Journal: Social History of Medicine (August 2022)

The recently published August 2022 issue of the Social History of Medicine journal includes four articles that may interest to h-madness readers. The titles, authors and abstracts are as follows:

From ‘Immoral’ Users to ‘Sunbed Addicts’: The Media–Medical Pathologising of Working-class Consumers and Young Women in Late Twentieth-century England“, by Fabiola Creed

“Drawing on the changing representations of sunbed consumers within everyday entertainment media and national newspapers from the late 1980s to early 1990s, this article will demonstrate how sunbed use was framed, at first, as an ‘immoral’ working-class activity, and later as a growing addictive threat to white adolescent women. Medical experts had finally confirmed that sunbeds increased the risk of developing skin cancer, and the media had taken this ‘public health’ matter into their own hands. As this occurred during a backlash against Thatcherism, their anti-sunbed coverage became entangled with moralised concerns about class, women and consumerism. These sunbed warnings stigmatised both ‘yuppies’ and young women who exercised their new economic freedoms. Unravelling these complex political, economic and social tensions will also show how historians can use fictional and ‘low-brow’ media sources (from television soaps, cartoons and the Daily Mail) to further develop the history of public health approaches”.

Creating the New Soviet Man: The Case of Neurasthenia“, by Anastasia Beliaeva

“The article focuses on two different ways of constructing and understanding neurasthenia: one in the context of Russian medicine in the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries, and the other in Soviet medicine after the communist revolution in 1917. The author examines the assumptions about human nature made in these two contexts and how they were bound to connect to the existing political context and agenda. The author explores how human nature was understood by the Russian and Soviet doctors at that time, and consequentially, their views on the harmful causes that led a healthy person to neurasthenia. Through the lens of the changing shifts in understanding neurasthenia, the author analyses the transformation that occurred in understanding human nature in general in the 1920–30s which led to the idea of the creation of the New Soviet Man, and also demonstrates the difference between the ‘former’ man and the ‘new’ man. The development of neurasthenia as a culturally bound construct reveals how medicine and politics are intertwined”.

The Hypnotic Screen: The Early Soviet Experiment with Film Psychotherapy“, by Anna Toropova

“The early Soviet period witnessed a number of experiments in ‘film psychotherapy’—the attempt to deploy the cinematic medium in hypnotherapeutic treatment. Exploring this pivotal, yet virtually unknown, moment in the history of cinema’s intertwinement with medicine, the article seeks to understand Soviet film psychotherapy as a response to transnational anxieties over cinema’s ‘powers of influence’, as well as a distinctively ‘Soviet’ experiment. An exploration of the project’s origins in Soviet psychophysiological studies of spectators and experiments in group hypnotherapeutic treatment is used to demonstrate the unique context that shaped Soviet doctors’ emergence as film therapy pioneers. After examining the medical and political hopes pinned on the project, the article tries to understand the reasons why film psychotherapy’s considerable potential remained largely unrealised. The project that promised to be a major boon to Soviet social medicine, it is argued, also brought the scientific premises of Soviet psychotherapy into question”.

Pathologising ‘Refusal’: Prison, Health and Conscientious Objectors during the First World War“, by Max Hodgson

“This article examines the extent to which the refusals of British conscientious objectors (COs) to fight during the First World War were pathologised through the lens of physical and mental health, and the ways in which such a pathology impacted their treatment in penal establishments. It argues that the government compromised the physical as well as the mental health of absolutist COs. The article also analyses the effects of the state’s pathologising efforts upon objectors, and the methods through which the physical bodies of COs were utilised against, or annexed by, the authorities. Drawing on Cabinet Minutes, Prison Commissioner Reports, and COs’ personal letters and memoir materials, it suggests that the case of COs offers an interesting comparison with the complex ways in which the phenomenon of ‘shell-shock’ was beginning to be understood in both somatic and psychological terms”.

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