“Eric Wittkower and the foundation of Montréal’s Transcultural Psychiatry Research Unit after World War II,” by Emmanuel Delille. Abstract:
Eric Wittkower founded McGill University’s Transcultural Psychiatry Unit in 1955. One year later, he started the first international newsletter in this academic field: Transcultural Psychiatry. However, at the beginning of his career Wittkower gave no signs that he would be interested in social sciences and psychiatry. This paper describes the historical context of the post-war period, when Wittkower founded the research unit in Montréal. I focus on the history of scientific networks and the circulation of knowledge, and particularly on the exchanges between the French- and English-speaking academic cultures in North America and Europe. Because the history of transcultural psychiatry is a transnational history par excellence, this leads necessarily to the question of the reception of this academic field abroad.
“The politics and practice of Thomas Adeoye Lambo: towards a post-colonial history of transcultural psychiatry,” by Matthew M Heaton. Abstract:
This article traces the career of Thomas Adeoye Lambo, the first European-trained psychiatrist of indigenous Nigerian (Yoruba) background and one of the key contributors to the international development of transcultural psychiatry from the 1950s to the 1980s. The focus on Lambo provides some political, cultural and geographical balance to the broader history of transcultural psychiatry by emphasizing the contributions to transcultural psychiatric knowledge that have emerged from a particular non-western context. At the same time, an examination of Lambo’s legacy allows historians to see the limitations of transcultural psychiatry’s influence over time. Ultimately, this article concludes that the history of transcultural psychiatry might have more to tell us about the politics of the ‘transcultural’ than the practice of ‘psychiatry’ in post-colonial contexts.
“On the history of cultural psychiatry: Georges Devereux, Henri Ellenberger, and the psychological treatment of Native Americans in the 1950s,” by Emmanuel Delille. The abstract reads,
Henri Ellenberger (1905–1993) wrote the first French-language synthesis of transcultural psychiatry (“Ethno-psychiatrie”) for the French Encyclopédie Médico-Chirurgicale in 1965. His work casts new light on the early development of transcultural psychiatry in relation to scientific communities and networks, particularly on the role of Georges Devereux (1908–1985). The Ellenberger archives offer the possibility of comparing published texts with archival ones to create a more nuanced account of the history of transcultural psychiatry, and notably of the psychological treatment of Native Americans. This paper examines some key moments in the intellectual trajectories of Devereux and Ellenberger, including Devereux’s dispute with Ackerknecht, the careers of Devereux and Ellenberger as therapists at the Menninger Foundation (Topeka, Kansas) in the 1950s, and their respective positions in the research network developed by McGill University (Montreal, Quebec) with the newsletter Transcultural Research in Mental Health Problems. Finally, I consider their ties to other important figures in this field as it transitioned from colonial medicine to academic medicine, including Roger Bastide (France), Henri Collomb and the Ortigues (France and Africa), as well as Eric Wittkower and Brian Murphy (Canada) and Alexander Leighton (United States and Canada).
A couple of history of psychology related pieces cropped up from podcast land just in time to shift into gear for the weekend. For your listening pleasure, from CBC Radio’s Ideas and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, episodes on transcultural psychiatry and the early history of Bethlem Royal Hospital, respectively.
CBC’s Ideas with Peter Kennedy: Like I Was Talking to Myself in the Mirror
Synopsis: Early in the twentieth century German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin travelled to Indonesia to see how mental illnesses there compared to what he knew back home. Transcultural psychiatry was born. Today McGill University is a world leader in the research and practice of a branch of psychiatry with links to anthropology, cultural studies and family therapy. David Gutnick steps into a world where treatment relies less on medication and more on talk and understanding.