mardi 2 février 2016

Photographier la folie

Picturing insanity: Narratives and photographs in the Lunatic Asylum in Bucharest, Eastern Europe, 1870

Prof. Octavian Buda 

Thursday 4th February
WF38 on the first floor of the Medical School at 5.30pm
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Institute of Applied Health Research

About 1839 the first specialized asylum for the insane, originally an Orthodox monastery (the Marcutza Asylum, then near Bucharest, Romania) opened its doors to individuals considered insane and beggars; they later appointed doctors tried to turn this asylum from a place of isolation and detention into a modern medical institution aimed at returning the cured insane individual back into society. They made sustained efforts to improve the methods of occupational therapy by organizing special workshops/workstations for the inpatients.
In 1870 the Romanian physician Nicholas G. Chernbach published a photographic atlas of the main types of mental alienation, a collection of twelve plates depicting mentally ill patients from the Marcutza Asylum in Bucharest. Each photograph included a diagnosis based on the clinical nosography and theories of the physiognomy of insanity acknowledged during the period. The publication of the atlas--just a few years after Hugh W. Diamond's initial use of photography for this purpose in Britain in the 1850s--means that the photographs were not only the first taken in Romania, but among the first photographs of the mentally ill in Europe. The same year, Chernbach published in Bucharest another psychiatric study related to the Marcutza Asylum: ‘A typical case of furious hysterical mania, treated by Conolly’s method’. The article was a case report intended to demonstrate the application of ‘non-restraint’ method, praising John Conolly’s abolition of mechanical restraint at the Hanwell Asylum in 1839, a decision which by 1850 had been adopted in almost all asylums throughout England and later Europe.
This presentation provides an insight into the origins of modern clinical psychiatry and medical advances in Romania, and to the contemporary personalities in Romanian and Eastern European medicine.


Details of future seminars are available from: Dr Vanessa Heggie, Institute of Applied Health Research, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT.
Email: Tel: 0121 415 8184

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