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Localization and Its Discontents: A Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines
Guenther, Katja
University of Chicago Press / Hardcover / 2015-11-01 / 022628820X
price: $52.50 (may be subject to change)
296 pages
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Psychoanalysis and neurological medicine have promoted contrasting and seemingly irreconcilable notions of the modern self. Since Freud, psychoanalysts have relied on the spoken word in a therapeutic practice that has revolutionized our understanding of the mind. Neurologists and neurosurgeons, meanwhile, have used material apparatus—the scalpel, the electrode—to probe the workings of the nervous system, and in so doing have radically reshaped our understanding of the brain. Both operate in vastly different institutional and cultural contexts.

Given these differences, it is remarkable that both fields found resources for their development in the same tradition of late nineteenth-century German medicine: neuropsychiatry. In Localization and Its Discontents, Katja Guenther investigates the significance of this common history, drawing on extensive archival research in seven countries, institutional analysis, and close examination of the practical conditions of scientific and clinical work. Her remarkable accomplishment not only reframes the history of psychoanalysis and the neuro disciplines, but also offers us new ways of thinking about their future.


"An engaging read."

— Times Higher Education

"This is a very impressive work, offering a profound argument backed by judiciousness and sureness of touch in its handling of often technical and esoteric original sources. In my many years in this field I have never seen anyone focus so clearsightedly on the fundamental tension between the two paradigms of neurology: localization and connectionism. From this fundamental tension emerged the field of psychoanalysis and a range of other important developments within modern neurology."

— John Forrester, editor of the journal Psychoanalysis and History

"Localization and Its Discontents is a brilliant new account of the intellectual formation and basic problems of neuroscience, incorporating contributors to the field as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Wilder Penfield. Guenther’s intervention into the mind-body problem challenges historians of science, medicine, and philosophy as well as current laboratory investigators of nervous system functioning. A fresh description of the framing of neuroscience, superbly researched and powerfully argued."

— John C. Burnham, Ohio State University

"This thoughtful and deeply researched volume casts a new light on the modern history of scientific and clinical approaches to the mind/body relationship. Guenther explores an underlying theme—the tension between “localizing” and “connective” traditions—that unites and illuminates the work of such key figures as pathological anatomist Theodor Meynert, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield. Combining a subtle reading of texts, practices, individuals, and contexts, she illuminates an important dimension of the history of physiology, psychology, and psychiatry; and, in so doing, provides a revealing perspective on the neurosciences today."

— Daniel Todes, Johns Hopkins University

About the Author:

Katja Guenther is assistant professor of the history of science at Princeton University. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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