Significant Figures in the Formation of Transcultural Psychiatry
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Paris-Nord
31 March 2016
Organised by Ivan Crozier (University of Sydney, Australia) and Emmanuel Delille (Centre Marc Bloch, Humboldt University, Berlin)
This workshop endeavours to comparatively evaluate the ideas and practices of some of the major contributors to the formation of the international discipline of transcultural psychiatry in the mid-twentieth century, a time that saw the transition from the colonial to post-colonial periods in many parts of the world, which had a direct effect on how mental illnesses were conceived of by psychiatrists sensitive to cultural differences. All of these psychiatrists had something different to offer the field. Emil Kraepelin, one of the major figures in late nineteenth-century psychiatry, made a number of research trips abroad, leading to his development of the concept of “vergleichende Psychiatrie” (comparative psychiatry), which fitted many ‘exotic’ mental afflictions into his general psychopathological framework, and with the specific aim of considering the impact of syphilis and alcohol on mental health, particularly it’s role in general paralysis. Eric Wittkower was responsible for founding the most significant journal in this field, Transcultural Psychiatry, which operated as a means of drawing together all of the published comparative psychiatry that was emerging in this period, as well as co-founding the first program dedicated to the subject at McGill University (between the anthropology and psychiatry departments). He was at the centre of a network that has dominated the field to this day. PM Yap, a Chinese physician trained in the UK at Cambridge University and the Maudsley Institute of Psychiatry, London, worked mainly in Hong Kong, where he developed the concept of “culture-bound syndromes”, one of the key intellectual achievements of the discipline in the mid-twentieth century. Georges Devereux was one of the theorists to span anthropology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry in his original work on Native Americans, and made many important contributions to the field of comparative ethnopsychiatry. French psychiatrist Henri Collomb drew together researchers from anthropology, sociology and psychology at the University of Dakar (Senegal) to produce a new form of transcultural psychiatry that was sensitive to the effects of colonization and decolonization, much of which was published in the new journal Psychopathologie africaine, founded in 1965. Marianna Scarfone’s paper considers the contributions of Italian ethnopsychiatrists working in Africa (such as Angelo Bravi and Mario Felici) and their impact on Italian psychiatry. All of these psychiatrists made very significant contributions to the ways that that psychiatry addresses non-western cultures, although rarely is there an opportunity to comparatively assess their work and its impact on the field of transcultural psychiatry. This panel offers one such comparison, and is framed by Cornelius Borck’s reflection on the state of transcultural psychiatry in relation to the broader field of psychopathology, with its increasing biomedical interests. Anthropologist Anne Lovell will draw together these threads in her summing up of the workshop, followed by an open general discussion.
10:15 Cornelius Borck, (Institut für Medizingeschichte und Wissenschaftsforschung, University of Lübeck): “Cultures of Psychiatry – Some Historiographical Reflections”. Plenary introduction.
10:45 Prof. Eric Engstrom (Humboldt University, Berlin): Emil Kraepelin’s Comparative Psychiatry and His Trips to Java (1904) and America (1925.)”
11:10 Marianna Scarfone (University of Lyons): “For a genealogy of ethnopsychiatry in Italy: from colonial times to present.”
13:30 Alessandra Cerea (University of Bologna/EHESS, Paris): “Culture and Psychism. The Ethnopsychoanalysis of Georges Devereux”
13:55 Réné Collignon (Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative, CNRS/University Paris X-Nanterre): “Henri Collomb and the emergence of a psychiatry open to alterity through interdisciplinary in post-independence Dakar”
14:20 Coffee break
14:55 Ivan Crozier (History Department, University of Sydney): “PM Yap and transcultural psychiatry”
15:20 Emmanuel Delille (Centre Marc Bloch, Humboldt University, Berlin): “Eric Wittkower and the Foundation of Montreal’s Transcultural Psychiatry Research Unit After the Second World War”
15:45 Discussion by Anne Lovell
16:15 Round table