Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen

Making Minds and Madness: From Hysteria to Depression book cover
Making Minds and Madness: From Hysteria to Depression (Cambridge, 2009)
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 4:00pm
Communications 202

Why do “maladies of the soul” such as hysteria, anxiety disorders, or depression wax and wane over time? Through a study of the history of psychiatry, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen provocatively argues that most mental illnesses are not, in fact, diseases but the product of varying expectations shared and negotiated by therapists and patients. With a series of historical vignettes, stretching from Freud's creation of false memories of sexual abuse in his early hysterical patients to today's promotion and marketing of depression by drug companies, Making Minds and Madness critiques all the theories, such as psychoanalysis and biomedical psychiatry, that claim to discover facts about the human psyche while, in reality, producing them. Borch-Jacobsen proposes such objectivizing approaches should be abandoned in favor of a constructionist and relativist psychology that recognizes the artifactual and interactive character of psychic productions instead of attempting to deny or control it.

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Washington. He is the author of highly influential books on the theory and history of psychiatry and psychoanalysis and co-author of Le livre noir de la psychanalyse (The Black Book of Psychoanalysis) (2005).