Monday 8th May
Professor Greg Eghighian (Penn State University) – NASA/American Historical Association Fellow in Aerospace History
‘From Crackpots to Survivors: How Contact With Aliens Was Pathologised‘
While the first reports of flying saucer sightings appeared in 1947, it was not until the 1950s that witnesses began claiming to have encountered extraterrestrial visitors. Throughout the fifties and sixties, the reports of “contactees” tended to emphasize the shyness and benign nature of extraterrestrials. Over the course of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, however, the stories increasingly revolved around terrifying encounters with coercive aliens engaged in performing human experiments. And as the tales became more gruesome, psychiatrists and psychotherapists began playing a growing role in analyzing and counseling self-professed “abductees.” In this talk, I will discuss how and why this happened and some of the consequences it has had for contactees, clinicians, and critics.
SELCS Common Room (G24)
University College London
Location: SELCS Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London
Speaker: Arthur Eaton (UCL)
Seminar title: History telling: A biography pf psychohistory
In June 1976 the American Psychiatric Association published a document entitled The Psychiatrist as Psychohistorian. In that report, a committee investigated the dangers – including the threat to United States national security – of a phenomenon called psychohistory. What is psychohistory? Why is it relatively unknown today? In this presentation, I will explore these questions and argue that psychohistory is best conceived of as an interdiscipline – born out of the marriage between two ‘parent’ disciplines: psychoanalysis and history. I will discuss the ‘rise and fall’ of the psychohistorical movement, highlight the conceptual difficulties of a hybrid discipline, and speak about my own search for psychohistory.
Professor Elisabeth Lunbeck (Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts): “Narcissism in the Age of Trump”
How can we explain the improbable appeal of Donald Trump to a wide swath of the American populace? In this presentation, I propose that one explanation may be found in the ways in which he mobilises his narcissism – evident in his charisma and grandiosity as well as in a primitive inner world characterised by rage and envy – to connect to his followers and to effect their submission to him, holding out the promise of participating in his greatness. Drawing on psychoanalytic writings on malignant narcissism and on leadership, I offer a framework for beginning to understand his phenomenal rise.
Location: Institute of Advanced Studies, Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT
Registration is not required and for more information contact Professor Sonu Shamdasani at UCL (020 7679 8154).
Monday 18th July
Dr Fabio de Sio (Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf): “The title is misleading: J.C. Eccles, the Waynflete Lectures and the dawn of the neurosciences in Britain (1945–1954).”
The history of the neurosciences is usually cast as a cumulative process of discovery and theoretical innovation, leading to a veritable cultural revolution. The latter is accounted for in terms of an unstoppable growth of the brain, at the expense of the mind (or the soul), and as a progressive obliteration of old and fuzzy problems and entities (free will, mind, soul), traditionally associated with the explanation of human action. As a consequence, the neurosciences have been widely marketed not simply as the new model of scientific rationality (incorporating and integrating the bio- and psycho-disciplines), but also as the most suitable candidate to the title of ‘next science of Man’. This is based on the conflation between the growth of specialised knowledge and its interpretation in a wholly materialistic, brain-centric framework. This paper points at a different interpretation of the neurosciences as a cultural programme, based not on scientific revolution, interdisciplinarity and brain-centrism, but rather on tradition, harmonic cooperation between distinct disciplines (physiology, philosophy, introspective psychology) and a strong, reductionistic focus on the neurone as the basic level of interpretation. Through an analysis of the scientific and cultural endeavours of the physiologist and Nobelist J.C. Eccles FRS (1903–1997), his 1952 Lectures, The Neurophysiological Bases of the Mind: the Principles of Neurophysiology, I show how the New Science of the Brain was criticised by Eccles as a materialistic heresy, rooted in cultural prejudices, rather than on sound experimentation and proper scientific method. In parallel, I will show how the special brand of neurosciences heralded by Eccles was almost universally ignored by its critics. Finally, I wish to point at a whole network of neuroscience-related specialists (physiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists) and engaged intellectuals, who took Eccles’ programme seriously, and tried to consolidate, in the following decades, an alternative science of the mind/brain.
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London
Directions: From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser Court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.