HPS Seminar

In this seminar, Dr Jennifer Wallis (University of Oxford) will speak on: 'Surfacing the body in the history of psychiatry'

HPS Seminar

Date: 15-10-2014
Time: 15:15 - 17:00

Dr Wallis writes:

The body is, at first glance, ever-present in histories of psychiatry - subjected to shower baths, ice picks to the brain, or electric current. In focusing on apparently 'barbaric' treatments from a modern perspective, though, do we risk 're-Othering' the patient and their body? We have also attempted to recover the psychiatric patient by delving into their socio-demographic profile - tabulating genders, ages, and causes of asylum admission to supposedly rectify the focus on the doctor as the key historical figure. Again, though, we lose sight of the patient within these tables of data as they become just one of an amorphous mass to be counted, charted, and (re)classified.

In this talk I will explore how we might take a practice-oriented approach, examining the everyday working life of the nineteenth-century asylum (its technologies, techniques, and 'ways of seeing'), both to get closer to patient's experiences and to highlight the interactions between doctors and patients. In looking at both clinical and pathological practices, I ask if the body of the asylum patient was simply a reified or objectified body, or if it could also perform its own scientific work in feeding back into institutional practices.


This is one of a regular series of seminars run by the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science. Seminars are open to staff and students of the University of Leeds and other universities, and to interested members of the public.

Location: Baines Wing, Room G.36
Cost: Free