The October 2017 issue of Medical History includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. These articles tackle campaigning for learning disabled people’s civil rights in the 1970s and Susan Isaacs‘ popularization of psychoanalytic concepts through her writing as Ursula Wise. Full details below.
“Select Citizenship and Learning Disabled People: The Mental Health Charity MIND’s 1970s Campaign in Historical Context,” Jonathan Toms. Abstract:
Current policy and practice directed towards people with learning disabilities originates in the deinstitutionalisation processes, civil rights concerns and integrationist philosophies of the 1970s and 1980s. However, historians know little about the specific contexts within which these were mobilised. Although it is rarely acknowledged in the secondary literature, MIND was prominent in campaigning for rights-based services for learning disabled people during this time. This article sets MIND’s campaign within the wider historical context of the organisation’s origins as a main institution of the inter-war mental hygiene movement. The article begins by outlining the mental hygiene movement’s original conceptualisation of ‘mental deficiency’ as the antithesis of the self-sustaining and responsible individuals that it considered the basis of citizenship and mental health. It then traces how this equation became unravelled, in part by the altered conditions under the post-war Welfare State, in part by the mental hygiene movement’s own theorising. The final section describes the reconceptualisation of citizenship that eventually emerged with the collapse of the mental hygiene movement and the emergence of MIND. It shows that representations of MIND’s rights-based campaigning (which have, in any case, focused on mental illness) as individualist, and fundamentally opposed to medicine and psychiatry, are inaccurate. In fact, MIND sought a comprehensive community-based service, integrated with the general health and welfare services and oriented around a reconstruction of learning disabled people’s citizenship rights.
In Under the Strain of Color, Gabriel N. Mendes recaptures the history of a largely forgotten New York City institution that embodied new ways of thinking about mental health, race, and the substance of citizenship. Harlem’s Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic was founded in 1946 as both a practical response to the need for low-cost psychotherapy and counseling for black residents (many of whom were recent migrants to the city) and a model for nationwide efforts to address racial disparities in the provision of mental health care in the United States.
The result of a collaboration among the psychiatrist and social critic Dr. Fredric Wertham, the writer Richard Wright, and the clergyman Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, the clinic emerged in the context of a widespread American concern with the mental health of its citizens. It proved to be more radical than any other contemporary therapeutic institution, however, by incorporating the psychosocial significance of antiblack racism and class oppression into its approach to diagnosis and therapy.
Mendes shows the Lafargue Clinic to have been simultaneously a scientific and political gambit, challenging both a racist mental health care system and supposedly color-blind psychiatrists who failed to consider the consequences of oppression in their assessment and treatment of African American patients. Employing the methods of oral history, archival research, textual analysis, and critical race philosophy, Under the Strain of Color contributes to a growing body of scholarship that highlights the interlocking relationships among biomedicine, institutional racism, structural violence, and community health activism.
A new issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles on Albert Moll (right) and hypnosis, therapeutic fascism, lycanthropy, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The powers of suggestion: Albert Moll and the debate on hypnosis,” by Andreas-Holger Maehle. The abstract reads,
The Berlin physician Albert Moll (1862–1939) was an advocate of hypnotic suggestion therapy and a prolific contributor to the medical, legal and public discussions on hypnotism from the 1880s to the 1920s. While his work in other areas, such as sexology, medical ethics and parapsychology, has recently attracted scholarly attention, this paper for the first time comprehensively examines Moll’s numerous publications on hypnotism and places them in their contemporary context. It covers controversies over the therapeutic application of hypnosis, the reception of Moll’s monograph Der Hypnotismus (1889), his research on the rapport between hypnotizer and subject, his role as an expert on ‘hypnotic crime’, and his views on the historical influence of hypnotism on the development of psychotherapy. My findings suggest that Moll rose to prominence due to the strong late-nineteenth-century public and medical interest in the phenomena of hypnosis, but that his work was soon overshadowed by new, non-hypnotic psychotherapeutic approaches, particularly Freud’s psychoanalysis.
The February 2013 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the history of German critical psychology, the development of South African psychology (by Wahbie Long, right), and the vocabulary of anglophone psychology. Other articles discuss attempts to develop a psychology of citizenship and the historicity of mind (as previously blogged about here). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Backlash against American psychology: An indigenous reconstruction of the history of German critical psychology,” by Thomas Teo. The abstract reads,
After suggesting that all psychologies contain indigenous qualities and discussing differences and commonalities between German and North American historiographies of psychology, an indigenous reconstruction of German critical psychology is applied. It is argued that German critical psychology can be understood as a backlash against American psychology, as a response to the Americanization of German psychology after WWII, on the background of the history of German psychology, the academic impact of the Cold War, and the trajectory of personal biographies and institutions. Using an intellectual?historical perspective, it is shown how and which indigenous dimensions played a role in the development of German critical psychology as well as the limitations to such an historical approach. Expanding from German critical psychology, the role of the critique of American psychology in various contexts around the globe is discussed in order to emphasize the relevance of indigenous historical research.
“Rethinking “relevance”: South African psychology in context,” by Wahbie Long. The abstract reads,