Posts Tagged ‘ psychopathy ’

New issue: Social History of Medicine

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The new issue of Social History of Medicine includes at least two articles that could be of interest to H-Madness readers:

Katariina Parhi and Petteri Pietikainen, Socialising the Anti-Social: Psychopathy, Psychiatry and Social Engineering in Finland, 1945–1968.

This article argues that in Finland during the two decades after the Second World War, the diagnosis of psychopathy represented a failed attempt to adjust ‘difficult’ individuals to the social order. Discussing the social and medical character of the diagnosis, we examine psychopathy using the analytic and historical framework of social engineering in post-war Finland. We utilise patient records, official documents and psychiatric publications and analyse the diagnostic uses of psychopathy and its associations with social maladjustment. We also address the question of how mental health care in the less-developed northern part of Finland grappled with behavioural deviance, and especially with behaviour deemed ‘anti-social’. Contextualising psychopathy as a marker of individual disorganisation within the development of social organisation, this article contributes to historical scholarship that maps mental disorders onto the historical development of the nation.

Concepts used by historians are as historical as the diagnoses or categories that are studied. The example of Munchausen syndrome (deceptive presentation of illness in order to adopt the ‘sick role’) is used to explore this. Like most psychiatric diagnoses, Munchausen syndrome is not thought applicable across time by social historians of medicine. It is historically specific, drawing upon twentieth-century anthropology and sociology to explain motivation through desire for the ‘sick role’. Ian Hacking’s concepts of ‘making up people’ and ‘looping effects’ are regularly utilised outside of the context in which they are formed. However, this context is precisely the same anthropological and sociological insight used to explain Munchausen syndrome. It remains correct to resist the projection of Munchausen syndrome into the past. However, it seems inconsistent to use Hacking’s concepts to describe identity formation before the twentieth century as they are given meaning by an identical context.

 

New Article: Eghigian on the History of Psychopathy in Germany

So-called "Asocials" in Nazi Germany. From: http://www.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fmedia.de.indymedia.org%2Fimages%2F2010%2F05%2F281296.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fde.indymedia.org%2F2010%2F05%2F281293.shtml&h=354&w=500&tbnid=SfD4rtHrfQEctM%3A&zoom=1&docid=85W6WEhAfu5-YM&ei=yxGNVenmFITQygOXlYuwCQ&tbm=isch&client=safari&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=2160&page=1&start=0&ndsp=26&ved=0CCYQrQMwAg. Foto: Der nichtseßhafte Mensch, München 1938

So-called “Asocials” in Nazi Germany. From: Google Images. Foto: Der nichtseßhafte Mensch, München 1938

The latest issue of the journal Isis features an article by co-editor of h-madness Greg Eghigian entitled “A Drifting Concept for an Unruly Menace: A History of Psychopathy in Germany.” The abstract reads:

The term ‘psychopath’ has enjoyed wide currency both in popular culture and among specialists in forensic psychiatry. Historians, however, have generally neglected the subject. This essay examines the history of psychopathy in the country that first coined the term, developed the concept, and debated its treatment: Germany. While the notion can be traced to nineteenth-century psychiatric ideas about abnormal, yet not completely pathological, character traits, the figure of the psychopath emerged out of distinctly twentieth-century preoccupations and institutions. The vagueness and plasticity of the diagnosis of psychopathy proved to be one of the keys to its success, as it was embraced and employed by clinicians, researchers, and the mass media, despite attempts by some to curb its use. Within the span of a few decades, the image of the psychopath became one of a perpetual troublemaker, an individual who could not be managed within any institutional setting. By midcentury, psychopaths were no longer seen as simply nosological curiosities; rather, they were spatial problems, individuals whose defiance of institutional routine and attempts at social redemption stood in for an attributed mental status. The history of psychopathy therefore reveals how public dangers and risks can be shaped and defined by institutional limitations.

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