Book ID: CBB166333862

ʿAṣfūriyyeh: A History of Madness, Modernity, and War in the Middle East (2020)


The development of psychiatry in the Middle East, viewed through the history of one of the first modern mental hospitals in the region. ʿAṣfūriyyeh (formally, the Lebanon Hospital for the Insane) was founded by a Swiss Quaker missionary in 1896, one of the first modern psychiatric hospitals in the Middle East. It closed its doors in 1982, a victim of Lebanon's brutal fifteen-year civil war. In this book, Joelle Abi-Rached uses the rise and fall of ʿAṣfūriyyeh as a lens through which to examine the development of modern psychiatric theory and practice in the region as well as the sociopolitical history of modern Lebanon. Abi-Rached shows how ʿAṣfūriyyeh's role shifted from a missionary enterprise to a national institution with wide regional influence. She offers a gripping chronicle of patients' and staff members' experiences during the Lebanese civil war and analyzes the hospital's distinctive nonsectarian philosophy. When ʿAṣfūriyyeh closed down, health in general and mental health in particular became more visibly “sectarianized”—monopolized by various religious and political actors. Once hailed for its progressive approach to mental illness and its cosmopolitanism, ʿAṣfūriyyeh became a stigmatizing term, a byword for madness and deviance, ultimately epitomizing a failed project of modernity. Reflecting on the afterlife of this and other medical institutions, especially those affected by war, Abi-Rached calls for a new “ethics of memory,” more attuned to our global yet increasingly fragmented, unstable, and violent present. Aṣfūriyyeh is the first volume in the MIT Press's new Culture and Psychiatry series.

Reviewed By

Review Ana Antic (2022) Review of "ʿAṣfūriyyeh: A History of Madness, Modernity, and War in the Middle East". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (pp. 350-352). unapi

Review Taylor M. Moore (2022) Review of "ʿAṣfūriyyeh: A History of Madness, Modernity, and War in the Middle East". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 676-677). unapi

Review Robert DF Nathan (2022) Review of "ʿAṣfūriyyeh: A History of Madness, Modernity, and War in the Middle East". History of Psychiatry (pp. 121-122). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Abi-Rached, Joelle M.
Andrews, Jonathan
Artvinli, Fatih
Baur, Nicole
Etker, Şeref
Jay, Mike
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
History of Psychiatry
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Medizinhistorisches Journal
Osmanli Bilimi Arastirmalari: Studies in Ottoman Science
Indiana University
Carocci Editore
Franco Angeli
Il Mulino
Inanna Publications
Ohio University Press
Psychiatric hospitals
Mental disorders and diseases
Science and war; science and the military
World War I
Basaglia, Franco
Belmondo, Ernesto
Cazzullo, Carlo Lorenzo
Bruzzone, Anna Maria
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
18th century
20th century, early
United States
Great Britain
Ontario (Canada)

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