Isolated reflexes : the cultural specificity of asylum life

Cheryce KRAMER

Wellcome Institute for the History of Science, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, Great Britain


This paper exmines the general phenomenon of the harmonization of psychiatric practices with cultural conditions as reflected in the applied context of mid- to late 19th century asylum life. In particular it traces how a single model of psychiatric confinement and therapy was realized in two different cultural contexts, namely Southern Germany and Eastern Russia. Fucusing on two representative asylums, i.e. the Illenau Asylum in Baden (1842-1889) and the Kazan Asylum in Siberia (1869-1884), it relates their respective organizations of time and space to dominant conceptions of soul and mental life. The paper profiles each of these concept clusters as a cohesive system of meaning relations and phenomenological predilections. A striking difference between the two asylum cultures is the relative preponderance of materialist thinking and reflexological configurations at the Kazan Asylum.


Panel 9B   (Biopolitics)
Saturday, 18 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999