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New Book: “Localization and its Discontents” (Katja Guenther)

localization and discontentsLocalization and Its Discontents


Katja Guenther

University of Chicago Press

Psychoanalysis and neurological medicine have promoted contrasting and seemingly irreconcilable notions of the modern self. Since Freud, psychoanalysts have relied on the spoken word in a therapeutic practice that has revolutionized our understanding of the mind. Neurologists and neurosurgeons, meanwhile, have used material apparatus—the scalpel, the electrode—to probe the workings of the nervous system, and in so doing have radically reshaped our understanding of the brain. Both operate in vastly different institutional and cultural contexts.

Given these differences, it is remarkable that both fields found resources for their development in the same tradition of late nineteenth-century German medicine: neuropsychiatry. In Localization and Its Discontents, Katja Guenther investigates the significance of this common history, drawing on extensive archival research in seven countries, institutional analysis, and close examination of the practical conditions of scientific and clinical work. Her remarkable accomplishment not only reframes the history of psychoanalysis and the neuro disciplines, but also offers us new ways of thinking about their future.

For more information on this book, see the University of Chicago Press website.

Workshop announcement: Brainwashing, Film, and the Psy Sciences

The Hidden Persuaders Project and the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image cordially invite you to:

Brainwash: History, Cinema and the Psy Professions

3rd and 4th of July 2015, 10:00am-6:00pm

Birkbeck Cinema
43 Gordon Square
WC1H 0PD London

The history of cinema, like the history of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and psychotherapy, percolates with Western suspicions that our minds are susceptible to covert, even unconscious manipulation. Cinema and psychoanalysis—two essential exponents of subjectivity in the twentieth century—have been celebrated as royal roads to the unconscious, catalysts for our dreams, and means of self-discovery and human emancipation. But cinema and psychotherapy, Freudian or otherwise, have also been castigated for their special capacity to tap the unconscious, and as tools for mind control, even as they have depicted and shaped understanding of what it means to have or to manipulate a mind.

In this workshop we ask whether the Cold War obsession with brainwashing was a break with past narratives and anxieties over mental manipulation and suggestion. We consider how far cinema, television and video have been caught up in this history of hidden or coercive persuasion, and how far they have changed the terms of debate. What forms of human experimentation inspired interest in brainwashing, and vice versa?  And how and why did depictions of automatism on screen so often connect to fears of the ‘psy’ professions?

In addressing these questions we revisit some iconic and obscure brainwashing sagas of the past. By re-examining Cold War films and some of their precursors, we invite discussion of the representation of coercively altered states of consciousness—the dangerous spell that film and ‘the talking cure’ have been said to exert.

Workshop Programme

3 July

Raymond Bellour (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique): Cinema and Hypnoses: Mabuse as an example

Laura Mulvey (Birkbeck, University of London): From Momism to The Feminine Mystique
Maya Oppenheimer & Rod Dickinson (University of West England):  Re-enacting Obedience: laboratory on film

Jelena Martinovic (Geneva University of Art and Design): Depatterning desire: Aversion therapy on film
Laura Marcus (University of Oxford): Flicker

Marcie Holmes (Birkbeck, University of London): Flickering lights: mind control on screen

4 July

Ian Christie (Birkbeck, University of London): The Soviet story: From interrogation to confession

Ana Antic (Birkbeck, University of London): Cinema and education: Building the new communist person
Erik Linstrum (University of Virginia): Interrogating The Interrogator: Cyprus, the BBC, and the performance of violence

Gavin Collinson (BBC): Brainwashing on the Box: Depictions of brainwashing on British TV
Daniel Pick (Birkbeck, University of London): Suddenly: Some thoughts about assassination at the cinema

Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge): Manchurian Automata

The full programme and free registration for this event can be found on Eventbrite.

Upcoming UCL events on history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis

Two upcoming events at the UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines:

UCL, Tuesday 16th June 2015, 6-7.30pm

Historical trauma studies continue to burgeon, but the work in this
flourishing field of scholarship is derived from a small number of
purely Euro-American catastrophic events, which serve as historical and
psychological paradigms. Micale, who contributed to earlier debates in
the field with his edited collection Traumatic Pasts: History, 
Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930, argues that
scholars need now to look beyond the West toward a new, more genuinely
global perspective on the history of trauma. He focuses in particular on
new research being done about Asia.

UCL, Saturday 18th July 2015 2-6pm

How does one write the history of the psychoanalytic movement? This
event marks the publication of Ernst Falzeder’s book, Psychoanalytic
Filiations: Mapping the Psychoanalytic Movement (Karnac Books), with a
series of debates and discussions on this theme.

Written over a span of nearly a quarter century, the “red thread”
running through the book is the network of psychoanalytic “filiations”
(who analysed whom), and how crucial concepts of depth psychology were
developed before the background of those intense relationships: for
example, Freud’s technical recommendations, the therapeutic use of
countertransference and the view of the psychoanalytic situation as a
social, interactive process, the introduction of the anal phase, the
birth of the object-relations-model as opposed to the drive-model in
psychoanalysis, or the psychotherapeutic treatment of psychoses. Several
chapters deal with key figures in that history, such as Sándor Ferenczi,
Karl Abraham, Eugen Bleuler, Otto Rank, and C. G. Jung, their respective
relationships to each other and to Freud, and the consequences that
their collaboration, as well as conflicts, with him had for the further
development of psychoanalysis up to the present day. Other chapters give
an overview on the publications of Freud’s texts and on unpublished
documents (the “unknown Freud”), the editorial policy of the
publications of Freud’s letters.


Dr. Ernst Falzeder (UCL)
Dr. Shaul Bar-Heim (Birkbeck College)
Arthur Eaton (UCL)
Dr. Matt ffytche (University of Essex)
Prof. Brett Kahr (Roehampton University)
Dr. Sarah Marks (University of Cambridge)
Dee McQuillan (UCL)
Dr. Richard Skues (London Metropolitan University)
Chair: Prof. Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Full details and registration online here:

New publication: ‘Critical Medical Humanities’, a special issue of BMJ’s Medical Humanities

Posted by Durham’s Centre for Medical Humanities:

It is with great pleasure that we announce the publication of a special issue of Medical Humanities journal, edited by Centre for Medical Humanities researchers William VineyFelicity Callard, and Angela Woods.

Cover image of Medical Humanities 41.1. Matthew Herring, Illustration depicting telemedicine – diagnosis and treatment over the internet (image provided by Wellcome Images).

Exploring the many valences of the word ‘critical’ across and beyond the medical humanities, the special collection champions a ‘critical medical humanities’ characterised by: (i) a widening of the sites and scales of ‘the medical’ beyond the primal scene of the clinical encounter; (ii) greater attention not simply to the context and experience of health and illness, but to their constitution at multiple levels; (iii) closer engagement with critical theory, queer and disability studies, activist politics and other allied fields; (iv) recognition that the arts, humanities and social sciences are best viewed not as in service or in opposition to the clinical and life sciences, but as productively entangled with a ‘biomedical culture’; and, following on from this, (v) robust commitment to new forms of interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration. A more detailed account of these arguments can be found in the introductory paper.

The broadest ambition of this collection is to offer an invitation to think carefully about ‘critical’ priorities and to enliven debate about the guiding assumptions of medical humanities research. It does so by publishing work by those who may not ordinarily label themselves as medical humanities researchers. Andy GoffeyJan SlabyMel Y. ChenBronwyn ParryLynne Friedli and Robert Stearn are leading social science and humanities scholars who reflect upon the work of criticism in fields as diverse as immunology, neuroscience, race and disability studies, reproductive and fertility industries, and social policy. We have also invited short responses from Alex Nading, Stacey Smith, Clare BarkerLuna Dolezal, and Sarah Atkinson to draw out the key ideas of each article. We are extremely grateful to all our contributors for their time, energy, and commitment to this publication.

With the support of the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Deborah Bowman, this special issue of Medical Humanities is free to access online until 15th June 2015. We would like to extend our thanks to Deborah for enthusiastically supporting this project and to Emma Chan and her colleagues at the British Medical Journal for their professionalism and attention to detail.

Article in The Guardian: “The Truth About Psychosomatic Illness”

The London-based neurologist Susanne O’Sullivan has just published a piece in The Guardian about psychosomatic illness. Entitled “You Think I’m Mad?”, this article examines the case of a woman who went blind and whose symptoms could not be attributed to neurological causes. Towards the end of the article, the author mentions the ways in which this echoes the seminal work of nineteenth-century philosopher and psychologist, Pierre Janet (1859-1947).

To read the article, click here.

Peter Gay Dies at 91

It is another sad week for historians of psychiatry: Peter Gay — perhaps most famous in this field for his biography of Freud — has passed away at 91 years old.

An article on his life and work was published today in The New York Times. It starts thus:

Peter Gay, a German-born historian whose sense of intellectual adventure led him to write groundbreaking books on the Enlightenment, the Victorian middle classes, Sigmund Freud, Weimar culture and the cultural situation of Jews in Germany, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his stepdaughter Elizabeth Glazer.

Mr. Gay, a refugee from Nazi Germany, devoted his long career to exploring the social history of ideas, a quest that took him far afield from his original area of specialization, Voltaire and the Enlightenment. “He is one of the major American historians of European thought, period,” said Sander L. Gilman, a cultural and literary historian at Emory University.

It was his work on the 18th century that sealed Mr. Gay’s reputation as one of the pre-eminent historians of his generation. “Voltaire’s Politics,” published in 1959, was followed by “The Enlightenment: An Interpretation,” a monumental two-part study whose first volume, subtitled “The Rise of Modern Paganism,” won the National Book Award in 1967. The second volume, subtitled “The Science of Freedom,” was published in 1969.

“That is the last great work to provide a synthetic account of the philosophes and their world,” said Margaret Jacob, a professor of history at U.C.L.A. “It was canonical. He just had an encyclopedic grasp of the subject.”

A longstanding interest in Freud’s ideas led Mr. Gay to train at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis and motivated him to write a revisionist psychohistory of the Victorian middle classes, “The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud,” whose five volumes were published in the 1980s. He also wrote the highly acclaimed “Sigmund Freud: A Life for Our Time” (1988), the first substantial Freud biography since the three-volume one by Ernest Jones from the 1950s.

To read the full New York Times article, click here.

Special Issue of Science in Context: “Of Means and Ends: Mind and Brain Science in the Twentieth Century”

The latest issue of Science in Context, guest edited by Stephen T. Casper, deals with the mind and brain sciences in the twentieth century. Its essays cover a range of topics relevant to H-Madness readers, from the Thematic Apperception Test to Edgar Adrian’s Thermionic Vacuum Tube, from Hugo Münsterberg’s Psychotechnics to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and from the Psychosurgery Controversy of the 1970s to the Intersecting Histories of Psychiatry and Psychology in Twentieth-Centuy US.

Titles and abstracts below:

Of Means and Ends: Mind and Brain Science in the Twentieth Century

Stephen T. Casper

What role does context play in the mind and brain sciences? This introductory article, “Of Means and Ends,” explores that question through its focus on the ways scientists and physicians engaged with and constructed technology in the mind and brain sciences in the twentieth century. This topical issue addresses how scientists, physicians, and psychologists came to see the ends of technology as important in-and-of themselves. In so doing, the authors of these essays offer an interpretation of historian Paul Forman’s revisionist and highly contextualist chronology of the twentieth century, which presents the comparatively recent tendency to aggrandize the ends of technology as evidence of a major, epochal transformation in the epistemic culture of twentieth-century American science. This collection of papers suggests that it was in the vanguard of such fields as psychology, psychiatry, and neurophysiology in North America and Europe that the ends and applications of technology became important in-and-of themselves.

Dredging and Projecting the Depths of Personality: The Thematic Apperception Test and the Narratives of the Unconscious

Jason Miller

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was a projective psychological test created by Harvard psychologist Henry A. Murray and his lover Christina Morgan in the 1930s. The test entered the nascent intelligence service of the United States (the OSS) during the Second World War due to its celebrated reputation for revealing the deepest aspects of an individual’s unconscious. It subsequently spread as a scientifically objective research tool capable not only of dredging the unconscious depths, but also of determining the best candidate for a management position, the psychological complexes of human nature, and the unique characteristics of a culture. Two suppositions underlie the utility of the test. One is the power of narrative. The test entails a calculated abuse of the subjects tested, based on their inability to interpret their own narrative. The form of the test requires that a subject fail to decipher the coded, unconscious meaning their narrative reveals. Murray believed the interpretation of a subject’s narrative and the projection contained therein depended exclusively on the psychologist. This view of interpretation stems from the seemingly more reasonable belief of nineteenth-century Romantic thinkers that a literary text serves as a proxy for an author’s deepest self. The TAT also supposes that there is something beyond consciousness closely resembling a psychoanalytic unconscious, which also has clear precedents in nineteenth-century German thought. Murray’s views on literary interpretation, his view of psychology as well as the continuing prevalence of the TAT, signals a nineteenth-century concept of self that insists “on relations of depth and surface, inner and outer life” (Galison 2007, 277). It is clear the hermeneutic practice of Freud’s psychoanalysis, amplified in Jung, drew on literary conceptions of the unconscious wider than those of nineteenth-century psychology.

The Birth of Information in the Brain: Edgar Adrian and the Vacuum Tube

Justin Garson

As historian Henning Schmidgen notes, the scientific study of the nervous system would have been “unthinkable” without the industrialization of communication in the 1830s. Historians have investigated extensively the way nerve physiologists have borrowed concepts and tools from the field of communications, particularly regarding the nineteenth-century work of figures like Helmholtz and in the American Cold War Era. The following focuses specifically on the interwar research of the Cambridge physiologist Edgar Douglas Adrian, and on the technology that led to his Nobel-Prize-winning research, the thermionic vacuum tube. Many countries used the vacuum tube during the war for the purpose of amplifying and intercepting coded messages. These events provided a context for Adrian’s evolving understanding of the nerve fiber in the 1920s. In particular, they provide the background for Adrian’s transition around 1926 to describing the nerve impulse in terms of “information,” “messages,” “signals,” or even “codes,” and for translating the basic principles of the nerve, such as the all-or-none principle and adaptation, into such an “informational” context. The following also places Adrian’s research in the broader context of the changing relationship between science and technology, and between physics and physiology, in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

Screening the Psychological Laboratory: Hugo Münsterberg, Psychotechnics, and the Cinema, 1892–1916

Jeremy Blatter

According to Hugo Münsterberg, the direct application of experimental psychology to the practical problems of education, law, industry, and art belonged by definition to the domain of psychotechnics. Whether in the form of pedagogical prescription, interrogation technique, hiring practice, or aesthetic principle, the psychotechnical method implied bringing the psychological laboratory to bear on everyday life. There were, however, significant pitfalls to leaving behind the putative purity of the early psychological laboratory in pursuit of technological utility. In the Vocation Bureau, for example, psychological instruments were often deemed too intimidating for a public unfamiliar with the inner workings of experimental science. Similarly, when psychotechnical means were employed by big business in screening job candidates, ethical red flags were raised about this new alliance between science and capital. This tension was particularly evident in Münsterberg’s collaboration with the Paramount Pictures Corporation in 1916. In translating psychological tests into short experimental films, Münsterberg not only envisioned a new mass medium for the dissemination of psychotechnics, but a means by which to initiate the masses into the culture of experimental psychology.

Of Psychometric Means: Starke R. Hathaway and the Popularization of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

Rebecca Schilling and Stephen T. Casper

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) was developed at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in the 1930s and 1940s. It became a highly successful and highly controversial psychometric tool. In professional terms, psychometric tools such as the MMPI transformed psychology and psychiatry. Psychometric instruments thus readily fit into the developmental history of psychology, psychiatry, and neurology; they were a significant part of the narrative of those fields’ advances in understanding, intervening, and treating people with mental illnesses. At the same time, the advent of such tools also fits into a history of those disciplines that records the rise of obsessional observational and evaluative techniques and technologies in order to facilitate patterns of social control that became typical during the Progressive Era in the United States and after. It was those patterns that also nurtured the resistance to psychometrics that emerged during the Vietnam War and after.

The Surgical Elimination of Violence? Conflicting Attitudes towards Technology and Science during the Psychosurgery Controversy of the 1970s

Brian P. Casey

In the 1970s a public controversy erupted over the proposed use of brain operations to curtail violent behavior. Civil libertarians, civil rights and community activists, leaders of the anti-psychiatry movement, and some U.S. Congressmen charged psychosurgeons and the National Institute of Mental Health, with furthering a political project: the suppression of dissent. Several government-sponsored investigations into psychosurgery rebutted this charge and led to an official qualified endorsement of the practice while calling attention to the need for more “scientific” understanding and better ethical safeguards. This paper argues that the psychosurgery debate of the 1970s was more than a power struggle between members of the public and the psychiatric establishment. The debate represented a clash between a postmodern skepticism about science and renewed focus on ultimate ends, on the one hand, and a modern faith in standards and procedures, a preoccupation with means, on the other. These diverging commitments made the dispute ultimately irresolvable.

Contending Professions: Sciences of the Brain and Mind in the United States, 1850–2013

Andrew Scull

This paper examines the intersecting histories of psychiatry and psychology (particularly in its clinical guise) in the United States from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present. It suggests that there have been three major shifts in the ideological and intellectual orientation of the “psy complex.” The first period sees the dominance of the asylum in the provision of mental health care, with psychology, once it emerges in the early twentieth century, remaining a small enterprise largely operating outside the clinical arena, save for the development of psychometric technology. It is followed, between 1945 and 1980, by the rise of psychoanalytic psychiatry and the emergence of clinical psychology. Finally, the re-emergence of biological psychiatry is closely associated with two major developments: an emphasis that emerges in the late 1970s on rendering the diagnosis of psychiatric illnesses mechanical and predictable; and the long-term effects of the psychopharmacological revolution that began in the early 1950s. This third period has seen a shift the orientation of mainstream psychiatry away from psychotherapy, the end of traditional mental hospitals, and a transformed environment within which clinical psychologists ply their trade.

Epilogue: The Redux of Postmodernity

Roderick D. Buchanan

The essays in this topical issue illustrate the changing cultural form and function of the biopsyche disciplines – disciplines that are both sciences and technologies of selfhood. To varying degrees, each essay actively engages Paul Forman’s thesis on modern and postmodern cultural valuations of science and technology. Forman invites those who read his work to view the cultural space framing science and technology in new ways (Forman 2007; idem 2010).

For more information, click here.

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