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Psychiatric knowledge on the Soviet periphery: mental health and disorder in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, 1948-1975

Marks, SV; (2015) Psychiatric knowledge on the Soviet periphery: mental health and disorder in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, 1948-1975. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis traces the development of concepts and aetiologies of mental disorder in East Germany and Czechoslovakia under Communism, drawing on material from sychiatry and its allied disciplines, as well as discourses on mental health in the popular press and Party literature. I explore the transnational exchanges that shaped these concepts during the Cold War, including those with the USSR, China and other ountries in the Soviet sphere of influence, as well as engagement with science from the 'West'. It challenges assumptions about the 'pavlovization' and top-down control of psychiatry, demonstrating that researchers were far from isolated from international developments, and were able to draw on a broad range of theoretical models (albeit providing they employed certain political or linguistic man). In turn, the flow of knowledge also occurred from the periphery to the centre. Rather than casting the history of psychiatry as one of the scientific community in opposition to the Party, I explore the methods individuals used to further their professional and personal interests, and examples of psychiatrists who engaged whether explicitly or reluctantly in the project of building socialism as a consequence. I also address broader questions about the history of psychiatry after 1945, a period which is still overshadowed in the literature by 19th century asylum studies and histories of psychoanalysis. I argue that the generation of new theories of mental disorder often occured through interaction with other fields in science and technology; including cybernetics, genetics, pharmacology and ecology, with the resulting nosologies, aetiologies and therapies often sitting in theoretical incoherence with one other. The place of these scientific disciplines in the broader political culture of Cold War Eastern Europe is fundamental to disentangling how both normal and abnormal human behaviour was understood, and how this in turn shaped social and political thought under socialism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Psychiatric knowledge on the Soviet periphery: mental health and disorder in East Germany and Czechoslovakia, 1948-1975
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1470455
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