Book announcement – Les libérés. Mémoires d’un aliéniste, histoire de fous by Ricciotto CANUDO

Screenshot from 2014-10-02 06:36:44The blurb reads

Paru en 1911 pour la première fois, ce roman magistral sur la folie anticipe, avec génie, les mouvements antipsychiatriques. Sa réédition critique offre un regard neuf sur la trajectoire d’un psychiatre atypique qui, refusant d’enfermer ses patients dans des catégories médicales, les soigne par la sexualité et la musique.
Face à la crise de la psychiatrie actuelle, sa réédition a paru nécessaire à Jean Malaurie, directeur de collection, à l’ethnopsychiatre Tobie Nathan et à Anouck Cape.
Les Libérés sont les Mémoires d’un aliéniste révolutionnaire. Conscient de la misère de la psychiatrie dans les années 1900 qui ose livrer les fous à une science sourde et aveugle, Ricciotto Canudo nous fait vivre, dans une écriture très moderne, le quotidien d’un hôpital antipsychiatrique, annonçant avec des accents visionnaires les années 1960 dont il est le précurseur ignoré. Dans ce phalanstère libertaire, ou la sexualité et la musique participent aux pratiques thérapeutiques, s’engage une lutte de pouvoir entre le médecin aliéniste et son patient qui s’achèvera dramatiquement. Nous – les soi-disant bien portants – sommes esclaves de nos préjugés.

For more information, click here.

Séminaire EHESS – Le nouvel esprit de la psychiatrie et de la santé mentale

Logo-EHESS1-150x148Pierre-Henri Castel, Alain Ehrenberg, Nicolas Henckes (CNRS, CERMES3)

45 rue des Saints-Pères, 75270 Paris Cedex 06,

Bâtiment Jacob, 5e étage, Salle des thèses,


14 octobre 2014: Alain Ehrenberg, Les neurosciences cognitives : une anthropologie de l’action, mais laquelle ?
18 novembre 2014: Alain Ehrenberg, Qu’est ce qu’il peut bien avoir dans la tête ? Les mécanismes du social dans la matrice des sciences cognitives
9 décembre 2014: Denis Forest, Les  neurosciences sociales comme programme de recherche : au-delà de la théorie de l’esprit

Les séances suivantes auront lieu les 13 janvier 2015, 10 février 2015, 10 mars 2015, 14 avril 2015, 12 mai 2015. Le séminaire sera clôturé par une journée d’étude qui se déroulera le 5 juin 2015 : Qu’est-ce la maladie mentale ? Entre intentionnalité folle et déficits cognitivo-cérébraux.

Article: “Why Freud Still Haunts Us”

An article appeared today in The Chronicle of Higher Education with the title:

“Why Freud Still Haunts Us”

The piece, by Michael S. Roth, marks the 75 years since Freud’s death. It starts thus:

For those of us prone to commemorations, it is a rich season. The beginning of the Great War 100 years ago, 70 years since the Normandy invasion, and the 50th anniversary of several major events in the American struggle for civil rights. September 23 marks 75 years since the death of Sigmund Freud.

Should we care? In many respects, Freud seems to be from another world. We know so much more now. Psychotropic medications are big business and are prescribed to ever-growing numbers of the “worried well,” while psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy are more of a rarity than ever.

And then there is all that embarrassing stuff about sex and penises, about inescapable aggression and guilt. And mothers. All of that is from another time, isn’t it?

After all, now we know that women are equal to men, even if we scratch our heads when trying to explain how patriarchy gets reproduced, generation after generation, despite our professed ethics. Now we know not only that sex must be deeply consensual but that it should be really healthy—so safe that it is, well, less than desirable.

Freud taught that we could never be sure about our own “consent,” let alone another’s (that’s why we’re turning to new laws to demand that only “yes” really means yes). He insisted that the sexual relation was the discord among fantasies and therefore rarely a terrain of great safety.

To read the full article, click here.

22 September: “Portrait of the psychiatrist as a young man. The early writing and work of RD Laing, 1927-1960″ (London)

UCL British Psychological Society History of the Psychological
Disciplines Seminar Series

Monday 22nd September

Dr. Allan Beveridge (Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline)

“Portrait of the psychiatrist as a young man. The early writing and work
of RD Laing, 1927-1960″


For a period in the 1960s, Ronald Laing was the most famous psychiatrist
in the world. His books sold in millions and were translated into many
languages. In his most celebrated work, The Divided Self, published in
1960, he argued that madness was understandable. Laing’s reputation
subsequently went into serious decline, but in recent years there has
been renewed interest in him and a number of biographies and books have
been published. This interest has been fuelled by a disenchantment with
the claims of the neurosciences and an unease about biotechnology.
Laing’s existential approach of treating the patient as a person rather
than a malfunctioning mechanism has new-found appeal.

This paper will look at Laing’s early career up to the publication of
his first book in 1960. It will begin by looking at the major influences
on his work: psychiatric theory; existential analysis; religion; and the
Arts. It will then examine Laing’s early clinical career, firstly in the
British Army, followed by his time as a junior doctor at Gartnavel Royal
Hospital and the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, before his
subsequent move to the Tavistock Clinic in London.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet
Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet
Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand
side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on
the right. The common room is straight ahead.

Colloque “Des livres qui rendent fou ? Interroger le canon psychiatrique de Pinel au DSM-5″ (Paris, Oct 2014)


Des livres qui rendent fou ? 

Interroger le canon psychiatrique de Pinel au DSM-5


Colloque à l’EHESS (Paris)

Les 1er et 2 octobre 2014

105, boulevard Raspail

Salles 07 et 08


Andreas Mayer et Yvonne Wübben


Vincent Barras

Rachel Cooper

John Forrester

Katja Günther

Andreas Mayer

Sabine Ohlenbusch

Juan Rigoli

Patricia Rosselet

Yvonne Wübben

Pour le programme complet, voir

Call for Papers – Psy Cultures

Screenshot from 2014-09-18 06:29:05

CulturasPsi/Psy Cultures is a peer reviewed, on-line only, free-access journal devoted to the discussion and debate of the transnational circulation of “psy knowledge” and the practices associated with it.

We welcome papers for the update of Vol 2  (to be published in March 2015) and for Vol 3 (to be published in September 2015) on topics related to the transnational diffusion of “psy knowledge”, understood in a broad sense, including psychoanalysis, psychiatry, psychology, neuro science, etc. By “psy culture” we do not only mean the development of the scientific disciplines related to the study of subjectivity and the mind, but also the emergence and development of all the associated discourses and practices, including  different forms of reception, diffusion and circulation, whether they take place within the bounds of the scientific realm or not.

We particularly encourage the submission of manuscripts that take an interdisciplinary approach and accept them in Spanish, Portuguese, English and French, which will be published in their original language with abstracts in English in all cases. We also accept proposals for dossiers and for book reviews.

The deadline for the submission of papers for the update of number 2 is December 20th 2014. For number 3 the deadline is May 15, 2015. Please consult our page: for style. Papers should not be longer than 25 pages, including bibliography. We encourage authors to take full advantage of the electronic format and include videos, images, figures, tables.

Manuscripts and proposals for dossiers should be sent to:

Proposals for book reviews should be sent to:

Book Review – Anne Roekens (dir.), Des murs et des femmes. Cent ans de psychiatrie et d’espoir au Beau-Vallon (Presses Universitaires de Namur 2014)

FMProBy Valérie Leclercq

The psychiatric institution le Beau-Vallon was founded at the eve of the first World War by the catholic order of les Soeurs de la Charité de Jésus et de Marie. Located on one of the hills surrounding the Belgian city of Namur and dedicated to the exclusive care of women, Beau-Vallon was designed as the first pavilion asylum of Wallonia and rapidly developed into an imposing near-autonomous structure isolated from what was seen at the time as the poisonous influence of the city. On the day of its official inauguration in 1924, it was already comprised of eleven pavilions housing a total of 740 patients.
Today, the institution celebrates a century of existence with the release of a book entitled Des murs et des femmes: Cent ans de psychiatrie et d’espoir au Beau-Vallon. Edited by Anne Roekens, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Namur and also the (co-)author of five out of the book’s seven chapters, Des murs et des femmes showcases the penmanship of seven additional contributors, among whom three psychiatrists (Xavier de Longueville, Benoît Delatte and Jean-Paul Rousseaux, responsible for the seventh chapter), three young historians graduated from the Catholic University of Louvain (Nathalie Collignon, Lisa Lacroix and Mélanie De Brouwer) as well as historian Benoît Majerus who has published extensively on the history of psychiatry in Europe these last few years. The book also incorporated elements from the work of students from the UNamur history department who in 2012 and 2013 were given the opportunity to delve into the records of the institution.
Thematically structured, Des murs et des femmes explores different aspects of the history of the institution, from the context of its foundation to its present state, from its evolving spatial infrastructures and treatment procedures, to the specificities of its personnel and patient population. The book does a great job at revealing the slow processes behind some of the important changes that radically affected 20th-century psychiatry, such as the apparition of psychopharmacology, the professionalization and secularization of the medical personnel, deinstitutionalization, etc. Surprisingly, the history of Beau-Vallon (which would have been considered a second-class country asylum – ou “asile de province” – by the medical authorities of the capital) parallels that of western psychiatry more closely that one might think. In one instance it even seems to have anticipated change when the institution opened several residential facilities outside the hospital a decade before the launch of the 1991national plan to encourage the development of ‘MSP’ (Psychiatric Care Houses) and ‘IHP’ (Protected Homes Initiatives). This last fact the authors are of course eager to point out. But Des murs et des femmes is far from being the simple celebratory narrative that one might expect. Although never overtly critical of this particular institution, the authors do not shy away from sensible topics such as forced confinement, physical coercion, unresponsive physicians, suicide or social segregation inside the asylum, etc. The tone of the book is globally that adopted by most medical historians today who cautiously navigate between the radical anti-institutional acidity of the 60s/70s and the blind optimism of Whiggish medical-historical writing. This middle way is apparent when the authors expose the mutability of the totalitarian psychiatric space, recontextualize the use of mental therapeutics or brush aside the rigid physician-patient antagonism to highlight what Benoit Majerus in his book Parmi les fous (2013) already deemed the central relationship of the everyday institutional psychiatric experience: that of nurses and patients.
Des murs et des femmes, however, will probably prove a frustrating read for historians of psychiatry due to a somehow limited depth of analysis. It propounds no really innovative thesis. The book might be in this regard illustrative of a certain Belgian francophone approach to history: close to its rich source material but lacking in theoretical background and perspective. The two first chapters (Le temps des fondations & Espaces psychiatriques, espaces religieux) appear the strongest and tightest while the four following chapters, dealing respectively with the two world wars, the patient population, treatment and the asylum personnel, seem a bit more factual and loosely problematized. The last chapter, which is concerned with deinstitutionalization and was penned by the three medical authors, confidently recounts the progressive opening of Beau-Vallon and the evolving Belgian legal context in many interesting and necessary details but without never really questioning the process of deinstitutionalization itself. To be fair, the very nature of the project must have imposed some limitations to the contributors’ creativity. When medical historians decide to work on the records of a single medical institution, it is usually to study some or other aspects of medicine or psychiatry, and they are then usually free to narrow their focus as they think best for the relevance of their subject. In The Psychiatric Persuasion, for instance, Elizabeth Lunbeck used the records of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital to write about the psychiatrization of everyday life, just as a few years earlier Nancy Tomes in The Art of Asylum-Keeping dug through the archives of The Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane only to reflect about the social significance of mid-19th century asylums [1]. But Des murs et des femmes is ultimately the history of the Beau-Vallon asylum itself, an object uneasily unified around a cardinal analytical argument. The study, as a result, covers the major aspects of the institution’s evolution in a thematic overview that still seems to have a lot of unexplored potential.
It is great, however, to see a medical institution collaborate with historians and work such as this being commissioned. And despite its limitations, Des murs et des femmes seems to achieve its purpose successfully. It is a carefully researched and well written effort that is also accessible for the layperson. This accessibility would seem essential for a centennial anniversary publication. The source material used by the different authors is incredibly rich and varied; it includes congregational and hospital archives, legislative texts, medical literature, private archives, oral history (most interviews have been conducted by Anne Roekens), photographs, etc. Moreover, long excerpts from archival documents are showcased in dark grey sidebars, giving the reader direct access to the words of various actors from the period – whether it be catholic nurses or nursing students, psychologists, a priest or a judge. This makes for an engaging read that will similarly please the general, medical and historian public. It is also worth noting that the history of sciences and medicine in Belgium is still in its infancy. In this regard, any contribution to this field is highly valuable, especially when it points out, as is the case here, the specificities of the Belgian situation (for instance the predominantly religious and hospital-centered character of 20th century Belgian psychiatry), possible archive material and new territories to explore while contributing to building the picture of a larger national historical context that no reference work has yet come to illuminate.
1. Elizabeth Lunbeck, The Psychiatric Persuasion : Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994; Nancy Tomes, The Art of Asylum Keeping: Thomas Story Kirkbride and the Origins of American Psychiatry, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994 (origin. ed. 1984)


Valerie Leclercq is a FNRS doctoral Research Fellow at the Free University of Brussels. Her areas of interest include 19th and 20th-century medicine, the history of patients, psychiatry and medical ethics. She is currently writing her dissertation on the therapeutic encounter at the turn of the 20th century.

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