Tag Archives: sex

New Medical History: Psychiatry in the Atomic Age, Transvestism in Finland, Therapy in Russian Defectology

The January 2018 issue of Medical History is now available and includes several articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Healing a Sick World: Psychiatric Medicine and the Atomic Age,” by Ran Zwigenberg. Abstract:

The onset of nuclear warfare in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had far-reaching implications for the world of medicine. The study of the A-bomb and its implications led to the launching of new fields and avenues of research, most notably in genetics and radiation studies. Far less understood and under-studied was the impact of nuclear research on psychiatric medicine. Psychological research, however, was a major focus of post-war military and civilian research into the bomb. This research and the perceived revolutionary impact of atomic energy and warfare on society, this paper argues, played an important role in the global development of post-war psychiatry. Focusing on psychiatrists in North America, Japan and the United Nations, this paper examines the reaction of the profession to the nuclear age from the early post-war period to the mid 1960s. The way psychiatric medicine related to atomic issues, I argue, shifted significantly between the immediate post-war period and the 1960s. While the early post-war psychiatrists sought to help society deal with and adjust to the new nuclear reality, later psychiatrists moved towards a more radical position that sought to resist the establishment’s efforts to normalise the bomb and nuclear energy. This shift had important consequences for research into the psychological trauma suffered by victims of nuclear warfare, which, ultimately, together with other research into the impact of war and systematic violence, led to our current understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Boyish Mannerisms and Womanly Coquetry: Patients with the Diagnosis of Transvestitismus in the Helsinki Psychiatric Clinic in Finland, 1954–68,” by Katariina Parhi. Abstract:

This article examines the case files of patients diagnosed with Transvestitismus [transvestism] in the Psychiatric Clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital in the years 1954–68. These individuals did not only want to cross-dress, but also had a strong feeling of being of a different sex from their assigned one. The scientific concept of transsexuality had begun to take form, and this knowledge reached Finland in phases. The case files of the transvestism patients show that they were highly aware of their condition and were very capable of describing it, even if they had no medical name for it. Psychiatrists were willing to engage in dialogue with the patients, and did not treat them as passive objects of study. Although some patients felt that they had been helped, many left the institution as frustrated, angered or desperate as before. They had sought medical help in the hope of having their bodies altered to correspond to their identity, but the Clinic psychiatrists insisted on seeing the problem in psychiatric terms and did not recommend surgical or hormonal treatments in most cases. This attitude would gradually change over the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

“Lechebnaia pedagogika: The Concept and Practice of Therapy in Russian Defectology, c. 1880–1936,” by Andy Byford. Abstract:

Therapy is not simply a domain or form of medical practice, but also a metaphor for and a performance of medicine, of its functions and status, of its distinctive mode of action upon the world. This article examines medical treatment or therapy (in Russian lechenie), as concept and practice, in what came to be known in Russia as defectology (defektologiia) – the discipline and occupation concerned with the study and care of children with developmental pathologies, disabilities and special needs. Defectology formed an impure, occupationally ambiguous, therapeutic field, which emerged between different types of expertise in the niche populated by children considered ‘difficult to cure’, ‘difficult to teach’, and ‘difficult to discipline’. The article follows the multiple genealogy of defectological therapeutics in the medical, pedagogical and juridical domains, across the late tsarist and early Soviet eras. It argues that the distinctiveness of defectological therapeutics emerged from the tensions between its biomedical, sociopedagogical and moral-juridical framings, resulting in ambiguous hybrid forms, in which medical treatment strategically interlaced with education or upbringing, on the one hand, and moral correction, on the other.

“The Great Cat Mutilation: Sex, Social Movements and the Utilitarian Calculus in 1970s New York City”

Department of Animal Behavior -American Museum of Natural History, ca 1987: Gary Greenberg, Kathy Hood, Leo Vroman, Jay Rosenblatt, Tineke Vroman, Peter Gold, John Gianutsos, EthelTobach, with Lester Aronson at his desk.

Forthcoming in BJHS Themes, the new offshoot publication of the British Journal of the History of Science, is an article by Michael Pettit in which he describes the animal liberation movement’s focus on psychologist Lester Aronson’s experiments with cats at the American Museum of Natural History in the 1970s:

“The great cat mutilation: sex, social movements and the utilitarian calculus in 1970s New York City,” by Michael Pettit. The abstract reads,

In 1976, the animal liberation movement made experiments conducted on cats at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) one of its earliest successful targets. Although the scientific consensus was that Aronson was not particularly cruel or abusive, the AMNH was selected due to the visibility of the institution, the pet-like status of the animals, and the seeming perversity of studying non-human sexuality. I contextualize the controversy in terms of the changing meaning of utilitarian ethics in justifying animal experimentation. The redefinition of ‘surgeries’ as ‘mutilations’ reflected an encounter between the behavioural sciences and social movements. One of the aims of the late 1960s civil rights movements was to heighten Americans’ sensitivity to differing experiences of suffering. The AMNH protesters drew inspiration from a revived utilitarian ethics of universal organismic pain across the lines of species. This episode was also emblematic of the emergence of an anti-statist, neo-liberal ethos in science. Invoking the rhetoric of the 1970s tax revolt, animal liberationists attacked Aronson’s ability to conduct basic research with no immediate biomedical application. Without denying the violence involved, an exclusive focus on reading the experiments through the lens of utilitarianism obscures what ethics animated Aronson’s research.

New Book: The Classification of Sex, Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

the-classification-of-sexBy Donna J. Drucker, guest professor at Technische Universität Darmstadt. Published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014. The back cover reads:

Alfred C. Kinsey’s revolutionary studies of human sexual behavior are world-renowned. His meticulous methods of data collection, from comprehensive entomological assemblies to personal sex history interviews, raised the bar for empirical evidence to an entirely new level. In The Classification of Sex, Donna J. Drucker presents an original analysis of Kinsey’s scientific career in order to uncover the roots of his research methods. Continue reading New Book: The Classification of Sex, Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge

New JHN: Transnational Psychosurgery, Phantom Limbs, & More

A new issue of Journal of the History of the Neuroscience is now online. Included in this issue are articles on psychosurgery as a transnational movement, artists and phantom limbs, and sex and gender in organology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“A Transnational Perspective on Psychosurgery: Beyond Portugal and the United States,” by Brianne M. Collinsa & Henderikus J. Stam. The abstract reads,

The history of psychosurgery is most often recounted as a narrative wherein Portuguese and American physicians play the leading role. It is a traditional narrative in which the United States and, at times, Portugal are central in the development and spread of psychosurgery. Here we largely abandon the archetypal narrative and provide one of the first transnational accounts of psychosurgery to demonstrate the existence of a global psychosurgical community in which more than 40 countries participated, bolstered, critiqued, modified and heralded the treatment. From its inception in 1935 until its decline in the mid-1960s, psychosurgery was performed on almost all continents. Rather than being a phenomenon isolated to the United States and Portugal, it became a truly transnational movement.

“Phantoms in Artists: The Lost Limbs of Blaise Cendrars, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Wittgenstein,” by Laurent Tatu, Julien Bogousslavsky & François Boller. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHN: Transnational Psychosurgery, Phantom Limbs, & More

New Book: Peter Hegarty’s Gentlemen’s Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men

Psychologist and historian of psychology Peter Hegarty‘s book Gentlemen’s Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men, is now in print. Published by the University of Chicago Press, the book explores the relationship between intelligence and sex through an analysis of the work of, and debates between, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and intelligence tester Lewis Terman. The volume is described as follows:

What is the relationship between intelligence and sex? In recent decades, studies of the controversial histories of both intelligence testing and of human sexuality in the United States have been increasingly common—and hotly debated. But rarely have the intersections of these histories been examined. In Gentlemen’s Disagreement, Peter Hegarty enters this historical debate by recalling the debate between Lewis Terman—the intellect who championed the testing of intelligence— and pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and shows how intelligence and sexuality have interacted in American psychology.Through a fluent discussion of intellectually gifted onanists, unhappily married men, queer geniuses, lonely frontiersmen, religious ascetics, and the two scholars themselves, Hegarty traces the origins of Terman’s complaints about Kinsey’s work to show how the intelligence testing movement was much more concerned with sexuality than we might remember. And, drawing on Foucault, Hegarty reconciles these legendary figures by showing how intelligence and sexuality in early American psychology and sexology were intertwined then and remain so to this day.