Syllabus: Crozier, “The History of Psychiatry”

This is another installment in our series on university and college courses dealing with the history of madness, mental illness, and psychiatry.

Ivan Crozier is a Senior Lecturer at the Science Studies Unit at the University of Edinburgh.  He is the editor of a number of books: Body Parts: Critical Explorations in Corporeality, with Christopher Forth (2005); a edition of Ellis and Symonds’ Sexual Inversion, with a 86 page introduction (2008); The Cultural History of the Body vol 6, 1920-present, on which he wrote about the sexual body (2010); The Cultural History of Sexuality vol 5, 1820-1920, with Chiara Beccalossi (2010).  He has published a number of essays on the history of psychiatry in journals such as Medical History, History of Psychiatry, Social History of Medicine, and Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences.  He is currently writing a history of the culture-bound syndrome koro from 1890s to the present, and a study of the important criminal responsibility trial of Ronald True, from 1922 (under contract with Palgrave).

This course is not an overview of the development of psychiatry; rather it aims to teach graduate students how to read psychiatric discourses (usually in the form of journal articles), by asking questions about how the object being written about is constructed, who the document is written for, how it relates to other documents in the field, how evidence is used, where the patient is in the discourse, how experience is mediated through language, how diagnoses are constructed, etc. In order to get to these issues directly, a number of primary sources are set for close reading in the seminars, with some background information given both in the handbook (the lists of secondary sources) and in a short contextual presentation before the class ‘attacks’ the source. The class is taken by graduate students in the MSc in History andTheory of Psychology, and in the MSc in Science and Technology Studies.  Usually, I also have 4th year undergraduate medical students who are taking a special project with me in the history of psychiatry, a few psychiatrists (one in 2009 was a visiting psychiatrist from Ethiopia; one last year was a MD student in psychiatry), graduate students visiting me from overseas, and of course any of my PhD students who are working in history of psychiatry (of which there are several).  The topics addressed reflect my methodological interests (especially the last week on Hacking, Davidson, and Foucault, through which we reflect on the discourses that have been grappled with in the preceding weeks, but the approach used throughout the class derives from these perspectives as well as from the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, which is also a core component of graduate work at the Science Studies Unit).  The psychiatric topics addressed give a few different topics that often relate to other work students are doing (so, for example, PhD students working on eating disorders, depression, criminal responsibility, etc. have a week that fits their broader research, and they often lead the discussions in those weeks).  They also relate directly to the areas on which I research (sexuality, culture-bound syndromes, colonial psychiatry, criminal responsibility).  I have found over the years (and I do this with my undergraduate course in the history of the human sciences too) that teaching closer to my research gives a lot more depth to the analysis, which I try to encourage.  As such, the course has a number of methodological, intellectual and historiographical agenda, rather than offering a narrative about the development of psychiatry as a field (which is of course offered in the secondary sources, as well as in the introductory lecture).  Each year I try to adapt the course to fit the topics of interest to the students who are taking it, utilising the same pedagogical standpoints outlined here.

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