Conversely, what can members of the psychiatric community learn from ‘listening to insanity’? Three decades on, historians remain divided between two broad historiographical currents.
Conversely, what can members of the psychiatric community learn from ‘listening to insanity’? Three decades on, historians remain divided between two broad historiographical currents.On the one hand, the success of Porter’s proposal has brought a new scholarly focus on testimonies left by those deemed mentally ill.Few works in the history of medicine have received so enthusiastic a reception.
Finally, the authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
This work was made possible by a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship to the first author. But you know dozens, hundreds of madmen are walking about in freedom because your ignorance is incapable of distinguishing them from the sane.
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?
Inspired by recent research, they highlight the fact that it is actually possible to write a history of collective ‘mad’ cultures. Their role in the formation of medical discourses needs to be investigated.
We submit, then, that writing ‘from below’ not only casts new light on psychiatry’s past; it is in fact necessary for a comprehensive picture of the field’s ongoing history.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’?This is especially the case among historians of psychiatry.In a field where patient narratives have long formed their own subgenre, shedding light on these hitherto unheard stories taps into popular fantasies probed by Porter himself – images of gothic madhouses and their gloomy inhabitants; whispers and cries; dark corridors encased in windowless walls, their interiors mirroring the mind gone astray.Dialogues autour d’une oeuvre’ seminar (Institute of the History of Medicine, Lausanne - IUHMSP).Thanks are due to the participants of these events for bringing forth new ideas, especially Matthew Gambino and Mical Raz (Yale) and Vincent Barras and Francesco Panese (Lausanne).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.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?