Author Archive

New Book: C. Thumiger, A History of the Mind and Mental Health in Classical Greek Medical Thought

 

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Historian Chiara Thumiger – Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Fellow in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick and a Gastwissenschaftlerin in the Department of Classical Philology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin – has just published a new book with Cambridge University Press entitled A History of the Mind and Mental Health in Classical Greek Medical Thought. The description reads:

The Hippocratic texts and other contemporary medical sources have often been overlooked in discussions of ancient psychology. They have been considered to be more mechanical and less detailed than poetic and philosophical representations, as well as later medical texts such as those of Galen. This book does justice to these early medical accounts by demonstrating their richness and sophistication, their many connections with other contemporary cultural products and the indebtedness of later medicine to their observations. In addition, it reads these sources not only as archaeological documents but also in the light of methodological discussions that are fundamental to the histories of psychiatry and psychology. As a result of this approach, the book will be important for scholars of these disciplines as well as those of Greek literature and philosophy, strongly advocating the relevance of ancient ideas to modern debates.

 

John Burnham (1929-2017)

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We at h-madness are saddened to hear the news of the passing last week of historian of medicine and psychiatry John Burnham. John served on the faculty at Ohio State University from 1963 to 2002, was president of the American Association for the History of Medicine from 1990-1992, and was editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences from 1997 to 2000.

Burnham’s works have left an indelible mark on the historiography of the human sciences and mental health in the United States. Over the course of his career, John exhibited a remarkable range of interests: from the historical links connecting the collective fates of drinking, smoking, taking drugs, gambling, and swearing to reconsidering the place of psychoanalysis in America to tracing how psychiatry was transnationalized following World War II through a remarkable switch to English-language communication.

In my estimation, one of his most novel and interesting works was his 2009 book Accident Prone: A History of Technology, Psychology and Misfits of the Machine Age. In it, he moved against the grain of the historiography of contemporary psychiatry – which has tended to focus on the proliferation of diagnoses – and explored how, despite the advocacy of some prominent psychologists following World War I, the diagnosis of “accident proneness” was usurped during the second half of the 20th century by engineers who “developed new technologies to protect all people, thereby introducing a hidden, but radical, egalitarianism.” Here is a fascinating and rather counter-intuitive story that pays attention to the histories of subjectivity, technology, the human sciences, and the environment, while also noting the political consequences of their interactions.

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For those of us moving in the circles of professional conferences on the history of psychiatry and madness, John was a faithful, regular presence. What always struck me about John was his genuine curiosity in the subject and in what others had to say. Despite his vast experience thinking and writing about the history of mental health, he had a passion for hearing what the newest cohorts of junior faculty and PhD students had to say on the subject. His simple words of encouragement helped sustain younger, self-doubting colleagues like myself as we waded through difficult dissertations, unsuccessful job applications, and rejected manuscripts.

Passion, curiosity, intellectual boldness, encouragement: these are some of the chief characteristics of a successful mentor. And they just happen to be some of the characteristics I will always associate with John.

Greg Eghigian

New Facebook Site for Hidden Persuaders Project

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The Hidden Persuaders is a research project based at Birkbeck, University of London that examines the history of brainwashing and persuasion in culture, clinical knowledge and the Cold War human sciences. It has now established a Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/hiddenpersuaders1) as well.  The newest post links to a piece written by h-madness editor Andreas Killen entitled “Grey Walter in the Age of Brainwashing.”

Call for Collaborators for h-madness

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As announced in January, h-madness is embarking on a set of major changes to the website and its management. It is our belief that it is time for the site to take on a more lively feel and for a wider and diverse circle of specialists in the field to be involved in generating content for h-madness.

This means, among other things, bringing on board scholars from all stages in their careers and from across the world. To that end, we are issuing a general Call for Collaborators. More specifically, we invite scholars conducting research, writing, and/or teaching on the subject of the history of madness and mental health who are interested in becoming involved in helping to run h-madness to submit a statement of their interest in one or more of the following positions:

1. H-Madness Advisory Board

The advisory board’s main job will be to serve as a resource for the senior editors and, similar to most academic journals, will be composed of more or less senior scholars in the field. Board member involvement will likely be only occasional, perhaps receiving no more than 4-5 emails/year.

2. Section Editors

Section editors will be involved in h-madness on a weekly – and, at times, perhaps a daily – basis, responsible for writing, editing, and posting content (this includes soliciting contributions from scholars in the field). Section editors may be at most any stage in their careers (from advanced doctoral students to senior scholars).

3. Editorial Assistants

The responsibility of editorial assistants will be to aid the senior editors and the section editors in their work. While most of their responsibilities will involve correspondence and website management, they also will be encouraged to generate content. Doctoral students – particularly those early on in their studies – interested in getting involved in h-madness should apply for these positions.

If you have an interest in joining h-madness in any of these capacities, submit a brief statement of interest (no more than 1-3 paragraphs) and a cv to <hpsychiatry [at] gmail.com> by March 6. And, of course, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

The Editors

7th Anniversary of h-madness: Upcoming Changes

To All Our Readers and Contributors:

Today marks the seventh anniversary of h-madness. When we began this blog in 2010, we started it in the knowledge that there was great interest in the history of mental health and psychiatry out there as well as a vibrant and innovative community of scholars. Up to that point, however, we had no online site where those of us engaged in the study of the history of madness could exchange timely information about meetings, events, publications, and interests. Over the years, we have not only circulated the details about conferences, articles, and books, but also posted book reviews, film reviews, reviews of exhibitions, and autobiographical commentaries.

It has not escaped our notice, however, that over the recent past the blog has been primarily limited to reporting on upcoming conferences and talks and new publications. It is our belief, however, that the strength of an online site lies in its ability to offer far more dynamic and unconventional opportunities for professional communication.

For that reason, over the coming months, we will be revamping the website and enhancing its content. Among other things, this will likely involve migrating the website to a university server and reorganizing the site’s administration.

In addition, we will be recruiting new contributors. In the near future, we will issue a more formal Call for Collaborators. But if you are interested in getting actively involved in h-madness, please feel free to get in touch with us at <hpsychiatry [at] gmail.com>.

Stay tuned for me details as things progress. And keep in mind that the editors here at h-madness are always eager to hear your thoughts on how to make the site better. So please contact us to share your ideas.

Best,
The Editors

Interview with Richard Noll on Carl Jung and His Legacy

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The site CelebrityTypes has recently published an interview with historian of psychiatry Richard Noll, focusing on the work and legacy of Carl Jung.  In the 1990s, Noll published two books on Jung:  The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement (Princeton University Press, 1994) and The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung (Random House, 1997). His critical assessments of Jung and his followers drew praise from some circles, but also the ire of some proponents of Jung’s ideas.

Noll, however, never really addressed his critics. Here in this interview, he explains why and shares his thoughts on Jung, the response his books received, and the status of Jungian scholarship today.

Excerpt:

When your books on Jung came out, you were savaged by certain pro-Jungian authors, yet (joining Nozick and Hume) you never answered your critics. Indeed you simply moved on to other fields altogether. Why did you decide to let the critics have the last word?

Once a book or article appears, it follows its own fate and speaks for itself. I feel it no longer belongs to me but instead must undergo its own ordeal in the arena – that is, if anyone reads and comments on it at all (most publications are totally ignored, by the way). I place great faith in the mechanisms of scholarship as a multigenerational project in which we all interpret and correct each other’s texts. In other words, we wash each other’s diapers because that’s our job – indeed, perversely, it’s our passion. All scholarship, including mine, has a short shelf-life. So that’s one reason.

 

Thumiger on Film “Seishin” (Mental) by Kazuhiro Soda

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Historian of medicine Chiara Thumiger has just posted an essay on director Kazuhiro Soda’s 2008 film Seishin (Mental). As she describes it:

That of Sugano is just one of the human stories narrated by the film “Seishin” (“Mental”), by Kazuhiro Soda, an unforgettable documentary (if often hard to watch) about mental health and mental suffering in the context of a small clinical community, with its efforts and hard work, its struggles with the bureaucracy and with budgeting, and its daily routine. It is also a documentary on what it means to offer care to patients who suffer mentally, and to be a doctor; most of all, it is a touching collection of scattered pieces of human life, seen through the lenses of a handful of particular individuals. Their stories and emotions, but also their bodies, faces, expressions and physical presence – talking, working, laughing, smoking – are the real centre of the account; their individual viewpoints represent more clearly than any theoretical discussion the infinite possible meanings of ‘mentally ill’ and ‘mentally sound’ across different situations and worlds, and from one individual to the other.

You can read more by Thumiger on her blog Stories and Histories of Mental Health: Ancient World to Contemporary.

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