Date of Degree

6-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

History

Advisor

Mary Gibson

Committee Members

Julia Sneeringer

Timothy Alborn

Elena Frangakis-Syrett

Subject Categories

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Keywords

Italy, Fascism, medicine, neurology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis

Abstract

My dissertation argues that in interwar Italy the intellectual landscape of the mind and brain sciences, often marked by a state of creative turmoil, was as much a political and cultural enterprise as a scientific one. The impact of these sciences was far-reaching, as were the consequences of these scientists’ persecution by – and in some cases collaboration with – the Fascist regime. My dissertation investigates the mechanisms through which scientific inquiry and political ambition interfaced; and how research and ideology shaped one another, often taking the form of national and transnational networks of creativity and patronage. To elucidate such mechanisms, this dissertation draws from hitherto-neglected primary sources (memoirs, scientific and cultural journals, and creative works) to illuminate the professional and personal dimensions of the interwar experiences recorded by Italian neurology, psychiatry, psychology, and psychoanalysis. In so doing, it shifts the locus of the psy- and neurosciences from the mental asylum to the hospital, laboratory, and/or front (World War I and the colonial wars that preceded World War II, i.e., the Second Italo-Ethiopian War and Italy’s invasion of Albania) and attaches this narrative to a broader history of concepts as well as to larger discussions in which gender, ethnicity and race have arisen as productive categories of analysis. What emerges from such a close inspection is not just a clearer view of how these scientists (especially women and Jews) survived, suffered and/or thrived within an authoritarian society that simultaneously sought to harness and suppress their work, but also a view of how literature and art served as a mediator between the scientific and the political as well as between the scientist of the mind and brain, and the mind and brain itself.

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