Special issue of Transcultural Psychiatry: Religion and Mental Health

The last issue of Transcultural Psychiatry has been released online and is entirely devoted to the relationship between mental health and religion. Included in this issue is an article by Simon Dein (University College London) that focuses on christianisty and mental health in the light of the work of William James (1842-1910), the father of american psychology. It is entitled Judeo-Christian Religious Experience and Psychopathology: The Legacy of William James. The abstract reads:

This article examines the relationship between Judeo-Christian religious experience and psychopathology. It builds on William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience and more specifically his discussions of self, agency and the subliminal. Contemporary research on Christian conversion, mysticism, and its relationship to psychosis and mental health and healing are discussed. Future themes for research are proposed.

Are you ready for paranoid park? Daniel Paul Schreber. 100 years later

Call for Papers
Are you ready for paranoid park? Daniel Paul Schreber. 100 years later

The Modern Experience and the Performance of Paranoia
International Conference
13th – 15th April 2011 in Sonnenstein, Dresden

Speakers:Prof. Friedrich Kittler, Humboldt University Berlin
Prof. Eric Santner, University of Chicago
Prof. José Brunner, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Alan Read, Kings College London
Prof. Zvi Lothane, Mount Sinai School of Medicine New York City
Prof. Moshe Zuckermann, Tel Aviv University
and others …

Since its publication in 1903, Daniel Paul Schreber’s Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken fascinated a broad spectrum of scholars spanning from Freud and Lacan to Canetti, Foucault and Deleuze, giving rise to a wide variety of interpretations. Schreber’s experience, manifested in his Denkwürdigkeiten, exposes paradoxes, a crisis of meaning and the problematic forms of his own subjective mental and physical existence. It seems that Schreber leaves none of the conventional dichotomies intact, be it man/woman, body/soul, conscious/unconscious, private/collective, God/human, etc. Consequently Schreber’s unique account of his mental
condition and therapy also constitutes a radical perspective on modernity. His transgressions and displacements open up a whole array of discursive fields, turning the discomfort and unease shared by many of Schreber’s readers into a fruitful journey that has been evoking inspiring and critical ideas ever since.

Exactly two hundred years after the establishment of the fortress Sonnenstein as a mental asylum (in 1811) and one hundred years after the death of Daniel Paul Schreber (on April 14, 1911) we would like to rethink Schreber’s legacy through an interactive, interdisciplinary seminar, to take place at the Gedenkstätte Sonnenstein, where Schreber was hospitalized. Sonnenstein ironically gives an example to one of the most horrific consequences that modern political theology has caused, a theme we will reflect upon by bringing these two topics together spatially and conceptually.

The seminar will be comprised of four main sessions, each focusing on one central theme, with three presentations in each session, followed by discussions. In addition we will hold reading sessions in small groups as well as an art installation and a musical performance.

The first association evoked by the word Schreber in German is the Schrebergarten, an allotment garden, named after Daniel Paul’s father who pursued various educational techniques inventing iron machines to control behaviour and movement of children – not least his own. Contrary to his father`s constraining realm, Daniel Paul Schreber`s world retains none of the fatherly visions and reveals to some extent where the moles are in Schreber’s garden that rather turns out to be a paranoid park.

Please submit a 300 words abstract of your interest in Schreber, the conference and the context and a short biographical note via e-mail to anton.pluschke@fu-berlin.de

Application deadline: 9th January 2011. Feel free to contact the same address for any further questions or assistance.

Podcast: Madness Between Medieval Islamic and Contemporary Perspectives

St. Cross College, University of Oxford held a conference in March 2010 entitled “Madness Between Medieval Islamic and Contemporary Perspectives.”  The interdisciplinary conference brought together historians of medieval Islamic history and contemporary psychiatrists to discuss the nature and history of madness.  Topics covered included: the treatment of depression at the court of Saladin, medieval hospitals, mad poets, and love-sickness.

Lectures and respondent comments from the conference were recorded and are now available for free as a podcast.  Click here to link to the iTunes store.

Book Announcement – Les prostituées à la Salpêtrière et dans le discours médical (1850-1914)

BESNARD Tiphaine, Les prostituées à la Salpêtrière et dans le discours médical (1850-1914). Une folle débauche (Paris, L’Harmattant, 2010)

La prostitution occupe une place importante dans les questionnements moraux et politiques de la société parisienne aux XIXe et XXe siècles. Le discours médico-psychiatrique est représentatif de cette époque où l’avènement du positivisme place les sciences expérimentales au premier rang de la connaissance. Le cadre judiciaire de cette étude témoigne des aspirations de la société française moderne et de la gestion politique du corps des individus en général, et de la sexualité, de la reproduction, de la maladie et de l’altérité physique en particulier.

New issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences

The last issue of the Journal of the History of the Neuroscience has been released online. One of the four articles presented in this issue focuses on the 1958 Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography, while another offers perspectives on the late-19th century reception of neuron theory. Titles, authors and abstracts are listed below:

The Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous Activity and Its Impact on International Brain Research, by Boleslav L. Lichterman

Late 1950s was a period of recognition of Russian neurophysiology by international neuroscience community and vice versa. This process of “opening windows in both directions” might be illustrated by the story of The Moscow Colloquium on Electroencephalography of Higher Nervous Activity. The Colloquium took place on October 6-11, 1958 at the House of Scientists in Moscow. It was organized by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR under the initiative of the Institute for Higher Nervous Activity and focused on (a) EEG correlates of cortical excitation and inhibition; (b) electrophysiological study of different brain structures and their role in conditioned reflexes; and (c) EEG of higher nervous activity in humans. At the final session it was suggested to launch an International Year for the Study of the Brain and to ask UNESCO for international coordination of brain research. This resulted into the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) founded in 1960. This article is based on unpublished records of international contacts of Soviet neurophysiologists and organization of the Moscow Colloquium from the Archive of Russian Academy of Science (ARAN), reports in Soviet periodicals, publications in obscure Festschriften, etc.

Acceptance of the Neuron Theory by Clinical Neurologists of the Late-Nineteenth Century, by J. Wayne Lazar

This article explores reactions of clinical neurologists of the late-nineteenth century to the concept of a unified nerve cell, the “neuron,” which developed from the research on fine anatomy of the nervous system and from conclusions of Waldeyer based on that research. Assessment shows that Waldeyer’s role in the acceptance of the neuron theory was not straightforward. A study of primarily American medical literature shows rapid acceptance, eager applications, and high expectations. Nonetheless, some clinicians were disappointed in its immediate relevance. An explanation for this disappointment is offered.

For more information, click here.

New issue of the Journal of Social History

The Fall issue of the Journal of social history has just been released online. Included in this issue is an article by Laura Hirshbein entitled “We Mentally Ill Smoke a Lot”: Identity, Smoking, and Mental Illness in America. The abstract reads:

Most of the history of the tobacco industry over the last few decades has focused on the conflicts between tobacco industry leaders who promoted smoking and tobacco control advocates who warned of the health consequences. Yet a view of this conflict from the perspective of smokers who are also mentally ill raises questions about how to frame public health policy for these individuals. Mentally ill consumers wrote to the tobacco industry between the 1970s and 1990s and expressed their commitment to smoking and to cigarette companies, despite their awareness of the health risks. This paper explores the relationship between mentally ill consumers, the tobacco industry, and public health in the United States through letters written by mentally ill smokers.

For more information, click here.

Book Announcement – Art in Madness

Maureen Park. Art in Madness: Dr W. A. F. Browne’s Collection of Patient Art at Crichton Royal Institution, Dumfries. Dumfries, Scotland: Dumfries & Galloway Health Board, 2010 (£25).

This book looks at a unique collection of art in Scotland. In the mid-nineteenth century Dr W. A. F. Browne (1805-1885), the first medical superintendent of Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries, introduced moral management and treatment at the asylum. He encouraged his patients to become involved in a wide range of cultural education activities – education classes, the creation of an asylum library and museum for the use of patients, the publication of their own periodical, musical and theatrical events, visits beyond the asylum walls for social events, and the production of drawings and paintings. So committed was Browne to moral treatment that he preserved samples of his patients’ work and today it is the oldest surviving collection of art by a group of asylum patients in the world. This book places the collection in the context of early psychiatry, examines the patients who became involved in art and provides the first complete catalogue of the 134 works in the collection. The book is fully illustrated.

Dr Maureen Park is a Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow. A former curator at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and at Haggs Castle Museum, Glasgow, she lectures and publishes widely on the links between art, medicine and healthcare. Art in Madness is the result of research undertaken for her PhD thesis on the Crichton Art Collection.

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