A History of Psychiatry in Objects

by Bettina Alavi and Ralph Höger

Using the agency of objects as an approach in university-based teacher training seminar
During the winter semester of 2017/18, students on the teacher training course at Heidelberg University of Education and students at the University of Heidelberg took part in the seminar “A History of Psychiatry in Objects”. This seminar was designed and taught by the history educationalist Bettina Alavi and Ralph Höger, a doctoral candidate at the Heidelberg School of Education. The seminar adopted Disability History (Waldschmidt/Bösl 2017; Bösl 2010) as its approach, focusing in particular on the question of the “agency” of material culture (that is, the agency of things and objects). The seminar enquired to which extent objects both contribute to and constitute 20th- and 21st-century understandings of psychiatry: how are the boundaries drawn between healthy/unhealthy, normal/not normal, socially acceptable/inacceptable? Our underlying assumption was that social id…

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