Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory
Twenty-five years ago one could list by name the tiny number of multiple personalities recorded in the history of Western medicine, but today hundreds of people receive treatment for dissociative disorders in every sizable town in North America. Clinicians, backed by a grassroots movement of patients and therapists, find child sexual abuse to be the primary cause of the illness, while critics accuse the "MPD" community of fostering false memories of childhood trauma. Here the distinguished philosopher Ian Hacking uses the MPD epidemic and its links with the contemporary concept of child abuse to scrutinize today's moral and political climate, especially our power struggles about memory and our efforts to cope with psychological injuries.
What is it like to suffer from multiple personality? Most diagnosed patients are women: why does gender matter? How does defining an illness affect the behavior of those who suffer from it? And, more generally, how do systems of knowledge about kinds of people interact with the people who are known about? Answering these and similar questions, Hacking explores the development of the modern multiple personality movement. He then turns to a fascinating series of historical vignettes about an earlier wave of multiples, people who were diagnosed as new ways of thinking about memory emerged, particularly in France, toward the end of the nineteenth century. Fervently occupied with the study of hypnotism, hysteria, sleepwalking, and fugue, scientists of this period aimed to take the soul away from the religious sphere. What better way to do this than to make memory a surrogate for the soul and then subject it to empirical investigation?
Made possible by these nineteenth-century developments, the current outbreak of dissociative disorders is embedded in new political settings. Rewriting the Soul concludes with a powerful analysis linking historical and contemporary material in a fresh contribution to the archaeology of knowledge. As Foucault once identified a politics that centers on the body and another that classifies and organizes the human population, Hacking has now provided a masterful description of the politics of memory : the scientizing of the soul and the wounds it can receive.
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Rewriting the soul: multiple personality and the sciences of memoryUser Review - Book Verdict
Many clinicians, backed by a grass-roots movement of patients and therapists, argue that child abuse is the primary cause of multiple personality disorder (MPD), while critics charge the MPD community with fostering false memories of childhood trauma. Using this controversial disorder as a point of departure, Hacking (philosophy, Univ. of Toronto) here probes deep into the science of memory. While the fascination with memory is nothing new, it wasn't until the second half of the 19th century that a real science of memory developed. The study of pathological memory arose out of this new science, and with it came the study of multiple personalities. Hacking (The Taming of Chance, Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1990) argues that the manner in which the sciences of memory evolved has much to do with today's memory confrontations, and, moreover, that the current outbreak of dissociative disorders reflects our new political times. Ultimately, Hacking illustrates in this demanding examination how the current politics of memory have resulted in the scientizing of the soul. A challenging read for all but scholars and specialists in the field, this is recommended for larger academic psychology collections.--David R. Johnson, Louisiana State Univ. Lib., Eunice
Review: Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of MemoryUser Review - Goodreads
Ian Hacking is a subtle, thoughtful, and often frustrating writer. In Rewriting the Soul, he takes a genealogical approach to Multiple Personality Disorder, epidemic at the time of writing in the ...