A new issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences is now available online and includes the following articles dealing with the history of psychiatry:
“Female Same-sex Desires: Conceptualizing a Disease in Competing Medical Fields in Nineteenth-century Europe” (Chiara Beccalossi)
This article examines the ways in which female same-sex desires were represented across a range of nineteenth-century European medical writings. While recognizing the conceptual innovations of the late-nineteenth-century psychiatric idea of “sexual inversion,” it argues that the category of “sexual invert” was positioned alongside other medical representations of same-sex desires, such as gynecological descriptions of women with hypertrophy of the clitoris and socio-cultural analyses of the tribade-prostitute. These representations complicate current historical accounts of sexual inversion, which emphasize conceptual ruptures within the history of medicine.
“Making Up Koro: Multiplicity, Psychiatry, Culture, and Penis-Shrinking Anxieties” (Ivan Crozier)
Koro is a syndrome in which the penis (or sometimes the nipples or vulva) is retracting, with deleterious effects for the sufferer. In modern psychiatry, it is considered a culture-bound syndrome (CBS). This paper considers the formation and development of psychiatric conceptions of koro and related genital retraction syndromes from the 1890s to the present. It does so by examining the different explanations of koro based on shifting conceptions of mental illness, and considers the increased recognition of the role culture has to play in psychiatric concepts. Conceptions of culture (deriving from colonial psychiatry as well as from anthropology) actively shaped the ways in which psychiatrists conceptualized koro. Cases under consideration, additional to the first Dutch descriptions of koro, include the ways in which koro was identified in white western cases, and the 1967 Singaporean koro epidemic. Following a number of psychiatrists and psychologists who have addressed the same material, attention is also paid to the recent genital-theft panics in sub-Saharan Africa, considering the implications of the differences between koro and other genital-theft panics. Finally, the paper addresses the role played by koro in the development of the concept of CBSs, which was first presented in the DSM IV in 1994. This is explored against the backdrop of emerging ideas about culture and psychiatry from the late colonial period, especially in Africa, which are central to modern ideas about transcultural psychiatry.
“Shell Shock, Trauma, and the First World War: The Making of a Diagnosis and Its Histories” (Tracey Loughran)
During the First World War, thousands of soldiers were treated for “shell shock,” a condition which encompassed a range of physical and psychological symptoms. Shell shock has most often been located within a “genealogy of trauma,” and identified as an important marker in the gradual recognition of the psychological afflictions caused by combat. In recent years, shell shock has increasingly been viewed as a powerful emblem of the suffering of war. This article, which focuses on Britain, extends scholarly analyses which question characterizations of shell shock as an early form of post-traumatic stress disorder. It also considers some of the methodological problems raised by recasting shell shock as a wartime medical construction rather than an essentially timeless manifestation of trauma. It argues that shell shock must be analyzed as a diagnosis shaped by a specific set of contemporary concerns, knowledges, and practices. Such an analysis challenges accepted understandings of what shell shock “meant” in the First World War, and also offers new perspectives on the role of shell shock in shaping the emergence of psychology and psychiatry in the early part of the twentieth century. The article also considers what relation, if any, might exist between intellectual and other histories, literary approaches, and perceptions of trauma as timeless and unchanging.
“‘An Object of Vulgar Curiosity’: Legitimizing Medical Hypnosis in Imperial Germany” (Heather Wolffram)
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German medical hypnotists sought to gain a therapeutic and epistemological monopoly over hypnosis. In order to do this, however, these physicians were required to engage in a complex multi-dimensional form of boundary-work, which was intended on the one hand to convince the medical community of the legitimacy and efficacy of hypnosis and on the other to demarcate their use of suggestion from that of stage hypnotists, magnetic healers, and occultists. While the epistemological, professional, and legal boundaries that medical hypnotists erected helped both exclude lay practitioners from this field and sanitize the medical use of hypnosis, the esoteric interests, and sensational public experiments of some of these researchers, which mimicked the theatricality and occult interests of their lay competitors, blurred the distinctions that these professionals were attempting to draw between their “legitimate” medical use of hypnosis and the “illegitimate” lay and occult use of it.
The issue also includes articles by Hans Pols, Peter Cryle, Chiara Beccalossi and Peter Cryle dealing with various aspects of the history of medicine more generally.
For more information and a complete table of contents, click here.