Workshop : Writing the history of psychiatry after 1945

The history of psychiatry in the twentieth century is characterised by an historiographic void compared with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This post-1945 historiographic void has been cited frequently in recent literature and comprises the starting point for this workshop. It aims to present an overview of the current state of research and move beyond the narrow perspectives that characterises the history of psychiatry in terms of whiggish or cyclic (biological against social psychiatry) progression . This first workshop will focus on two questions: the chronologies and paradigms of current research. The use and abuse of psychiatry in the context of Nazi policies is an exception; but the focus on National Socialism seems to have drawn attention away from the rest of the century and isolated these ‘dark years’. Indeed, with the exception of this period, the historical narrative of psychiatry in the twentieth century is still largely unstructured, or still too characterised by national epistemologies. To date the history of twentieth century psychiatry is often framed in terms of the Second World War. Is the political caesura of 1945 relevant? The introduction of the first shock therapies in the 1930s or the psychopharmaceutical revolution of the 1950s could be other historical turning points. If one considers the history of psychiatry in larger medical, scientific and social frameworks, other chronologies become visible. Contrary to Michel Foucault’s “Great Confinement” or Dirk Blasius’s “differentiation of bourgeois society,” the history of psychiatry of the twentieth century — and especially of the post-war period — seems to lack a master narrative that could help structure discussions in the social sciences and contemporary history, as well as contextualise psychiatric discourse and practice. To what extent are the conferences by Michel Foucault in the Collège de France or the work of Gladys Swain and Marcel Gauchet, elaborated in the 1970s and 1980s, analytic grids for the twentieth century? Can Robert Castel’s La société psychiatrique avancée or the third ‘biological’ revolution in psychiatry (notably emphasised by Edward Shorter) serve as meta-accounts for a history of psychiatry after 1945? Or does diagnostic and therapeutic differentiation makes the search for a larger theoretical framework illusive? Papers that combine these larger questions with specific case studies are particularly welcome. At the same time, the workshop may be the starting point for a network of researchers and universities working on the history of psychiatry after 1945 The initiative is being launched by the following persons: Jean-Christophe Coffin (Université Paris 5- CNRS, Centre A. Koyré), Emmanuel Delille (EHESS, Centre A. Koyré) Volker Hess, Eric Engstrom (Institut für Geschichte der Medizin — Charité) Sloan Mahone, Mathew Savelli (Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine — Oxford) Benoît Majerus (Université libre de Bruxelles) Jakob Tanner, Marietta Meier (Universität Zürich)

The workshop is organised by the Institut für Geschichte der Medizin — Charité Berlin and the Université libre de Bruxelles. It will be held in Brussels on 30 and 31 May 2008. The deadline for (1 page) proposals is 15 November 2007 and they should be sent to the following address: [email protected]. To allow for precirculation, manuscripts should be submitted to the organisers by 15 April 2008.

Benoît Majerus

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