Current Institutional Affiliation
Chief Executive Officer, International Trade and Development, Aga Khan Development Group

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1998
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Claremont Colleges / Claremont Graduate University
Making the Case: The Evolution of the Psychiatric Case Study and the Formation of Modern Identities

By refiguring the events of the patient's life into a narrative, the case study, used by late nineteenth century psychiatry to both describe and form subjects, was a genre of historical narrative par excellence. In my dissertation, I describe the development, conceptualization and employment of the "case history" during the nineteenth century as a lieu de mémoire, a “site” of memory, to appropriate a phrase of Pierre Nora’s. Because France was a center of psychiatric knowledge, providing the model for the professionalization of sciences of the mind in the nineteenth century, I have chosen to investigate the evolution of the case in the French context. I study the case as an instance of a discourse which forms (as it attempts to describe) identity. Because the case study featured an interpretation of the patient’s past by medical personnel, personal and institutional memory intersect in the psychiatric case. By thinking about the case history as a “site” of memory, I can pose questions about the ways institutional, or discursive, “memories” affect the personal memory, or internalization, of “abnormal” identities in individuals. In this regard, I focus on the medical discourses about, and case studies of, men who were described as inverts or homosexuals around the moment when those classifications came into being, using the emergence of homosexuality in France during the late nineteenth century as a case study of the deployment of the technique itself.