 29 June 2016 – Thursday 30 June 2016
Location: St Anne’s College, Oxford
International Research Symposium
Alcohol consumption is currently seen as a major public health hazard across the globe. The medicalisation of alcohol use has become a prominent discourse that guides policy makers and impacts public perceptions of alcohol and drinking. This symposium intends to map the historical and cultural dimension of these phenomena and to trace the development of changing attitudes to consumption and historical and contemporary representations of alcohol and drinking in different regions, from the pre-modern to the postcolonial period. Emphasis is on the connected histories of different regions and populations across the globe in terms of their consumption patterns, government policies, economics and representations of alcohol and drinking. This transnational perspective facilitates an understanding of the local, transnational and global factors that have had a bearing on alcohol consumption and legislation and on the emergence of particular styles of ‘drinking cultures’. A comparative approach helps identify similarities, differences and crossovers between particular regions and pinpoint the parameters that shape alcohol consumption, policies and perceptions. The exploration of plural drinking cultures within any one particular region, their association with particular social groups, and their continuities and changes in the wake of wider global, colonial and postcolonial economic, political and social constraints and exchanges will be important dimensions of analysis.
Compensation for travel expenditure and local hospitality during the conference is aimed at but cannot be guaranteed. The closing date for abstracts (300 words) is 10 January 2016. Please indicate the primary source base of your contribution in your abstract, and clearly state your research questions, aims and arguments.
Contact for submission of abstracts and for inquiries:
Professor Waltraud Ernst, firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor David Foxcroft, email@example.com
The March 2013 issue of the History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are a number of articles ranging from morbidity and mortality caused from melancholia, to a revisiting of the mental hygiene movement, and even to William James’ psychical research. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The morbidity and mortality linked to melancholia: two cohorts compared, 1875–1924 and 1995–2005,” by Margaret Harris, Fiona Farquhar, David Healy, Joanna C Le Noury, Stefanie C Linden, J Andrew Hughes, and Anthony P Roberts. The abstract reads:
For over a century, melancholia has been linked to increased rates of morbidity and mortality. Data from two epidemiologically complete cohorts of patients presenting to mental health services in North Wales (1874–1924 and 1995–2005) have been used to look at links between diagnoses of melancholia in the first period and severe hospitalized depressive disorders today and other illnesses, and to calculate mortality rates. This is a study of the hospitalized illness rather than the natural illness, and the relationship between illness and hospitalization remains poorly understood. These data confirm that melancholia is associated with a substantial increase in the standardized mortality rate both formerly and today, stemming from a higher rate of deaths from tuberculosis in the historical sample and from suicide in the contemporary sample. The data do not link melancholia to cancer or cardiac disease. The comparison between outcomes for melancholia historically and severe mood disorder today argue favourably for the effectiveness of asylum care.
Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychiatry
This item belongs more properly to the history of the psyche, than to the history of psychology. Nevertheless, it is amusing. From an article in yesterday’s New York Times:
A large variety of creatures consume alcohol in the wild, ranging from bumble-bees to elephants. Hooch finds its way into their diets via the fermenting fruit, sap and nectar of various plants, and many exhibit signs of inebriation after they’ve enjoyed a good feed. Their weakness for the substance au naturel is understandable: ethanol is a rich food, with 75 percent more calories than refined sugar, and its distinctive aroma makes it easy to locate. This natural thirst has been exploited by man since the dawn of history. Aristotle noted that wild monkeys Continue reading Drunken Monkeys?