Anatomy Of Madness Essays In The History Of Psychiatry

Anatomy Of Madness Essays In The History Of Psychiatry-37
In view of historians of psychiatry’s special love affair with the world of their protagonists, a critical review of these recent developments seems all the more pertinent.This special edition explores the varied ways in which patients’ voices have guided psychiatry’s construction, deconstruction and reconstruction from 1800 to the present.Few works in the history of medicine have received so enthusiastic a reception.

In view of historians of psychiatry’s special love affair with the world of their protagonists, a critical review of these recent developments seems all the more pertinent.This special edition explores the varied ways in which patients’ voices have guided psychiatry’s construction, deconstruction and reconstruction from 1800 to the present.Few works in the history of medicine have received so enthusiastic a reception.

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Fetishised, mythicised, ostracised, the psychiatric patient has emerged as an unlikely protagonist, capturing the scholarly, cultural and artistic imagination alike.

Yet recent assessments suggest that Porter’s call has not fully been heard.

In this respect, the thirtieth anniversary of Porter’s seminal article acts as an opportune occasion to re-examine the field using fresh historical and historiographical perspectives.

In what ways have historians of psychiatry taken on the project of a history ‘from below’?

Why am I and these poor wretches to be shut up here like scapegoats for all the rest?

You, your assistant, the superintendent, and all your hospital rabble, are immeasurably inferior to every one of us morally; why then are we shut up and you not?Porter, then, encouraged the medical historian to turn to new narratives.His was a new model – indeed the model of the ‘future’ Yet he was perhaps the one to most explicitly articulate them.The history of medicine ought to be written not only by and about physicians, but also by a new generation of professional historians who would ask different questions.Health and healing ought to be studied not only through the prism of scientific progress, but also as veritable cultural systems.The history of the patient remains ‘curiously underwritten’ in several areas, some have claimed.Porter’s exhortation, for the most cynical, has acted as little more than a seductive proposal to lure audiences without bringing anything new to the understanding of medical processes or patient experience.Thirty years on, the time has come to ask new questions and revisit these tales afresh.Framed as a critique of the aims, methods and objects of the history of medicine as it had hitherto been practised, Porter’s programmatic 1985 essay called for a radical shift in perspective.These developments are taking place against the backdrop of ever-vulnerable institutional foundations.Amidst these formidable tensions, questions abound. What can historians of psychiatry gain from adopting a performative view of the patient’s role?

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