There are a number of articles in the just released May issue of Social History of Medicine that may be of interest to AHP’s readers. In a piece on music and hypnosis, James Kennaway explores the long and complicated relationship between music and selfhood from the time of Mesmeric uses of the glass harmonica (left) to more recent concerns about brainwashing. Additionally, two articles in the issue explore aspects of asylum history. The first discusses the role of the Irish Famine of the 1840s in Irish asylums, while the second explores efforts to control suicide in English public asylums in the latter half of the nineteenth century. A further piece delves into views on alcoholism in mid-to-late twentieth century Yugoslavia. Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.
“Musical Hypnosis: Sound and Selfhood from Mesmerism to Brainwashing,” by James Kennaway. The abstract reads,
Music has long been associated with trance states, but very little has been written about the modern western discussion of music as a form of hypnosis or ‘brainwashing’. However, from Mesmer’s use of the glass armonica to the supposed dangers of subliminal messages in heavy metal, the idea that music can overwhelm listeners’ self-control has been a recurrent theme. In particular, the concepts of automatic response and conditioned reflex have been the basis for a model of physiological psychology in which the self has been depicted as vulnerable to external stimuli such as music. This article will examine the discourse of hypnotic music from animal magnetism and the experimental hypnosis of the nineteenth century to the brainwashing panics since the Cold War, looking at the relationship between concerns about hypnotic music and the politics of the self and sexuality.
“Revisiting a ‘Demographic Freak’: Irish Asylums and Hidden Hunger,” by Melinda Grimsley-Smith.The abstract reads, Continue reading New in Social History of Medicine
The January 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences has just been released online. Included in this issue are a number of articles that may be of interest to historians of psychology and related fields. A special issue devoted to recent developments in the intellectual history of medicine, the issue includes articles on sexual inversion, shell shock (right), koro as a culture-bound syndrome, and the rise of hypnosis in Germany, among other topics. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Recent Developments in the Intellectual History of Medicine: A Special Issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine,” by Chiara Beccalossi and Peter Cryle. An extract from this introduction to the special issue reads,
The history of medicine is probably best thought of as a wide range of different types of inquiry, rather than a single, well-defined field. It can involve, among other things, the history of institutions, technologies, and outstanding individuals. The articles gathered in this special issue are offered specifically as contributions to the intellectual history of medicine. Each shows, in its own way, how a particular disorder became conceptualized or how a particular set of difficulties was made into a topic of debate. Inquiry of this kind is not quite the same thing as a history of ideas—if by the latter one understands only the study of ideas as they traverse medical writing—since our concern is not with major ideas in the field of medicine, as such. One of our working assumptions is that intellectual history ought to be no grander an enterprise than social history at its most focused, or cultural history at its most closely bounded. We will simply examine ways of thinking that prevailed at given points in history, indicating the material consequences to which they gave rise. By seeking to articulate thought, writing, and professional practice, we are responding to the challenge Michel Foucault laid down for historians. But the histories offered here are not “Foucauldian” in the manner of histories that focus primarily on articulating epistemic “rupture” and unprecedented conceptual “invention.” The point of our contributions is to examine the contexts in which new kinds of thinking emerged gradually, and often unevenly. We seek, as Foucault did at his best, to highlight the circumstantial nature of thought and the intellectually productive nature of circumstance.
This special issue had its beginnings in a seminar series conducted in 2009 by the Center for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland…
“Female Same-sex Desires: Conceptualizing a Disease in Competing Medical Fields in Nineteenth-century Europe,” by Chiara Beccalossi. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of Medicine & Allied Sciences
Mind Hacks has some great coverage of a recent article in European Neurology about Tourette and his forensic use of hypnosis. I could paraphrase it, but why not just give you a taste of their take, and then you can click through to the whole item.
The 19th century French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette is best known for Tourette’s Syndrome, but a fascinating article in European Neurology traces his interest in the criminal uses of hypnosis.
It is full of surprising facts, like that he was shot in the head by a delusional patient who believed that she had been hypnotised against her will, and that he eventually died in a Swiss asylum after developing psychosis caused by syphilis.
The legendary e-zine Salon has published an interview with Harvard historian of science Anne Harrington about her latest book, The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. “Mind-body medicine,” she says, “is a patchwork of ideas about the way in which we think that our minds make us sick, and might make us well.”
The interview starts with a discussion of the power of suggestion: “the interesting thing about the power of suggestion in hypnosis is that it’s an emergent product of a much, much older interpersonal drama that actually goes back to medieval times, the drama of the exorcist who exorcises demons from the bodies of possessed people and exerts control over the demon.” Continue reading Anne Harrington on Mind-Body Medicine
Santiago Ramón y Cajal is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning work on the microstructure of the nervous system. However, less well-known is that early in his career, he experimented with hypnosis as a way of alleviating the pain associated with giving birth. He published a single article on the topic in 1889 in a Spanish-language journal. Now for the first time, that article has been translated into English and published in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. The accompanying commentary by a team of five authors led by Maria Stefanidou sets the article in its intellectual context and includes a number of fascinating photographs and other images from the period. The full article in available only to subscribers (check with your local library), but the abstract is copied here: Continue reading Cajal and Hypnosis