The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in its summer seminar series. On Monday May 8th Greg Eghighian (right) will be speaking on “From Crackpots to Survivors: How Contact With Aliens Was Pathologised.” Full details follow below.
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
The June 2015 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. Included in the issue are two articles of special interest to AHP readers: Greg Eghigian (right) documents the history of psychopathy in Germany, while Julia Kursell, in the issue’s Focus Section on “The History of Humanities and the History of Science,” describes Hermann von Helmholtz’s work on musicology. Full details, including abstracts, follow below.
“A Drifting Concept for an Unruly Menace: A History of Psychopathy in Germany,” by Greg Eghigian. The abstract reads,
The term “psychopath” has enjoyed wide currency both in popular culture and among specialists in forensic psychiatry. Historians, however, have generally neglected the subject. This essay examines the history of psychopathy in the country that first coined the term, developed the concept, and debated its treatment: Germany. While the notion can be traced to nineteenth-century psychiatric ideas about abnormal, yet not completely pathological, character traits, the figure of the psychopath emerged out of distinctly twentieth-century preoccupations and institutions. The vagueness and plasticity of the diagnosis of psychopathy proved to be one of the keys to its success, as it was embraced and employed by clinicians, researchers, and the mass media, despite attempts by some to curb its use. Within the span of a few decades, the image of the psychopath became one of a perpetual troublemaker, an individual who could not be managed within any institutional setting. By midcentury, psychopaths were no longer seen as simply nosological curiosities; rather, they were spatial problems, individuals whose defiance of institutional routine and attempts at social redemption stood in for an attributed mental status. The history of psychopathy therefore reveals how public dangers and risks can be shaped and defined by institutional limitations.
“A Third Note: Helmholtz, Palestrina, and the Early History of Musicology,” by Julia Kursell. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Isis: Psychopathy in Germany & Helmholtz’s Musicology!
The June 2011 issue of History of Psychiatry has just been released online. This is a special issue edited by Volker Hess (left) and Benoît Majerus on the history of twentieth century psychiatry. Among the articles included in the special issue are ones on post-WWII psychiatric changes, chlorpromazine trials in Heidelberg in the 1950s, and the deinstitutionalization of the history of twentieth century psychiatry. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Writing the history of psychiatry in the 20th century,” by Volker Hess and Benoît Majerus. The abstract reads,
As editors of the special issue, we try to summarize here the historiographic trends of the field. We argue that the field of research is accommodating the diversity of the institutional, social and political developments. But there is no narrative in sight which can explain the psychiatry of the 20th century, comparable to the authoritative coherence achieved for the 19th century. In contrast, the efforts to extend these narratives to the 20th century are largely missing the most impressive transformation of psychiatric treatment — and self-definition.
“‘Therapeutic community’, psychiatry’s reformers and antipsychiatrists: Reconsidering changes in the field of psychiatry after World War II,” by Catherine Fussinger. The abstract reads, Continue reading History of Psychiatry in the 20th Century