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Picturing the Damaged Mind: Film and Techniques of Visualization in WWII Military Psychiatry


Picturing the Damaged Mind: Film and Techniques of Visualization in WWII Military Psychiatry

Scott, Kaia (2018) Picturing the Damaged Mind: Film and Techniques of Visualization in WWII Military Psychiatry. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Over the course of World War II, psychiatry went from being a specialized discipline addressing the very ill or the very rich, to one looked to by institutions and industry for expertise regarding the management of ordinary people’s labour and behaviour. Adopted by the US military as a strategy for “conserving manpower,” the astonishing growth and re-orientation of psychiatry in response to institutional demands has been documented in histories of psychiatry and sciences of social engineering. This project adds to these histories by identifying the key role played by film and what I call “techniques of visualization” in enabling this growth and modernization. A few familiar works of propaganda including the Why We Fight films and Let There be Light, are situated within a much larger institutional framework containing many unfamiliar films, all put to work within broader strategies to optimize the labour of personnel, and in the process acquainting millions of people to psychiatric discourses for the first time. Using extensive archival research of military documents and psychiatric literature, this study proposes that the work done by these films can only be understood by contextualizing them within institutional strategies for managing issues of concern such as morale, “combat fatigue,” and preventative psychiatry.

The chapters of this study examine film and techniques of visualization at work in screening, training, preventative psychiatry, therapeutic treatments, and discourse management, by mapping them along stages of a military career from selection and training through military service and discharge. Psychiatrists used film to try to manage men’s minds en masse, attempting to inoculate the mind to fear, make mental health “visible” so that it could be monitored and self-managed, standardize and automate aspects of treatment—in particular triggering repressed traumas, and manage discourses about war and mental health. Techniques of visualization adapted imprecise and time-consuming practices such as psychoanalysis and personality profiling to make them appear efficient and reproducible on a mass scale. The visual technologies and therapeutic modes that characterized the modernization of the psychiatric discipline evolved within a strict institutional environment that expected minds to adapt to the circumstances of war.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Scott, Kaia
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Film and Moving Image Studies
Date:October 2018
Thesis Supervisor(s):Wasson, Haidee
Keywords:Film; Military; Psychiatry; Media Studies; Visual Culture Studies; United States History
ID Code:984925
Deposited By: KAIA SCOTT
Deposited On:10 Jun 2019 13:46
Last Modified:10 Jun 2019 13:46
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