This article introduces Turing’s idea of a “paper machine” to identify and understand one important mode of clinical research in the modern hospital, how that research worked, and how office technology and industrialized labor shaped and helped drive it. The unusually rich archives of Berlin psychiatry allow detailed reconstruction of the making of the new diagnostic category “hyperkinetic syndrome” in the 1920s. From the generating of data to the processing of information to the visualizing of the nature and course of (...) the new syndrome in the lives of more than sixty patients, this case study shows how clinical research could be based on the apparatus of the clerks’ room (folders, registers, inventories, and the dispatch of documents), office technologies (new filing systems, preprinted forms, and duplicating machines), and the principles and paper practices of the division and rationalization of labor (charts organizing worktime in complex organizations). The result is an important example of clinical research embedded in the broader history of office technology, industrial labor, and the modern hospital. (shrink)
This special issue of History of the Humane Sciences intends to shed light on a series of psychopathological entities that do not target well defined conditions and experiences, but rather aim at delimiting zones of uncertainty that defy psychopathology’s order of things: mild diagnoses or subthreshold disorders, borderline conditions, culture bound syndromes, or ideas of dimensions and dimensionality. While these categories have come to play an increasingly central role in psychiatric and psychological thinking during the last 50 years, historians and (...) social scientists have had remarkably little to say about how they have been created, what they have been used for, and what kind of realities they have helped to shape. In this introductory article we propose the concept of ‘psychopathological fringes’ to refer to these categories that are located somewhere at the border of psychopathological classifications and refer to zones of conceptual underdetermination. The notion of fringes serves to highlight both the conceptually and the socially marginal nature of the conditions, personal identities, and worlds delimited by these categories. The fringes of psychopathology are zones of vagueness, of epistemic uncertainty, and moral ambiguity. This introduction proposes a first incursion in these zones. It suggests some of the reason why they might have had attracted little interest in the past and why they may be more salient recently. It follows some analytical clues that might help chart a way through it and proposes a map through the collection of articles included in this issue. (shrink)
ArgumentIt is well known that the development of a diphtheria anti-toxin serum evolved in a competitive race between two groups of researchers, one affiliated with Emil Behring in Berlin and Marburg, and another affiliated with Émile Roux in Paris. Proceeding on the basis of different theoretical assumptions and experimental practices, the two groups developed a therapeutic serum almost simultaneously. But the standardized substance they developed took on very different forms in the two countries. In Germany the new serum was marketed (...) in the private sphere and subjected to state regulations, becoming a kind of prototype of industrial medications. In France, however, the same substance was marketed as a gift of science to humanity and distributed through the communal health care system. This article demonstrates how a new medication emerged from the efforts to produce, market, regulate, distribute, and apply it in the two respective countries. It attributes the difference to the negotiations between the respective actors and institutions. I develop this argument on three different levels: First, I stress the importance of the institutional foundations of serum production; second, I illustrate the decisive role played by existing “ways of regulating” in the rapid development of new legal statutes; and third, I describe the consequences that flowed from the respective administrative organization of marketing and dissemination. In sum, I explore how an experimental object was transformed into an object of the public health system and stabilized by administrative means. (shrink)
Medical semiotics in the 18th century was more than a premodern form of diagnosis. Its structure allowed for the combination of empirically proven rules of instruction with the theoretical knowledge of the new sciences, employing the relation between the sign and the signified.
What does it mean to practice socially responsible science on controversial issues? In a fresh turn focussing on the neuroscientists’ responsibility in producing knowledge about politically charged subjects, Chalfin et al. (Am J Bioethics 8(1):1–2, 2008) caution neuroscientists to be careful about how they present their findings lest their results be used to support unfounded biases, social stereotypes and prejudices. Weisberg et al. (J Cogn Neurosci 20(3):470–477, 2008) discuss the allure of neuroscience explanations and demonstrate how laypersons easily accept dubious (...) claims as long as (even non-relevant) neuroscientific descriptions are provided. Fine (2010) exposes the use of scientific evidence in propagating outdated gender myths by popular writers and discusses the infiltration of these prejudices into popular belief, folk culture and lifestyle. This paper discusses ways in which the ‘neuroscience of gender difference’ itself inadvertently contributes to normalising socially constructed theories about sex difference in cognitive performance. This unpremeditated effect has evident implications on the structuring of society because gender relations cut across social, political and economic boundaries. We present a theoretical reflection of factors that could interact with the scientists’ attempted objective evaluation of the subject, the methods and some principle problems, and we engage a science studies approach as our methodological tool. Our object of critique is drawn from the research on spatial abilities that articulate the dissention pertaining to sex differences in intellectual capacity. (shrink)