British Psychological Society and UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disiciplines Seminar

Monday 6th October
Professor Roland Littlewood (UCL Anthropology and Department of Mental Health Sciences)
Roland

The Advent of the Adversary: Negative Power in Certain Religio-Therapeutic Systems?

New ‘religio-therapeutic systems’ commonly start with a relatively straightforward ethical injunction or healing faculty. With time, recognised failures, together with internal or external criticisms, appear, for which the action of a new countervailing power or principle, formerly opposed to the initial one, provides the explanation. The two together a new dynamic of power and counter-power. The instances considered here are Christian Science, Reichian energetics, Freudian psychoanalysis and- arguably- their source in Christianity. Some speculations on this complementary opposition are offered.

Roland Littlewood is trained as a psychiatrist and social anthropologist, who has worked extensively on transcultural psychiatry. He is author of Pathologies of the West: An Anthropology of Mental Illness in Europe and America (2002), The Butterfly and the Serpent: Essays in Psychiatry, Race and Religion (1998), and Pathology and Identity: The Work of Mother Earth in Trinidad (2006).

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location:  Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

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BPS/UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar

Monday 22nd September, 6pmLaing in tree 2

 Dr. Allan Beveridge (Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline)

 Portrait of the psychiatrist as a young man. The early writing and work of RD Laing, 1927-1960.

For a period in the 1960s, Ronald Laing was the most famous psychiatrist in the world. His books sold in millions and were translated into many languages. In his most celebrated work, The Divided Self, published in 1960, he argued that madness was understandable. Laing’s reputation subsequently went into serious decline, but in recent years there has been renewed interest in him and a number of biographies and books have been published. This interest has been fuelled by a disenchantment with the claims of the neurosciences and an unease about biotechnology. Laing’s existential approach of treating the patient as a person rather than a malfunctioning mechanism has new-found appeal.

 This paper will look at Laing’s early career up to the publication of his first book in 1960. It will begin by looking at the major influences on his work: psychiatric theory; existential analysis; religion; and the Arts. It will then examine Laing’s early clinical career, firstly in the British Army, followed by his time as a junior doctor at Gartnavel Royal Hospital and the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, before his subsequent move to the Tavistock Clinic in London.

 Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

  Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

 Location:  Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.