History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar

Dr. Beverley Butler (UCL)

‘From Heritage Syndromes to Refugee Syndromes’

Can certain heritage forms – whether imagined as historical or sacred and/or as otherwise salient sites – exert efficacies capable of transformative encounter? Can such loci affect cure and healing and/or turn otherwise ‘normal’ people ‘mad’? Phrased differently again – can heritage be rendered redemptive and/or pathological – therapeutic or traumatising?

My paper fore-fronts the phenomenon of the ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ – the term used to describe the ‘episodes’ experienced by some visitors to Jerusalem who overwhelmed by their encounter with this iconic place undergo radical transformation. Affecting visitors in varying degrees of intensity, some (often with little previous religious conviction) come to see themselves as a specially ordained prophetic, messianic messenger who, after following ritual preparation often identify with a key religious figure (typically as featured in the Abrahamic religions) and feel compelled to deliver a redemptive message by which the world will undergo transformation and cure through the articulation of a vision of a ‘just’ future. The Jerusalem Syndrome has been regarded by some as both a sudden and an extreme form of religious expression and as synonymous with intense experiences of ‘wellbeing’ however it has featured in the pages of the British Psychiatric Journal as a serious psychiatric concern and designated as a ‘pathological illness’ synonymous with harmful experiences of ‘psychotic decompensation’ and ‘depersonalisation’. I use the ‘Jerusalem syndrome’ and its subsequent critiques as a means to raise questions about the broader articulation of ‘heritage syndromes’ in which wellbeing/ illbeing, cure/ harm, suffering and happiness exist in close proximity. I use ethnographic research including work undertaken with Palestinian refugees in Jordan to explore how such groups are encountering this complex and often potentially harmful act of engaging with heritage as a resource by which to re-construct self and world, to recover repertoires of resilience, cosmologies of care and coping strategies synonymous with attempts to define, control and sustain future wellbeing and secure justice.


Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room, Foster Court (ground floor), Malet Place
Malet Place
WC1E London
United Kingdom

Monday, 2 March 2015 from 18:00 to 19:30 (GMT)


Analytical Psychology in Exile: The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and Erich Neumann. Presented by Martin Liebscher

Friday 22nd May 7.30pm

On the occasion of the publication of the letters between C.G. Jung and Erich Neumann in the Philemon Series by Princeton University Press, the editor of the correspondence, Martin Liebscher, looks at the relationship between these two towering psychologists of the first half of the 20th Century. Beginning with Neumann’s visit to Jung on his way to Tel Aviv in 1933/34 the presentation follows Neumann’s attempts to involve Jung in a discussion on Jewish psychology. It further shows the development of Neumann’s independent thinking and his struggle for recognition in the Zurich Jungian circles in the late 40s and 50s.


Sonu Shamdasani Inaugural Lecture

Tuesday 17 March 2015 – 6.30pm

Wilkins Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, 2nd Floor, South Junction, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

Why Study the History of Psychotherapy?


In the early sixties, Marshall McLuhan proclaimed that ‘ours is the century of the psychiatrist’s couch’. Suspended between science, medicine, religion, art and philosophy, the advent of modern psychotherapies represents one of the distinctive features of twentieth century Western societies. Yet their historical study lags behind their societal impact. This talk explores how this study may help illumine the way in which these practices have and continue to shape contemporary notions of psychological disorder, well-being and identity itself.

Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society, German)

Sonu Shamdasani is Philemon Professor of Jung History and directs the UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines. In 2009-10, he was the acting director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. Recent publications include (ed. and tr.), C. G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus (2009), C. G. Jung: A Biography in Books (2012) and (with Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen), The Freud Files: An Inquiry into the History of Psychoanalysis (2012).

Registration is free, tickets available here

UCL/BPS Seminar, 6pm 23rd February 2015

Sarah Marks ‘Communist Psychiatries? Neurasthenia and Modernization in Czechoslovakia and East Germany’


The question of whether there was such a thing as a ‘Communist Psychiatry’ is still an unanswered historical question. In the Soviet satellites of Central Europe there were cases where psychiatric research and practice appeared untouched by ideology, such as the psychoanalytic LSD psychotherapy projects in Prague, or Karl Leonhard’s development of a genetic aetiology of mental disorder in East Berlin. Yet there are other cases in which psychiatrists attempted to create an approach to mental health that accorded with the philosophies and priorities of the regime. This paper will examine one of the most coherent ‘Communist’ approaches to psychiatry in the region.

From the end of the 1950s a plethora of publications came out on the subject of neurosis and its prevention within medical research journals, as well as popular pamphlets and ‘lifestyle magazines’. Many actively continued to use the term ‘neurasthenia’, a category which most historians have claimed had fallen out of use in European medicine by the 1930s. This was illustrative of increasing concern about the effects of the ‘Scientific-Technological Revolution’ on the health of socialist nations, particularly with regard to the impact of automatization and new chemical and machine processes in factories and agriculture, as well as the impact this had upon management and labour-relations. Industrial progress was fundamental to Communism, yet there was increasing evidence to show that it had detrimental effects on mental and physical health. This could, in turn, affect marital and family matters, producing a counterproductive effect that threatened the national economy. This paper explores the debates and surrounding mental health, tracing the importance of discourses around ‘environment’ in the context of Pavlovian psychiatry, and later dialogues with ‘Western’ theories of human ecology, cybernetics, and Frankfurt School Marxism. I also discuss the professionalization and official endorsement of autogenic and relaxation therapies within this framework. Finally, I illustrate the appropriation of these concerns for propaganda purposes, showing how socialist states used their active role in prevention and intervention in mental health to morally elevate themselves above Capitalist nations.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Open to all, supported by the British Psychological Society

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

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

 From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foster court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.