Call for Papers: “Does the History of Psychology Have a Future?”

The American Lightner Witmer, credited with coining the term "clinical psychology." From:

The American Lightner Witmer, credited with being one of the early developers of clinical psychology. From:




History of Psychology invites submissions for a special issue on the future of the history of psychology.

20 years ago, Kurt Danziger published an article with the provocative title, “Does the history of psychology have a future?” and it led to a great deal of comment and debate. The institutional position of the field does not seem to have improved in the meantime. The graduate program in history and theory of psychology at the University of New Hampshire was the only one of its kind in the USA and it was ended in 2009. Although the history of psychology is still widely taught at the undergraduate level, concerns have been expressed over a possible decline in the number of psychology departments offering the course. Professional historians have become increasingly prominent in the field. Could the subject eventually be handed over to them, as has already happened with the history of the physical sciences? Should this development be welcomed? There are many issues to be addressed.

We welcome contributions on any aspect of the subject. In order to get as many different perspectives as possible, we welcome contributions from authors in different disciplines (especially psychologists and historians), authors at different stages in their career (from graduate students to emeriti) and authors from different parts of the world. We are well aware that the current situation in the USA may not be representative of the situation elsewhere.

The submission deadline is July 15, 2015.

The main text of each manuscript, exclusive of figures, tables, references, or appendixes, should not exceed 35 double-spaced pages (approximately 7,500 words). Initial inquiries regarding the special issue may be sent to the regular editor, Nadine Weidman ( or the guest editor, Adrian Brock (

Papers should be submitted through the regular submission portal for History of Psychology ( with a cover letter indicating that the paper is to be considered for the special issue.

Call for Papers – “Psychiatry and other cultures: a historical perspective”

imagesCAO9NJ99Historically, psychiatry had to measure itself with various kinds of diversity (ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic, gender), often labelling them as lacking, inferior or even dangerous.

The Centre for the History of Psychiatry of Reggio Emilia announces a study conference in order to focus on the various “encounters” psychiatry has had, since its origins, with those diversities.
In particular, presentations on the following issues are sought for:

  • Colonial psychiatry: contributions which, through case studies (e.g. biographies of psychiatrists, chronicles of mental hospitals, debates on scientific journals etc.), may expand our understanding of this topic reporting Italian and foreign experiences, also comparing different national traditions.
  • How psychiatry has dealt, as early as the nineteenth century, but especially in the last century, with the consequences of migration on the lives and mental health of millions of people. Papers concerning Italian emigration abroad (transoceanic and European) and also internal migration after World War II, are particularly welcome.
  • The history of ethnopsychiatry. Contributions on the origins of transcultural psychiatry as well as on the most significant representatives of this “boundary” discipline will be accepted,. We would like to promote research on the way ethnopsychiatry re-read the history of psychiatry and re-framed between mental illness, culture and care adopting an historical perspective.

Scholars of all experience levels are invited to submit proposals for papers, sending a Summary in Italian or English (max 500 words), by 31 March 2015. A completed application form (see attached) and Author’s curriculum vitae should by sent by email together with the Summary to the following email address: (specifying in subject: Conference: Psychiatry and other cultures: a historical perspective).

The Scientific Committee of the Centre for the History of Psychiatry will screen submissions and chosen contributions will be included in the official program of the Conference by May 20152014. Conference proceedings will be published.

Museum of the History of Psychiatry S. Lazzaro, Reggio Emilia, Italy – September 2015, exact date to be confirmed

For info:


The Scientific Committee of the Centre: Laura Carlini Fanfogna, Vinzia Fiorino, Gian Maria Galeazzi, Giorgia Lombardini, Roberto Macellari, Francesco Paolella, Paolo Francesco Peloso, Luca Pingani, Lisa Roscioni, Roberto Salati, Mauro Simonazzi, Luigi Tagliabue
The Executive Committee of the Centre: Gaddomaria Grassi, Mila Ferri, Giordano Gasparini, Elisabetta Farioli, Chiara Bombardieri
Conference Coordinator: Francesco Paolella
Conference Institutional Partners: AUSL of Reggio Emilia, Municipality of Reggio Emilia.

Dissertations – The Ottoman State and the insane, 1856–1908

Mental Patients inside Toptaşı Mental Asylum. (From the private collection of Cengiz Kahraman)

Mental Patients inside Toptaşı Mental Asylum. (From the private collection of Cengiz Kahraman)

Cihangir Gündoğdu: “Are there no asylums?”
 : the Ottoman State and the insane, 1856–1908

The present study seeks to contribute to and expand our knowledge concerning the nature and scope of the Tanzimat reforms by bringing to our scholarly attention a relatively understudied matter, the mental asylum reform that took place between 1856 and 1908. This study begins with Luigi Mongeri’s appointment to the Süleymaniye Mental Asylum in 1856 and ends with the 1908 revolution, which inaugurated a period when the mental asylum would undergo a new reformist trend at the hands of Unionist elite. Although the objects of asylum reform were, obviously, the “insane”, this work does not primarily focus on their stories. It rather explores the professional, legal, political, and economic processes that accompanied the mental asylum reform in the second half of the nineteenth century in the Ottoman Empire. It is accordingly organized around certain themes and problematics, such as the definition and quantification of madness, its regulation, the proposals and initiatives to institutionalize the treatment of the insane, and the financing of such initiatives.

Cihangir Gündoğdu did his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago’s Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department. He defended his dissertation on 4 September 2014 and currently teaches history classes at the Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey.

Dissertations – Surviving Success, Reconciling Resilience

Demolition of King’s College Residence, 1886. This figure illustrates the ‘original’ building of what is now referred to as the University Toronto. The building was completed in 1845 and demolished in 1886 following a period as an asylum. (University of Toronto Archives 2001-77-11MS)

Demolition of King’s College Residence, 1886. (University of Toronto Archives 2001-77-11MS) This figure illustrates the ‘original’ building of what is now referred to as the University Toronto. The building was completed in 1845 and demolished in 1886 following a period as an asylum.

Katie Aubrecht: Surviving Success, Reconciling Resilience: A Critical Analysis of the Appearance of Student ‘Mental Life’ at one Canadian University

This dissertation addresses the university student as a figure of mental health and illness. Drawing on the methods and theories of disability studies, interpretive sociology, critical, feminist and queer theory, as well as hermeneutically oriented phenomenology, my work explores the social production of this student figure or type – variously depicted as ‘ invisible’, ‘maladjusted’, ‘stressed’, ‘difficult’, sensitive’, ‘resilient’, ‘narcissistic’, and extraordinarily ‘ordinary’. This figure is addressed as a means of revealing contradictory understandings of the relationship between success and survival, as this relationship appears in the ordinary daily life of the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The social and historical significance of the contemporary University’s Student Life Programs and Services is analyzed with a view to reveal the Western cultural values and practices which organize consciousness of success as a necessary condition of contemporary existence. Special attention is paid to the cultural production of knowledge concerning university student ‘mental life’, the appearance of which is located at the interstices of colonialism, global health policy, institutional ‘best practices’, cultural mores and folkways, and embodied experiences. I dwell with this appearance as an occasion to engage the materiality of Western mythologies of resilience, and with them the meaning of human agency under neoliberal governance. This engagement examines the productive power of the disciplinary and institutionalized ‘language of mental illness’ through a genealogy of the University of Toronto, a textual analyses of the University’s Student Life Programs and Services literature, and a discursive analysis of open-ended interviews with student services representatives which seeks both to understand and transgress conventional interpretations of the structure of Student Life. I demonstrate how University presentations of student bodies, minds and senses perceived to be lacking in ‘ordinary order’, can be reconceived as sites to reflect on the paramount presence of psychiatric knowledge in interpretations and responses to embodied difference within the university setting. Overall, this dissertation seeks to disrupt unexamined relations to the meaning of student types; and in the process, display how normative relations to the student as a figure of mental health and illness needs is currently and historically organized and socially achieved.

Dr. Katie Aubrecht graduated in November 2012 and is the current President of the Canadian Disability Studies Association, Associate Editor (Forums) of Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal, Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor with the Department of Sociology at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. Her current research examines the discursive construction of dementia and the politics of person-centred residential dementia care.

New Issue of Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

1.coverThe latest issue of Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences contains at least one article that interests the readers of h-madness directly.

Investigating “Mass Hysteria” in Early Postcolonial Uganda: Benjamin H. Kagwa, East African Psychiatry, and the Gisu by Yolana Pringle



In the early 1960s, medical officers and administrators began to receive reports of what was being described as “mass madness” and “mass hysteria” in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Uganda. Each epidemic reportedly affected between three hundred and six hundred people and, coming in the wake of independence from colonial rule, caused considerable concern. One of the practitioners sent to investigate was Benjamin H. Kagwa, a Ugandan-born psychiatrist whose report represents the first investigation by an African psychiatrist in East Africa. This article uses Kagwa’s investigation to explore some of the difficulties facing East Africa’s first generation of psychiatrists as they took over responsibility for psychiatry. During this period, psychiatrists worked in an intellectual climate that was both attempting to deal with the legacy of colonial racism, and which placed faith in African psychiatrists to reveal more culturally sensitive insights into African psychopathology. The epidemics were the first major challenge for psychiatrists such as Kagwa precisely because they appeared to confirm what colonial psychiatrists had been warning for years—that westernization would eventually result in mass mental instability. As this article argues, however, Kagwa was never fully able to free himself from the practices and assumptions that had pervaded his discipline under colonial rule. His analysis of the epidemics as a “mental conflict” fit into a much longer tradition of psychiatry in East Africa, and stood starkly against the explanations of the local community.

Book announcement – Schreiben am Rand. Die ‚kantonale Irrenanstalt Waldau‘ und ihre Narrative (1895-1936)



Martina Wernli, a Research Fellow at the University of Würzbuerg, just publishes a book on the narratives produced inside a Swiss asylum in the first 20th century. The blurb reads:

The book is concerned with selected texts, which were written in the Bernische kantonale Irrenanstalt Waldau (Switzerland) at the beginning of the 20th century. The study follows the questions, what was written in a certain clinic, Waldau, at this time, how someone would write there, who writes and why they write and what about. The thesis analyses various types of texts concerning their form and content. This assembly of texts interlaces and shows the clinic as a place of writing.

The presentation of this specific place of writing concentrates on the time between 1895 and 1936 because of the presence of well-known patients: in 1895, Adolf Wölfli (1864–1930) is brought to Waldau for an examination, in 1936, Friedrich Glauser (1896–1938) is allowed to leave the mental institution and between 1929 and 1933, Robert Walser (1878–1956) stays interned there.

After theoretically exploring the alliance between writing an place, the thesis persists of two main parts: In the first, the history of the clinic and its protagonists are focused, whereas the second part is dealing with texts both well-known and nameless patients as well as with medical records. The thesis shows, how in writing as a performative act, the clinic becomes visible and legible and how through this process the requirements of the clinic are built, but also addressed and it shows how these requirements form the condition of future writing in the setting of the closed clinic.

Call for thesis abstracts

Antonio Martínez Anaya: Imposición del birrete a un nuevo Doctor. (Reproduction of a lost painting from the mid-17th century, oil on canvas, residing at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Antonio Martínez Anaya: Imposición del birrete a un nuevo Doctor. (Reproduction of a lost painting from the mid-17th century, oil on canvas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid)


In order to keep up with the latest research, h-madness is looking to expand its category “Dissertations”. The category will now feature abstracts of current dissertations in the history of psychiatry, psychology, mental health and mental illness.

Are you currently writing a dissertation on the history of psychiatry? We want to know all about it! Send us your thesis abstract (max. 500 words) and a matching illustration and we will be happy to publish it on this blog. Your abstract should be sent to: marina.lienhard [at] This is an ongoing call: you can send us your abstract anytime.

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