The ‘online first‘ section of the History of Psychiatry Journal has published some interesting articles over the past months. They are part of a special issue about transcultural psychiatry which was edited by Emmanuel Delille and will be published in September. You can find the abstracts of the articles below.
“Eric Wittkower founded McGill University’s Transcultural Psychiatry Unit in 1955. One year later, he started the first international newsletter in this academic field: Transcultural Psychiatry. However, at the beginning of his career Wittkower gave no signs that he would be interested in social sciences and psychiatry. This paper describes the historical context of the post-war period, when Wittkower founded the research unit in Montréal. I focus on the history of scientific networks and the circulation of knowledge, and particularly on the exchanges between the French- and English-speaking academic cultures in North America and Europe. Because the history of transcultural psychiatry is a transnational history par excellence, this leads necessarily to the question of the reception of this academic field abroad”.
“This article traces the career of Thomas Adeoye Lambo, the first European-trained psychiatrist of indigenous Nigerian (Yoruba) background and one of the key contributors to the international development of transcultural psychiatry from the 1950s to the 1980s. The focus on Lambo provides some political, cultural and geographical balance to the broader history of transcultural psychiatry by emphasizing the contributions to transcultural psychiatric knowledge that have emerged from a particular non-western context. At the same time, an examination of Lambo’s legacy allows historians to see the limitations of transcultural psychiatry’s influence over time. Ultimately, this article concludes that the history of transcultural psychiatry might have more to tell us about the politics of the ‘transcultural’ than the practice of ‘psychiatry’ in post-colonial contexts”.
Emmanuel Delille & Ivan Crozier, Historicizing transcultural psychiatry: people, epistemic objects, networks, and practices
“The history of transcultural psychiatry has recently attracted much historical attention, including a workshop in March 2016 in which an international panel of scholars met at the Maison de Sciences de l’Homme Paris-Nord (MSH-PN). Papers from this workshop are presented here. By conceiving of transcultural psychiatry as a dynamic social field that frames its knowledge claims around epistemic objects that are specific to the field, and by focusing on the ways that concepts within this field are used to organize intellectual work, several themes are explored that draw this field into the historiography of psychiatry. Attention is paid to the organization of networks and publications, and to important actors within the field who brought about significant developments in the colonial and post-colonial conceptions of mental illness.”
“During decolonization, Henri Collomb was appointed to the first Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Dakar. Using a neuropsychiatric approach, he quickly made significant advances in the field, despite the colonial era’s poor legacy of assistance facilities for mentally ill people. Through alliances with professors and researchers from the university Departments of Psychology and Sociology, an original interdisciplinary dialogue was set up to build up a research team which would develop rich and varied activities in the fields of transcultural psychiatry, medical anthropology and psychoanalytic anthropology. The methodological and theoretical contributions of such an approach are well illustrated in the book Œdipe africain by M-C and E Ortigues and in the journal founded in 1965, Psychopathologie africaine”.
“This article examines Emil Kraepelin’s notion of comparative psychiatry and relates it to the clinical research he conducted at psychiatric hospitals in South-East Asia (1904) and the USA (1925). It argues that his research fits awkwardly within the common historiographic narratives of colonial psychiatry. It also disputes claims that his work can be interpreted meaningfully as the fons et origio of transcultural psychiatry. Instead, it argues that his comparative psychiatry was part of a larger neo-Lamarckian project of clinical epidemiology and was thus primarily a reflection of his own long-standing diagnostic practices and research agendas. However, the hospitals in Java and America exposed the institutional constraints and limitations of those practices and agendas”.
“This article examines two psychological interventions with Australian Aboriginal children in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first involved evaluating the cognitive maturation of Aboriginal adolescents using a series of Piagetian interviews. The second, a more extensive educational intervention, used a variety of quantitative tests to measure and intervene in the intellectual performance of Aboriginal preschoolers. In both of these interventions the viability of the psychological instruments in the cross-cultural encounter created ongoing ambiguity as to the value of the research outcomes. Ultimately, the resolution of this ambiguity in favour of notions of Aboriginal ‘cultural deprivation’ reflected the broader political context of debates over Aboriginal self-governance during this period”.
Alessandra Cerea, Culture and psychism: the ethnopsychoanalysis of Georges Devereux
“This paper introduces the significant theoretical contribution of Georges Devereux (1908–85) on the relationship between culture and psychism, which he developed in his work at the interface of anthropology, psychoanalysis and quantum epistemology during the mid-twentieth century. Devereux was one of the key early contributors to the field of transcultural psychiatry; he was in touch with its most important exponents, although he remained critical of many of the popular trends developed in this field of research in the USA, where Devereux conducted most of his research between 1932 and 1963. As a part of his critique, he founded a new epistemology: ethnopsychoanalysis, which was largely based on the concept of complementarity and countertransference”.