Archive for January, 2015

Psychopathological fringes. Historical and social science perspectives on category work in psychiatry

KinderpsychologTest2Date: 13./14.2.2015

Venue: Berlin, Institute for the History of Medicine, Dahlem

Organization: Nicolas Henckes, Volker Hess, Emmanuel Delille, Marie Reinholdt, Stefan Reinsch, Lara Rzesnitzek,


Funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche & the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in the framework of the project “Psychiatric Fringes. A historical and sociological investigation of early psychosis in post-war French and German societies”

Over the last few years, the revision process of both the DSM and the chapter V on mental disorders of the ICD has stimulated within psychiatry a series of attempts at challenging established diagnostic categories. These challenges reflect both dissatisfaction with categories as they are defined in existing diagnostic classifications, and a will to adjust them to the demands of clinical and research activities. They are expressed in ways that sometimes strongly resembles the discourse of critical social science. For instance, the conveners of the conference “Deconstructing psychosis” – organized by the American Psychiatric Association along with the WHO and the US National Institutes of Health in 2005 – developed a stringent critique of the proliferation of diagnostic categories in the field of psychosis: “Although these categories are meant to refer to broadly defined psychopathological syndromes rather than biologically defined diseases that exist in nature, inevitably they undergo a process of reification and come to be perceived by many as natural disease entities, the diagnosis of which has absolute meaning in terms of causes, treatment, and outcome as well as required sampling frame for scientific research.”

Controversies over diagnostic categorization in fact have a long history in psychiatry. Rejection of diagnosis has long been prominent among certain segments of psychiatry, from Adolf Meyer’s synthesis in interwar US psychiatry through parts of phenomenological psychiatry in Germany to antipsychiatry and Lacanian psychoanalysis in 1970s France. However, the deconstruction of diagnosis has also been a core feature of what might be termed category work in psychiatry, at least since the fall of the unitary psychosis concept in the last quarter of the 19th century. By the notion of category work we understand the multifaceted practices developed by clinicians, epidemiologists, biologists, administrators and patients to negotiate and objectify the boundaries of diagnostic categories. While such practices have mostly been devoted to securing the internal coherence of major categories, the requirements of both research and clinical work have prompted the development of liminal categories meant to target conditions situated between illness and health, or between broader established diagnostic classes. Examples of such categories include prodromal schizophrenia, latent depression as well as “borderline” disorder and a range of personality disorders. Closely related to these constructs are notions of comorbidity and dimensional concepts of diagnostic spectra or continua. In many of these cases, the challenge for psychiatrists has been to devise entities that include in their very definition the possibility of their transitory status. These diagnostic constructs thus convey a paradox: while they question categorical thinking, they are usually framed within the language of categories.

The aim of this workshop is to offer a historical and social science perspective on the history and current status of category work at the fringes of psychopathology. Unlike constructionist perspectives on psychiatric diagnosis that have aimed to demonstrate the less than solid nature of core categories such as depression, schizophrenia and neurosis, we are interested in the already internally contested and marginal categories devised to target conditions situated at the borders of psychopathology. Thus, rather than elaborating on the longstanding debates between “lumpers” and “splitters”, we would like to examine the ways in which psychiatry has developed knowledge and practices to target these conditions.

Participants: Annika Berg, Céline Borelle, Ivan Crozier, Steeves Demazeux, Stefan Ecks, Bolette Frydendahl Larsen, Nicolas Henckes, Volker Hess, Lara Keuck, Ken MacLeish, Julie Mazaleigue, Jörg Niewöhner, Richard Noll, Vincent Pidoux, Egidio Priani, Marie Reinholdt, Lara Rzesnitzek, Edward Shorter, Benjamin Zajicek

Full Program is available at this address:

ESRC-funded PhD studentship Donald W. Winnicott and the history of child and adolescent mental health services

donald-winnicottDeadline: 15 February 2015

Have you completed or are you close to completing a Master’s degree in History of Medicine, Modern History, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology of Health or Medicine, or a related field? Are you interested in the history of psychiatry in the second half of the twentieth century? Are you looking for a funded PhD project?

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship on Donald W. Winnicott and the impact that the work of this pioneering paediatrician and psychoanalyst had on child and adolescent mental health services in Britain since the Second World War. The studentship will commence in September 2015, and is tenable for three years’ full-time study.

History of CAMHS
Psychiatric, psychological and psychotherapeutic services for children and adolescents have changed radically in Britain in the decades since the Second World War. Before the 1940s, only a handful of pioneering, psychoanalytically trained practitioners specialised on the treatment of children in clinical settings. A somewhat a larger number of children came into contact with Child Guidance clinics, usually run by local educational authorities. In the decades following the launch of National Health Service in 1948 child psychiatry and Child Guidance were transformed into a complex network of services, which since the 1990s have been generally referred to as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). With this project we hope to start unpacking some of the assumptions and approaches built into CAMHS from its post-war inception, helping us to better understand how these have informed the framework and delivery of such services today.

Donald Winnicott
We are especially interested in the ways in which psychodynamic approaches continued to shape practices in a context increasingly dominated by biomedical concepts. We specifically wish to study those associated with the work of Donald W. Winnicott, a paediatrician who trained as a psychoanalyst. Winnicott promoted principles based on psychodynamic understanding of intimate relationships from infancy as essential for optimal every-day and specialist child care, therapeutic plans and educational provision. He advocated the use of ordinary language to engage with children’s maturational processes and those providing their care [the “Facilitating Environment”] to optimise health and development. Winnicott frequently recorded radio programmes and, as an early exponent of the public broadcasting role of child health and welfare specialists, was particularly visible to a broad public.

There is significant scope for the student undertaking this project to develop their own thematic and empirical interests
Among the relevant topics that might be covered are: the impact of Winnicottian (and other psychodynamic) approaches on child and adolescent psychiatry; tensions between psychodynamic approaches and biomedically informed concepts; the growing role of psychoactive drugs; reforms of CAMHS and the importance placed upon the practitioner-patient relationship as an essential tool for assessment and therapy.

The project is funded through the North West Doctoral Training Centre (NWDTC), the largest Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded DTC in England, which includes Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Manchester. This is a CASE award, which means that we have a non-academic partner for the project, the Squiggle Foundation, an organisation dedicated to studying and disseminating the work of Donald Winnicott.

The PhD studentship will be held at the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM), which is internationally recognised for its work on the history of modern and contemporary science, technology and medicine. The student will be jointly supervised by Dr Carsten Timmermann (CHSTM, University of Manchester) and Dr Celia Roberts (Sociology, Lancaster University). Dr Adrian Sutton, the Director of the Squiggle Foundation will take an active part in the supervision of the student.

The studentship will cover university fees at UK/EU rates, and provide a living allowance subject to the ESRC’s residency requirements.

Candidates should have a strong Master’s degree in History or Social Studies of Medicine, Science and Technology Studies, or a related subject.

To apply, please send the following to Dr Carsten Timmermann,, by 15 February 2015:

a CV,
a sample of writing
a covering letter outlining reasons for application
Potential applicants are encouraged to email Dr Timmermann at the same address for further information and informal discussion.


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.

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