UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Monday 20 April  2015


Dr. Eric Engstrom  (Humboldt University of Berlin)


Pastoral Psychiatry and Irrenseelsorge: Religious Aspects of the Anti-Psychiatry Debates in Imperial Germany


Historians of psychiatry have often enough interpreted the relationship between psychiatry and religion within narrative frameworks that focus on diagnoses and treatments (religious madness, exorcism) or that emphasize broader historical processes such as secularization, medicalization, and biologization. While there is considerable merit to such frameworks, recent critiques of the secularization paradigm have suggested a larger place for religion and spirituality in late 19th century urban culture than is often assumed. The work of the American historian Edward R. Dickinson in particular has reminded us of the enduring influence and inertia of conservative Christian organizations in shaping moral discourse and social policy in the Kaiserreich. My paper examines more closely the interdisciplinary topography between psychiatric and religious professionals, mapping out some of the common terrain on which they cooperated and/or disagreed with one another. In particular, I will examine debates about the place of religion in 19th century asylum culture and the role of the so-called ‘Irrenseelsorger’. Against this backdrop and drawing especially on examples from Berlin, I will then explore efforts by religious organizations to expand their role in psychiatric after-/extramural care and show how those efforts contributed decisively to a nascent ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement in the years leading up to World War One.



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 Foser 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.