H-Madness co-editor Benoît Majerus has a new book out entitled Parmi les fous. Une histoire sociale de la psychiatrie au XXe siècle (“With the mad. A social history of psychiatry in the 20th century”).
The challenge of this book is to tell the story of psychiatry in the 20th century not through psychiatric handbooks or nosological controversies, but through the daily life of one asylum. This approach enables to discover actors that are still largely excluded from the traditional narrative on psychiatry be it patients but also nurses, social workers… This historiographical gaze gives new readings of classical themes in the field such as the spatial settings of enclosure or the link between knowledge and power. It also questions the chronology by revisiting the so-called chemical revolution in the 1950s or the deinstitutionalisation from the 1960s on.
Patients’ records are a fascinating material to get access to psychiatric practice. The organisation of work, the forms of knowledge, the medical gaze, the experience of mental illness by the patient or the physician are all topics that are too often described and analysed through medical reports or through the published literature in psychiatric journals. Considering these questions from below offers an intriguing insight in the tensions between discourse and practice, between representation of a field and its actual functioning.
This book is part of a larger narrative that goes beyond a historiography of psychiatry still too often entangled in a dichotomous narrative: medical progress or disciplinarisation. Combining micro-history and sciences studies, it hopes to participate in the historicisation of a topic difficult to grapple, but particularly rich for a history of the 20th century through the margins.
To get the two first chapters, click here.