EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 22 Mai 2019

Asfourieh: A History of Institutional Psychiatry, Madness and Society in Lebanon

Lamia Moghnieh (EUME Fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation 2019-20), Chair: Rasha Chatta (EUME Fellow 2017-19)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

The Lebanese Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders (LHMND) was the first psychiatric asylum hospital in the Levant, founded by British Quaker missionary Theopilus Waldmeier following the 1860 massacres in Mount Lebanon. LHMND was commonly known as Asfourieh, a name that will later be used across the Arab world as a metaphor for madness. Located at the outskirts of Beirut, the hospital received patients from Malta, Greece, Persia and neighboring Arab countries. It closed in 1983 after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Asfourieh introduced psychiatric science to the Levant and marked the rise of institutional psychiatry in Lebanon. State-of-the-art Western psychiatry was introduced and practiced in this hospital, modeled on British style medical institutions. The hospital was ran by committees in both the UK and Lebanon and funded by global humanitarian organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). Psychiatry in Lebanon has since been engaged with global and international debates, research, agendas, programs and classifications of mental illness.

Drawing on ethnographic and on-going archival research, this talk introduces psychiatry’s cultural authority (Lunbeck 1996) in Lebanon [from the asylum and the emergence of institutional psychiatry to humanitarian psychiatry], tracing the shifting therapeutic objects and subjects of psychiatry like women's bodies, labor, addiction, the family, disability, and violence. The talk also attends to the methodologies of working with clinical archives, drawing on three levels of ethical encounters and productions: the ethics of representation, the ethics of reading the clinical archive and the ethics of knowledge making.

Lamia Moghnieh is currently a EUME Fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. She received her PhD in Anthropology and Social Work from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is currently working on her book manuscript Psychiatry in Lebanon from the 19th to the 21st Century: Madness, Violence and Society that looks at the scientific and lay debates around madness, abnormality and psychiatric diagnoses, and their manifestations during various socio-political transformations in Lebanese society. The book is based on her dissertation research on the politics of humanitarian psychiatry, violence and trauma in Lebanon (1982-2012), as well as ongoing research on the history of psychiatry in Lebanon through the archival records of the Lebanese Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders (Asfourieh).

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