Article ID: CBB001214340

Relocating Psychiatric Knowledge: Meiji Psychiatrists, Local Culture(s), and the Problem of Fox Possession (2012)


Burns, Susan L. (Author)

Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Volume: 22, no. 2
Issue: 2
Pages: 88-109

Publication Date: 2012
Edition Details: Part of a special issue, “Social History of Medicine in Modern Japan”
Language: English

In Japan before modernity, possession by foxes or other animals was one means of explaining madness, and although some early modern doctors expressed skepticism about this phenomenon, it was not until the Meiji period that the idea of fox possession came under sustained attack, initially by public officials and "enlightened" intellecutuals who attacked it as an irrational superstition. Beginning in the late 1870s, fox possession became the object of exploration on the part of Japanese doctors, who sought to understand it through the lens of German psychiatric theory. This paper traces the attempt by Japanese physicians to "rethink" fox possession and exposes the professional, methodological, and social tensions that shaped this process. I argue that while German psychiatric theory provided a set of tools to Japan's first generation of psychiatrists, allowing them to make sense of their patients' afflictions via new diagnostic and other categories, it also occluded their ability to view fox possession as something other than a manifestation of individual pathology. The case of fox possession thus illuminates the complications of the transfer of a body of medical knowledge to a new cultural context.

Included in

Article Takayanagi, Hideko; Jannetta, Ann; Asami, Ryuji; Nakamura, Ellen; Abe, Osamu; Kitagawa, Hiroyuki; Miyajima, Toshihiro; Iryu, Yasufumi (2012) Translating Medical Knowledge: Japan's First Medical Journal---Taisei Meii Iko. Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan (pp. 68-87). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Keshavjee, Serena
Lowry, Elizabeth
Lehoux, Daryn
Gregory, Annabel
Bailey, Michael David
Koslofsky, Craig M.
Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism
Victorian Studies
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Food and History
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Cambridge University Press
Cornell University Press
University of Delaware Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Notre Dame
Science and culture
Gods; deities; spirits
Science and religion
Science and literature
Flammarion, Camille
Manilius, Marcus
Butler, Samuel
Janet, Pierre
Ballet, Gilbert
Morselli, Enrico
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
17th century
18th century
20th century
Great Britain

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