Psyche on the Skin: A History of Self-harm

Psyche on the Skin: A History of Self-harm

by Sarah Chaney


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Psyche on the Skin: A History of Self-harm by Sarah Chaney

It’s a troubling phenomenon that many of us think of as a modern psychological epidemic, a symptom of extreme emotional turmoil in young people, especially young women: cutting and self-harm. But few of us know that it was 150 years ago—with the introduction of institutional asylum psychiatry—that self-mutilation was first described as a category of behavior, which psychiatrists, and later psychologists and social workers, attempted to understand. With care and focus, Psyche on the Skin tells the secret but necessary history of self-harm from the 1860s to the present, showing just how deeply entrenched this practice is in human culture.
Sarah Chaney looks at many different kinds of self-injurious acts, including sexual self-mutilation and hysterical malingering in the late Victorian period, self-marking religious sects, and self-mutilation and self-destruction in art, music, and popular culture. As she shows, while self-harm is a widespread phenomenon found in many different contexts, it doesn’t necessarily have any kind of universal meaning—it always has to be understood within the historical and cultural context that surrounds it. Bravely sharing her own personal experiences with self-harm and placing them within its wider history, Chaney offers a sensitive but engaging account—supported with powerful images—that challenges the misconceptions and controversies that surround this often misunderstood phenomenon. The result is crucial reading for therapists and other professionals in the field, as well as those affected by this emotive, challenging act.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780237503
Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date: 03/15/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 558,314
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Sarah Chaney is research associate at the University College London Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines and research project manager at Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions, London.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7

1 The Pre-History of Self-Harm: From Ancient Castration to Medicinal Bloodletting 19

2 Morbid Impulse and Moral Insanity: The Emergence of Self-mutilation in Late Nineteenth-century Psychiatry 51

3 Sexual Self-Mutilation: Masturbation, Masculinity and Self-control in Late Victorian Britain 81

4 Motiveless Malingerers: Multiple Personality, Attention-seeking and Hysteria around 1900 112

5 Focal Suicide: Hypersexuality, Masochism and the Death Instinct in Psychoanalysis 143

6 Delicate Self-Cutting: Schizophrenia and the 'Borderline' in Post-war North America 175

7 Trigger Happy: Culture, Contagion and Trauma in the Internet Age 205

Conclusion: Three Narratives of Bodily Harm 236

References 245

Bibliography 279

Help and Advice 301

Acknowledgements 305

Photo Acknowledgements 307

Index 309

What People are Saying About This

Sander L. Gilman

“A remarkable account from the pen of a young and brilliant scholar of the history and meaning of self-harm. Insightful and immensely readable.”

Joanna Bourke

“Eloquent, awe-inspiring, and sassy. This book will captivate anyone curious about the body and pain.”

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