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Private Practices

Private Practices: Harry Stack Sullivan, the Science of Homosexuality, and American Liberalism

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Private Practices
    Book Description:

    Private Practices examines the relationship between science, sexuality, gender, race, and culture in the making of modern America between 1920 and 1950, when contradictions among liberal intellectuals affected the rise of U.S. conservatism. Naoko Wake focuses on neo-Freudian, gay psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, founder of the interpersonal theory of mental illness. She explores medical and social scientists' conflicted approach to homosexuality, particularly the views of scientists who themselves lived closeted lives.

    Wake discovers that there was a gap--often dramatic, frequently subtle--between these scientists' "public" understanding of homosexuality (as a "disease") and their personal, private perception (which questioned such a stigmatizing view). This breach revealed a modern culture in which self-awareness and open-mindedness became traits of "mature" gender and sexual identities. Scientists considered individuals of society lacking these traits to be "immature," creating an unequal relationship between practitioners and their subjects. In assessing how these dynamics--the disparity between public and private views of homosexuality and the uneven relationship between scientists and their subjects--worked to shape each other, Private Practices highlights the limits of the scientific approach to subjectivity and illuminates its strange career--sexual subjectivity in particular--in modern U.S. culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5107-4
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Homosexuality in the twenty-first-century United States is highly politicized. As the issue of same-sex marriage enters courtrooms or appears on ballots, often with a brusquenoas an outcome, supporters of such unions express their dismay and anger at the denial of equal rights for sexual minorities. On another, related front, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been one of the most contested issues in the United States today, stirring up the one-century-old discussion about the “damage” that sexual minorities might do to the army’s morale, as well as the question of what qualities Americans hope to see...

  6. 1 A Man, a Doctor, and His Patients
    (pp. 13-50)

    When Harry Stack Sullivan came to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, a psychoanalytically oriented mental hospital in Towson, Maryland, in late 1922, he doubtless did not know how much he would become fascinated in the coming years with a condition called schizophrenia. Nor did he know that he would become so intensively and deeply involved in issues of homosexuality through his interaction with patients with schizophrenia. He was a thirty-year-old physician with some experience in general medicine, but he did not have much familiarity with the fields of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. He did not have—as far as we know...

  7. 2 Illness Within a Hospital and Without
    (pp. 51-84)

    One day in December 1926, a patient at Sheppard-Pratt described how he thought he had changed since coming to the hospital: “I studied … a lot of things I would like to know about myself as far as I’m concerned with other people—my relations to other people.”¹ This would have pleased Sheppard-Pratt doctors, if the patient’s understanding of his condition were indeed as thorough as his comment implied. As it turned out, his speech quickly became erratic and disturbed, suggesting that his appreciation of his newly found self-awareness had not taken such deep root. Nevertheless, it is important that...

  8. 3 Life History for Science and Subjectivity
    (pp. 85-120)

    While Sheppard-Pratt doctors collected life histories as a promising medium for the scientific research of mental illness, some of the most influential social scientists of the time were beginning to use similar records in sociological, anthropological, and ethnographical research. Indeed, medical and social scientists’ interests in this kind of source, unique in its intense attention to individual experiences and its resistance to categorical thinking, helped create one of the most prolific interdisciplinary collaborations in modern American history. This collaboration represented not just a series of interesting research programs based on multidimensional examinations of persons and cultures; it was a serious...

  9. 4 Homosexuality: The Stepchild of Interwar Liberalism
    (pp. 121-156)

    Just as the life history method was a scientific response to the changing relationship between “us” and “others” in modern America, the science of homosexuality in the 1920s and 1930s reflected the era’s shifting ideas about sexuality, gender, and culture. One striking characteristic of the scientific approach to homosexuality in these decades was a proliferation of different theories about its nature. To be sure, since the beginning of modern sexology at the turn of the century, constitutional and environmental views had coexisted, producing a wide range of theories about the cause of homosexuality, its dangerousness, and a debate over its...

  10. 5 The Military, Psychiatry, and “Unfit” Soldiers
    (pp. 157-186)

    Exploration of homosexuality by medical and social scientists in the 1920s and 1930s comprised “private” practices in which some revised or reversed what they claimed in “public.” Whether it was an interaction with a patient in a clinical setting or a personal relationship with a friend, this private arena allowed scientists to imagine homosexuality in fluid, open-ended ways. The beginning of World War II dramatically transformed this pattern. The wartime national mobilization of science left no place for ambiguity and subjectivity, pushing a number of scientists to create clear-cut distinctions between those who were able to benefit the nation and...

  11. 6 “One-Man” Liberalism Goes to the World
    (pp. 187-218)

    As the United States entered the postwar era, the role that scientists were expected to play in the nation’s effort to construct an image as a leader of nations took on a new face. In addition to the apparent need to both “assist” and “collaborate” with former enemies, there was an emerging international forum for American scientists to meet and converse with leaders from both Western and non-Western countries. For a number of scientists who participated in this forum, this meant testing the water to work with “others” as equals, not as subjects of their intellectual inquiries, so as to...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 219-256)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 257-263)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)