Review: History of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland, History of Psychiatry (2017)

By Ebba Högström

When reading the newly published special issue History of asylums, insanity and psychiatry in Scotland in the journal History of Psychiatry (SAGE, March 2017, vol 28, issue 1), edited by Chris Philo and Jonathan Andrews, it struck me how diverse this history is. There is not one consistent history working through towards the present on a linear trajectory; rather, it is about histories in the plural, as topics, time, spaces, people, laws, regulations, resistances and care regimes emerge differently through the array of different foci displayed by these eight papers display.

In the introduction, the guest editors point out that there is much in the history of Scottish psychiatry yet to be told, at the same time as they stress how such studies should move beyond simplistic national contextualisations. Rather, the significance of such studies should reveal broader patterns in “a pan-European, or geographically and conceptually wider, transformation of ideas and practices impinging on the mental health dimensions of human vulnerability” (p2).  Localised history became relevant “when set in a broader framing of how ideas and practices travel between places” (ibid.) and take place in shaping new landscapes of “cure and care or neglect and stigma” (ibid.). The combination of local situations connecting to general levels – into institutions, policies, illnesses and psychiatric care, wherever they might be situated around the globe – is a most significant feature of the field of history of psychiatry, and the papers in this special issue are no exception. Whereas all eight papers concentrate on events within the geographical area of Scotland, they simultaneously stretch out differently in time, situation, place and angle.

The contributions in this special issue thus range between overviewing work, addressing long-term trends and broader periods and systems, and detailed studies of specific ‘individuals and institutions’. Farquharson gives an overview of the ‘unfamiliar institutional spaces’ of the parochial asylum caught in between the two spheres of legislation, the Poor Law and the Lunacy Law, during the second half of the 19th century. She brings forward how this system was a way to take control over the care (and sometimes even the cure) of the poorest people who would otherwise have been caught up in poorhouses. At the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century, the spatial organisation of asylums of all kinds was under discussion, and Almond highlights one such spatial plan, the ‘village system’, as mirroring a specifically Scottish emphasis on liberty and freedom. Ideas of the ‘homely’ and the ‘individual’ are discussed with references to Calvinistic ideas of improvement by self-awareness which could be manifested in a distinctive institutional layout without enclosing spatial forms. Moving towards the 1960s and 1970s, Long shows us how changes within the institutional boundaries of Scottish mental hospitals took place due to deinstitutionalisation policies usually pressing care and treatment “outside the walls”. Political-legislative regulations from postwar times made deinstitutionalisation a slower process than in England, with the effect that asylums were renewed rather than rejected. During the same period patients started to fight for liberty and justice, a theme covered in Gallagher´s paper. Gallagher gives an overview and a detailed story of one specific individual as stories of the agitation by the Scottish Union of Mental Patients (SUMP) and the individual political struggle by Thomas Richie, a patient and the founder of SUMP are unfolded.

Through individual accounts of women patients from Dundee Royal Lunatic Asylum diagnosed as suffering from ‘puerperal insanity’, Campbell moves to the mid-nineteenth century and poses questions about the motives for such a diagnosis. She wonders whether this diagnosis was more likely to ‘fit’ the middle and upper-class woman, as precedents of a Victorian motherhood ideal, thus excluding working class women. Morrison’s contribution places itself  in the beginning of twentieth century, when the emergence of so-called ‘dynamic psychiatry took place. Morrison outlines the early career of the psychiatrist, and later superintendent at Gartnavel Royal Hospital (GRA) in Glasgow, David Henderson, the linkage to the leading figure of North American psychiatry Adolf Meyer, and the deployment of the ‘case conference approach’. Another influential psychiatrist, Thomas Ferguson Rodger, also connected to Henderson and Meyer and, as the editors formulate it, a possible ‘missing link’ between Henderson and R.D. Laing, is the theme of Phelan’s paper.  She considers the eclectic psychiatric approach of Fergusson, in many cases more psychodynamic and socially-oriented than were his predecessors, and (because of that) more alert to psychiatry’s limitations. Another angle of psychiatric care and cure is presented by McGeachan through the “Art extraordinary” works collected by Joyce Laing, Scotland’s first psychiatric art therapist. McGeachan reconstructs the ‘voice’ of Adam Christie, a patient at the Royal Montrose Asylum, through his stone-head carvings, highlighting the importance of ‘small spaces’ – e.g. gardens, paths, studios and boats – for the everyday life of patients, a valuable and underused source in tracing geographical histories of asylum experiences.

This compilation of Scottish history of psychiatry is completed by a Classic Text, here an excerpt from a 1860 text Philosophy of Insanity by the GRA patient James Frame. Patient voices are seldom heard in the history of psychiatry, most often they arrive indirectly through case notes, or sometimes more directly through letters kept in the case notes records. Frame’s chronicle of mental health care of the past, and the many themes addressed, echoes in an intriguing way contemporary public debates, marking a line of continuity. So, as mentioned in the beginning of this review, it is striking to contemplate the many ways in which the history of psychiatry can be told, and at the same time the range of similarities of these histories over time and space.

Contact: Ebba.Hogstrom@glasgow.ac.uk

Twitter: @ebba_hogstrom

 

 

New paper: ‘It used to be here but moved somewhere else’: post-asylum spatialisations – a new urban frontier?

Exciting new research paper on changing landscapes of mental health care in Sweden

Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces

‘It used to be here but moved somewhere else’: post-asylum spatialisations – a new urban frontier?

Ebba Högström

Social & Cultural Geography http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/YuscFCJhDI43TCExhkrW/full

Abstract

This paper presents a number of spatialisations of mental health care in Sweden, exemplifying these spatialities in three vignettes drawn from the Swedish post-asylum landscape. Working with the notion of a ‘new urban frontier’, I examine: (1) how these landscapes have been transformed by processes of decentralisation and austerity measures; (2) how this transformation plays out within and through physical space; and (3) the new spatial relations that are produced through such transformations. The idea of ‘landscapes of care’ and the concept of ‘multiscalarity’ are used to understand the changing spatialisations evident in mental health care, and the shift we are presently witnessing which replaces the tangible spaces of ‘bricks and mortar’ of the past with, rather, a diversity of settings, localisations and administrations. The empirical…

View original post 73 more words

New paper: ‘It used to be here but moved somewhere else’: post-asylum spatialisations – a new urban frontier?

‘It used to be here but moved somewhere else’: post-asylum spatialisations – a new urban frontier?

Ebba Högström

Social & Cultural Geography http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/YuscFCJhDI43TCExhkrW/full

Abstract

This paper presents a number of spatialisations of mental health care in Sweden, exemplifying these spatialities in three vignettes drawn from the Swedish post-asylum landscape. Working with the notion of a ‘new urban frontier’, I examine: (1) how these landscapes have been transformed by processes of decentralisation and austerity measures; (2) how this transformation plays out within and through physical space; and (3) the new spatial relations that are produced through such transformations. The idea of ‘landscapes of care’ and the concept of ‘multiscalarity’ are used to understand the changing spatialisations evident in mental health care, and the shift we are presently witnessing which replaces the tangible spaces of ‘bricks and mortar’ of the past with, rather, a diversity of settings, localisations and administrations. The empirical material that forms the basis of the analysis derives from a larger study of spatial discourses in Swedish mental health care, which I carried out between 2008 and 2011. The paper concludes with some thoughts on the kinds of spatial relations evident within the post-asylum landscape of formal mental health care in times of austerity and decentralisation, wherein I consider whether these spatialisations can be regarded as a ‘new urban frontier of care’.

Glasgow History of Medicine Seminars

Venue: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Library Reading Room

Autumn 2016 Schedule:

  • Tuesday 15th November: Building for the mentally ill: from Bethlem to the community – Professor Richard Mindham (University of Leeds)
  • Tuesday 6th December: “Do you have a frog to guide you?”: exploring the ‘asylum’ spaces of R.D. Laing – Dr. Cheryl McGeachan (University of Glasgow)

The event is free but places are limited. To book, please contact library@rcpsg.ac.uk or call 0141 221 6072.

glasgowhistoryofmedicineseminars

Medical Humanities Discussion Group 2016/17

Medical Humanities Discussion Group 2016/17

Chair: Dr Cheryl McGeachan

All Sessions will take place between 1-2pm.

Wednesday 26th October

Session 1 – ‘Shakespeare and Madness: dramaturgies of mental illness in early modern England’

As part of my PhD research on madness in Shakespearean performance, this presentation examines dramaturgical approaches to representing insanity in Shakespeare’s plays. This involves an analysis of key trends in structure, style and character within both his comedic and tragic works. In doing so, I hope to explore how such patterns help construct meanings of madness by fitting into and/or challenging early modern psychological discourses.

Speaker: Molly Ziegler (PhD Candidate in Theatre Studies)

 Wednesday 16th November

Session 2 – Discovering Medical Humanities collections

How effectively are we promoting the University’s medical humanities collections? How easy are they to discover? Archives & Special Collections staff are keen to hear your thoughts as we review and revise online information about the University’s unique and distinctive research resources.

Speakers will be a selection of staff from Archives & Special Collections.

Wednesday 30th November

Session 3 – The Psychopolitics of Surplus Populations

In this talk I want to re-examine Karl Marx’s classic concept of “surplus population” in light of contemporary mental health insecurities. Doing so, I suggest, allows us to connect political economy with the very real psychological issues a growing number of people face on a daily basis. In this sense, the idea of alienation – critiques notwithstanding – might yet prove a (global) rallying concept at our dangerous conjecture.

Speaker: Dr Ian Shaw (School of Geographical & Earth Sciences)

The meetings will all take place in Room 414 in the East Quadrangle. Tea/coffee and biscuits will be provided.

east quad map

Please enter through the first turret and walk upstairs (a lift is available if required to the right of this picture) – keep going to the very top of the second staircase and turn left.

gesges

 

Call for Papers: Other Psychotherapies – across time, space and cultures, University of Glasgow

Other Psychotherapies – across time, space, and cultures, University of Glasgow.

Mon 3 Apr 2017 – Tue 4 April 2017

The Wellcome Trust-funded Conference ‘Other Psychotherapies – across time, space, and cultures’ brings contemporary Western expertise into dialogue with psychotherapeutic approaches from ‘other’ spatially, historically or otherwise ‘distant’ cultures. The Conference Committee invites abstracts of up to 300 words for 20-minute presentations, to be submitted by no later than 31 August 2016.

Keynote Speakers:

Dr Chiara Thumiger, Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick: ‘Therapies of the word in ancient medicine’

Dr Jennifer Lea, Geography, University of Exeter: ‘Building “A Mindful Nation”? The use of mindfulness meditation in educational, health and criminal justice settings’

Dr Claudia Lang, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich: ‘Theory and practice in Ayurvedic psychotherapy’

Dr Elizabeth Roxburgh, Psychology, University of Northampton: ‘Anomalous experiences and mental health’

 

University of Glasgow Organising Committee:

Dr Gavin Miller (Chair), Medical Humanities Research Centre/English Literature; Dr Sofia Xenofontos, Classics; Dr Cheryl McGeachan, Geographical and Earth Sciences; Dr Ross White, Mental Health and Wellbeing

 

Papers should address one or more of the conference’s four themes:

1. Ancient approaches to psychotherapy

This theme seeks to explore ancient and medieval approaches to psychotherapy from the Egyptian and Babylonian world, the Graeco-Roman antiquity, the Chinese and medieval Islamic and Jewish traditions. It aims to foreground various ancient practices used in ‘the cure of the soul’, investigating the extent to which modern psychiatric techniques draw upon such wisdom traditions. Other key goals will be to distinguish diverse conceptions of selfhood required or advanced in psychotherapeutic settings, and to consider the borders between religion, medicine, and philosophy.

2. Geographies of Psychotherapy

We invite papers that wish to examine the development of psychological ideas and practices and their transformative effect over a range of (global) spaces, sites and places. Although not limited to such themes, we encourage critical debates into the uneven development of psychological practices over time and space, the changing spatialities of caring practices, embodied practices of healing, and writing psychotherapeutic geographies.

3. Postcolonial/Indigenous Psychotherapies

The emergence of different, competing schools of Western psychotherapy has been accompanied by rapid development in the capacity to share knowledge globally. Western psychotherapies are juxtaposed with forms of healing based on markedly different epistemic and philosophical underpinnings. This theme considers whether indigenous forms of healing in LMICs can be viewed as de facto psychotherapies. Attention will focus on the dynamics of power in post-colonial contexts and how this has influenced the perceived credibility of western vs indigenous forms of therapeutic/healing interaction.

4. Subcultural Psychotherapies

We invite critical engagement with the propensity to see subcultural participation (bodybuilding, gaming, body modification, BDSM, Goth, Emo, etc.) as cause or predictor of psychopathology. While remaining open to subcultural pathogenesis, we encourage exploration of subculture’s therapeutic/salutogenic dimensions, including the recovery/survivor movement, popular/mass culture, new religious movements, and anomalous experiences such as mediumship and therianthropy.

Abstract submission

Abstracts (.doc, .docx, .rtf) should be emailed to arts-otherpsychs@glasgow.ac.uk by no later than 31 August 2016 along with a short biography (100 words or less). Abstracts will be considered by the conference organizing committee, and notifications will be communicated by no later than 30 September 2016.

Journal Issue

There will be an opportunity for a selection of papers presented at the conference to be developed into a thematic issue of the international peer-reviewed journal Transcultural Psychiatry (http://tps.sagepub.com/) that will be entitled ‘Other Psychotherapies – across time, space, and cultures’.

Researching Art Extraordinary

By Cheryl McGeachan

cheryl post-Asylum Field Collage

During my research into the Art Extraordinary collection I was fortunate to encounter a range of interesting sites and places that resonate with the core themes of the asylum and post-asylum spaces cluster. In attempting to compile my thoughts from the project I was inspired by artist extraordinary, Marylene Walker, to present such ideas visually in the form of photo-collages. These images now appear with reflections from my fieldwork diary and highlight the different experiences I had of being ‘in place’ when visiting sites and places associated with the Art Extraordinary collection. Available to view and download at: Researching Art Extraordinary.