New issue – History of the Human Sciences

A new issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online and contains the following two articles which may be of interest to H-Madness readers:

Badness, madness and the brain – the late 19th-century controversy on immoral persons and their malfunctioning brains (Felix Schirmann)

In the second half of the 19th-century, a group of psychiatric experts discussed the relation between brain malfunction and moral misconduct. In the ensuing debates, scientific discourses on immorality merged with those on insanity and the brain. This yielded a specific definition of what it means to be immoral: immoral and insane due to a disordered brain. In this context, diverse neurobiological explanations for immoral mind and behavior existed at the time. This article elucidates these different brain-based explanations via five historical cases of immoral persons. In addition, the article analyses the associated controversies in the context of the period’s psychiatric thinking. The rendering of the immoral person as brain-disordered is scrutinized in terms of changes in moral agency. Furthermore, a present immoral person is discussed to highlight commonalities and differences in past and present reasoning.

Making the cut: The production of ‘self-harm’ in post-1945 Anglo-Saxon psychiatry (Chris Millard)

‘Deliberate self-harm’, ‘self-mutilation’ and ‘self-injury’ are just some of the terms used to describe one of the most prominent issues in British mental health policy in recent years. This article demonstrates that contemporary literature on ‘self-harm’ produces this phenomenon (to varying extents) around two key characteristics. First, this behaviour is predominantly performed by those identified as female. Second, this behaviour primarily involves cutting the skin. These constitutive characteristics are traced back to a corpus of literature produced in the 1960s and 1970s in North American psychiatric inpatient institutions; analysis shows how pre-1960 works were substantially different. Finally, these gendered and behavioural assertions are shown to be the result of historically specific processes of exclusion and emphasis.

For a complete table of contents, click here.

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