Workshop: The Contemporary History of Psychiatric Practices in Europe, 1945-1990 (Berlin, June 5 2020)

What kind of new approaches and treatment schemes were established in European psychiatry after the Second World War? Which alternative practices developed during the second half of the 20th century? The book workshop on “The Contemporary History of Psychiatric Practices in Europe” will give space to the diversity and transformation of therapeutic regimes and approaches. In the first place, we aim at a comparative approach of psychiatric practices, which by today have mostly dropped out of the focus of applied techniques. Thus, the edited volume will contribute to the debate on the future direction of the “mental sciences”. Secondly, we would like to explore the decades before and during the psychiatric reforms in every particular case, focusing on a general period of interest from the 1950s to the 1980s.

In our book workshop, case studies will seek to explore the therapeutic setting of different institutions from all over Europe dealing with the history of practices, based on medical and institutional records, oral history or personal legacies. What is role of new professions like psychologists, nurses and social workers? How did psychology enter the psychiatric wards? How did interaction techniques, therapeutic strategies and institutional routines shape the clinical day-to-day life? These questions should serve us in order to uncover and describe the structures of psychiatric practices.

Of particular interest are contributions examining the individuality of diagnostic systems and procedures as well as those illuminating the use of different therapeutic methods. How did, in addition to the use of psychotropic drugs and surgical approaches, psychotherapy, ergotherapy and occupational therapy or social therapy approaches develop? In submitted articles, the impact of non-physician staff or the materiality of treatment practices might as well come to the fore. Further topics could be the decentralization of institutions, cooperation in institutional settings, or the social structure in the therapeutic process, including patients, relatives and staff members.

The workshop is part of the DFG-ANR-project “Retrieving alternatives. Pluralism in practice in European psychiatry, 1950-1980” (DFG project number: 411115568). The aim of the book workshop is to publish an edited volume on the contemporary history of psychiatric practices in Europe. Constitutional to the format are three two-day-meetings, during which the planned contributions will be discussed together in their respective stages of development. This should facilitate scientific exchange and increase the coherence of the contributions. The meetings will take place at the Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine of the Charité Berlin. The first workshop is supposed to take place on June 5th and 6th, 2020 and will be followed by two workshop sessions in spring and autumn 2021. The workshop will be held in English. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered. Welcome are contributions to all outlined topics.

Please send your contributions in the form of an abstract until January 6th, 2020 to and


Dr. Birte Förster & Henriette Voelker

Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Thielallee 71, 14195 Berlin


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