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Review – Michal Shapira, The War Inside: Psychoanalysis, Total War, and the Making of the Democratic Self in Post-War Britain (Cambridge 2013)

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Paul Lerner, University of Southern California

The psychological impact of modern war on civilians remains a little studied topic, even as the already prodigious historical scholarship on war trauma continues to expand rapidly. Michal Shapira’s recent book makes great strides in redressing this gap, vividly depicting the emotional strains of war on women, children and other non-combatants and revealing the enormous and sustained expert attention the topic received in Britain in the 1940s and beyond.  Dealing with populations such as juvenile evacuees during Germany’s brutal air assault, Jewish children rescued from Nazi-controlled Europe, and civilians separated from their loved ones in uniform, thrust psychoanalysts, a group once reticent about taking political stands, into public debates about mental health, trauma, and child development.  Indeed, Shapira shows that as Britain sought to emerge from the war as a stable, intact and democratic society in a devastated and fiercely divided Europe, psychoanalysts became key contributors to general discussions about the family, violence, criminality and sexuality.

Shapira frames these discussions broadly, drawing on Nikolas Rose’s Foucault-inspired work on the historicitiy and constructedness of the modern self, indeed furthering his argument that the individual with psychological depth and an “inner life” emerged in the middle of the twentieth century, due in part to the emergence of the “psy” disciplines.  Shapira builds on this insight with parallel interventions in the history of childhood, focusing on a crucial transitional moment from Victorian attitudes toward children as pure and innocent to more modern, developmental and psychologically-nuanced ideas, which saw childhood more as a precursor to adulthood where nascent sexual urges, aggression, and psychodynamic conflicts leave a lasting imprint on the psyche.  Child rearing and education then became bound up with Britain’s larger national project of emerging from the trying ordeal of war and returning to a normal domestic order.  This order, propped up by psychoanalysts, social scientists and the postwar social democratic state, involved re-inscribing traditional gender roles and emphasizing the centrality of the mother to healthful child development and domestic tranquility.

A great many of these elements can be traced back to the First World War and the interwar period.  Shapira’s first chapter goes back to that era to argue that wartime experiences helped chip away at the strict division between healthy and pathological psyches, and most significantly, that medical and psychological professions became more accepting of fear and anxiety as normal, healthy reactions to wartime experiences.  Psychoanalysts in particular played a pronounced role in this shift.  Their work with war neurotics, along with Freudian ideas about trauma, helped remove the stigma from sufferers of anxiety-induced conditions.  By the beginning of World War II, Shapira argues, these changes had taken root in lay attitudes as well, and amid Germany’s aerial bombing campaigns, many Britons openly expressed their terror and anxieties or confided them to psychologists frankly and without shame.

Most of the book’s subsequent sections focus on children as subjects of psychological treatment and expert intervention.  Its second chapter foregrounds the work Anna Freud and other psychoanalysts conducted with child evacuees and refugees.  Here the theme of the “war inside” begins to emerge, as contemporaries equated the potentially traumatizing consequences of bombardment, violence and separation with the internal turmoil of the child’s psyche.  For Anna Freud, then, violence and aggression were normal childhood tendencies, stages that all children navigate through as part of the maturation process.  The problem then was not that war-produced violence threatened to shatter fragile, beatific babes, rather that external violence could stunt children’s psychological development, that it could seem like a normative state and that kids therefore would not learn how to manage their emotions and overcome it.  Plumbing rich collections of case histories, Shapira tells of children equating German military aggression with adult anger, or bombing with parental punishment, suggesting the extent to which external danger and internal dynamics were intertwined.  The solution lay in (re)-establishing parenting and familial bonds which Anna Freud and her colleagues saw as crucial for the resolution and management of these childhood conflicts.

The famous Anna Freud – Melanie Klein dispute takes center stage in the third chapter, in which Shapira covers tensions between the existing British psychoanalytic community and the newer cohort of Central European émigré analysts.  As is familiar to scholars of psychoanalysis, Melanie Klein considered children’s play to be akin to adult psychoanalysis, in other words a setting for transference, rife with symbolic meanings for the analyst to decode. Freud viewed this notion skeptically, doubting that children were sufficiently psychologically developed for these dynamics and emphasizing instead the need for corrective pedagogy, betraying her indebtedness to Austrian educational theory from the 1920s and 30s.  Shapira’s contribution to the historiography of this debate is to call attention not to the disparity in the two positions, but to stress the common ground between the famous rivals (and the many “independent” analysts in the middle), in their shared representation of the emotional dynamics of childhood and the articulation of psychoanalytic therapeutics for children.  Shapira credits Klein with playing a crucial role in the creation of modern selfhood as she developed a deep psychological approach to understanding the impact of war and violence, in implicit contrast to the more sociological analyses of Erich Fromm and his Frankfurt School colleagues or the more materialist and mechanical theories of mainstream psychology and psychiatry.  Her key point here is that despite their theoretical and clinical differences, together Freud, Klein and others turned the child into an object of technical expertise and state intervention and made their care a matter of national concern.

The fourth chapter broadens out to the popularization of psychoanalytic expertise, which Shapira traces through a series of radio broadcasts created by Donald Winnicott and the BBC between 1943 and 1966.  Detailing the collaboration between Winnicott and his BBC producer Janet Quigley, she shows how psychoanalytic ideas about child development buttressed the new emphasis on family in postwar Britain and placed responsibility for children’s emotional wellbeing firmly on the mother, a theme she takes up again near the book’s end.  Winnicott and his BBC sponsors thus fed into postwar pronatalism and the emerging conception that the family was the bedrock of a healthy democratic state.  The gender-political implications of this stance are clear, and given the mobilization of British women in the armed services and wartime work, psychoanalytic expertise here served the larger political aim of bringing women back into the domestic sphere and blaming working women for their children’s emotional struggles.

Chapters five and six treat the Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency (ISTD) first during the war and then amid the establishment of the postwar “therapeutic” welfare state.  Here she traces the transition from more punitive approaches to a new emphasis on treatment and rehabilitation, in part, due to the influence of psychoanalysts who were strongly represented in the ranks of the ISTD researchers.  No less a figure than Sigmund Freud himself, along with Ernest Jones, Otto Rank and Carl Jung, among others, served as ISTD vice presidents.  Criminality represents a kind of bridge, an issue which brought psychoanalytic perspectives on childhood and development into the public sphere and into the administrative apparatus of the postwar welfare state.  As she moves into the postwar period, her discussion shifts to issues like prostitution, homosexuality and deviance.. Shapira elucidates the psychoanalytic side of the discussion but also surveys the work of state officials, social scientists and members of the judicial system, revealing that not only were psychoanalysts addressing these issues, but that people in power were listening to them.  Consequently, the postwar years saw a broader acceptance of psychological, as opposed to moral or economic, approaches to crime and deviance.

In her concluding chapter on child hospitalization and attachment theory, Shapira comes full circle.  Having begun with the evacuation of children during wartime bombing and their resulting separation from their parents, she ends with the broader embrace of the salubriousness of the  mother – child bond, as demonstrated, for example, in the reversal of older policies that kept hospitalized children sequestered from their mothers and fathers.  Using media sources and letters from parents, she is able to document the wider diffusion of psychoanalytic ideas about childhood and parenting not only in official circles but also among the general public.  Indeed this book’s varied source base is one of its great strengths.  Based on case histories, archival sources, professional journals, and radio, television and newspapers, the book operates on many levels and provides a broad overview of many of the ways a psychoanalytic sensibility crept into public discourse in these years and meshed with the goals of the nascent welfare state.  At the center of their concerns was of course the mother and the importance placed on her presence as a domestic anchor, the fundament of the healthy family and the restored nation.

Carefully researched and tightly argued, this book makes broad and intriguing claims about postwar British subjectivity and the origins of modern, psychoanalytically informed notions of the self.  While generally persuasive, these claims could have been further substantiated with additional discussion of British political culture.  Whereas Shapira gives some attention to the ascent of Labour after the war, she completely neglects the loss of empire which, as other historians have argued, was deeply intertwined with the emergence of the welfare state and which certainly influenced notions of Britishness, citizenship and selfhood in the postwar period.  Parallel to her discussions of sexuality, gender and the family in the reconstitution of British political life, including race and post-imperial identity could have deepened the analysis and broadened its appeal.  It would also have been interesting to place the British case, at least speculatively, in a broader context with some acknowledgement of parallel developments in North American and on the European continent.  These points notwithstanding, The War Inside is a vital addition to the study of psychoanalysis and its diffusion, the history of childhood, and the rise of the therapeutic-administrative state.  It successfully gets at the fundamental but extremely elusive process by which our emotions, feelings, and drives became things for us to manage, part of the individual’s project, helping show how the modern self emerged from the rubble of the middle of the twentieth century.

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 issue – History of the Human Sciences

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The new issue of the History of the Human Sciences on Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective could be of interest to H-madness readers. The issue is edited by Sarah Marks and contains the following articles:

Sarah Marks, Introduction: Psychotherapy in historical perspective

This article will briefly explore some of the ways in which the past has been used as a means to talk about psychotherapy as a practice and as a profession, its impact on individuals and society, and the ethical debates at stake. It will show how, despite the multiple and competing claims about psychotherapy’s history and its meanings, historians themselves have, to a large degree, not attended to the intellectual and cultural development of many therapeutic approaches. This absence has the potential consequence of implying that therapies have emerged as value-free techniques, outside of a social, economic and political context. The relative neglect of psychotherapy, by contrast with the attention historians have paid to other professions, particularly psychiatry, has also underplayed its societal impact. This article will foreground some of the instances where psychotherapy has become an object of emerging historical interest, including the new research that forms the substance of this special issue of History of the Human Sciences.

Continue reading

New book – Nineteenth Century American Asylums. A History in Postcards

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The book Nineteenth Century American Asylums. A History in Postcards could be of interest to h-madness readers. The volume is written by Alma Wynelle Deese & Cathy Faye. The abstract reads:

In the nineteenth century, several institutions were established in the United States to house and care for the mentally ill. By 1880, 139 “asylums” and “mental hospitals” had been created using both private and public funds, and by 1890, every state had built one or more publicly supported mental hospitals. Although early American asylums were often underfunded and crowded, they were often one of the few options for those suffering from mental illness. These large and grandiose facilities could therefore serve as a place of refuge. In addition, these asylums were significant places for research and teaching in early medicine, psychiatry, and psychology.

Postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, coinciding with the establishment of many “state lunatic hospitals.” Featuring more than 300 images of early public and private asylums as presented in picture postcards, this book offers a fascinating view of these grand structures, the expansive grounds and gardens they occupied, and their unique architectural features. The images are accompanied by brief historical descriptions of each institution, along with information about their current status. Together, the images and text offer the reader an opportunity to explore the space and places of early mental health care of the United States.

This information was retrieved from the Advances in the History of Psychology blog.

 

 

Dissertations – Madness in Early Modern England

Alison R. Brown: “Though Troubled Be My Brain:” Madness in Early Modern England, 1603-1714

This dissertation is a study of madness in Stuart-Era England. Madness was pervasive in early modern England; it was in the streets, performed on stage, discussed in political pamphlets and legal treatises, and physically housed in Bethlehem Hospital. Madness, therefore, serves as a significant lens because in differentiating between madness and sanity, contemporaries regularly drew clear boundaries between acceptable, or “normal” behavior, and unacceptable, or “abnormal” behavior, that was particular to seventeenth-century English culture and society. Specifically, I argue that madness serves as a channel to examine the diagnoses and treatment of mental disorders that contemporaries believed altered the body and mind, the legal repercussions of abnormal behavior at the state and local level, and the use of corporeal rhetoric in political culture.

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Frontispiece of “The Ranters Declaration” (1650). The Ranters were a radical religious and political group that emerged during the mid-century crisis in England. Many critics of their movement described them as “The Mad Crew.”

In studying the diagnoses and treatments of diseases that altered the body and mind, we encounter contemporaries negotiating between the boundaries of madness and sanity in familial and community relationships, their choice of medical practitioner, their conception of the mind-body relationship, and the ways in which the interplay between natural and supernatural beliefs affected medicinal practices. In negotiating the boundaries between madness and sanity in gender relations, the law, and political culture, we encounter representations of the mad such as “Tom of Bedlam” and “Mad Bess,” recognizable characters in poems, riddles, and ballads. Representations of the mad and madness itself formed discursive elements in philosophy, religious nonconformity, gendered language, legal statutes, Personal Acts of Parliament, inquisitions of lunacy, the symbolism of “undress,” or nakedness, and in political propaganda meant to delegitimize opposing parties. Therefore, the ways in which contemporaries recognized, interpreted, and managed madness provides insight into aspects of English society colored by divisions between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Before public institutions for the insane were founded specifically for that purpose, family or community-based care was the norm for the mad, in addition to the few private madhouses that were founded by private entrepreneurs during the last half of the seventeenth century. With no bureaucratic system of recordkeeping, source limitations seemingly restricted historians to the period starting a century and a half later when public asylums were built. Consequently, this dissertation draws on a wide variety of sources in order to creatively circumvent this problem, including manuscripts, parish records, land commissions, autobiography, spiritual biography, criminal cases, political pamphlets, doctors’ notes, medical guidebooks, and more.

Alison R. Brown is a Ph.D. Candidate at Purdue University working with Professor Melinda S. Zook.

Contact: brown923@purdue.edu

 

Merken

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

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