Article Highlight: Vol. 41, Issue 1, “‘Hunger Hurts, but Starving Works.’ The Moral Conversion to Eating Disorders”

This week we’re highlighting Gisella Orsini’s “Hunger Hurts, but Starving Works.” The Moral Conversion to Eating Disorders article. Orsini suggests that eating disorders are the result of moral self-transformative processes. Women in Malta and Italy with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders are thus actively and deliberately engaged with cultural moral values embodied in thinness and the control of bodily needs and pleasure. Thus, the more control over hunger, the higher the level of satisfaction and the degree of moral conversion achieved.

Orsini begins by discussing the history of eating disorders within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), highlighting that the explanations of onset, classification, and treatment has often been, and to a large extent remains, unclear. Yet before the medical category of “eating disorders,” behaviors which would now be considered symptoms of pathology had different meanings, often characterized as holy behavior or as a wonder of nature. Medieval European nuns often adopted strict starvation practices in order to reach unity with Christ. Pre-Victorian and Victorian era “fasting women” were admired by the rest of society and were considered curiosities by scientists and doctors. Orsini narrows the modern gap between the biomedical construction of illness and the self-perception of patients through an understanding of the narratives of people with eating disorders and framing it as a process of self-transformation.

Between 2012 and 2014, Orsini conducted comparative qualitative research in Malta and Italy. Even though the prevalence of eating disorders was relatively similar between the two countries, the social reactions to eating disorders were markedly different. The Italian government considers eating disorders to be a “social epidemic, which leads to serious problems in terms of public health.” Malta, by contrast, has almost no concern with eating disorders at the public level as well as a lack of public and private treatment institutions. Both countries aligned with the international trend of eating disorders being mostly female.

In framing eating disorders as a moral conversion, on the basis of the interview narratives she collected, Orsini suggests that eating disorders could be considered as the body becoming a physical symbol of an attempt to redefine their lives. Yet the biomedical approach views the behavior of people with an eating disorder as stemming from a mental condition. Orsini states, “anorexics, bulimics and binge eaters actively and deliberately adopt behaviors in relation to food and their own bodies in order to morally improve themselves.” All of Orsini’s participants sought to dominate their bodily needs in order to improve themselves morally. Furthermore, all recalled negative moral feelings, such as guilt and shame, when their behavior was not in line with their moral values of purity and control. In this way, moral values became moral imperatives.

Yet not all people with eating disorders reacted to their diagnosis’ pathologization in the same way. Anorexics tended to be the most resistant to their newly achieved satisfactory personhood with illness. Bulimics and people with binge eating disorder, on the other hand, tended to experience relief at being labeled “ill,” identifying more with their condition as a disorder rather than a moral conversation.

Orsini states that although the main objective of people with eating disorders is thinness, this thinness is simply the end result of several behaviors that aim to ameliorate one’s self in highly moral terms. The process of a moral conversion requires an individual to adopt views, attitudes, or patterns of behavior that are generally thought of as morally better than their previous views. Orsini then further divides the three discussed eating disorders into levels of conversion: achieved moral conversion for anorexia nervosa, attempting moral conversion for bulimia nervosa, and rejecting moral conversion for binge eating disorder.

In the case of anorexia nervosa, Orsini presents the circumstances of Elisa, a 28-year-old woman in residential treatment in Italy. Elisa’s narrative of transforming her body from being “sinful and dirty,” to a “pure and sinless body” through her anorexia is an example of an achieved moral conversion. Yet she was forced to abandon her new perspectives and values in order to live. Elisa had to decide if the costs of her anorexic beliefs justified the benefits, leading to a painful moral choice.

For bulimia nervosa, Orsini discusses that people who are diagnosed with bulimia after having had a history with anorexia can be said to have lost the ability to practice the core values associated with anorexia, even though they still consider such values (such as controlling hunger and thinness) to be core values in their lives. Orsini’s participants who were not diagnosed previously with anorexia often spoke of their daily frustrating struggle to control their hunger; while they are unable to totally control their eating, the compensatory behavior of self-induced vomiting, laxative use, or over-exercising was still an attempt at thinness. This continuous attempt to control their hunger, followed by “repairing the damage caused by their moments of weakness,” is an example of how they are attempting moral conversion.

Finally, for Orsini, binge eating disorder is seen as a case of rejecting moral conversion. While the people in Orsini’s research diagnosed with binge eating disorder still described thinness and control over food as a core value in their lives, unlike the anorexics and bulimics, people with binge eating disorder did not believe they deserved to ameliorate themselves. Their self-transformative process can be understood as a form of self-punishment as well as a statement of their perceived failure in being the person they want to be.

Michelle, a 34-year-old Maltese woman, spoke of her body as a sign of failure after gaining a significant amount of weight during and after pregnancy. Orsini states Michelle never referred to her body in aesthetic terms, such as “ugly,” but instead as a mark of her inabilities and moral dissatisfaction. She states, “If I was slimmer, if I am slimmer, I would be a better person” (p. 134). For Michelle, bingeing was a manifestation of her moral failures.

In conclusion, Orsini reiterates that only viewing people with eating disorders as having a physiological or psychological dysfunction underestimates the active role their conditions and cultural meanings of their behaviors. Through her analysis of the narratives of people with an eating disorder in Malta and Italy, she reveals how anorexics, bulimics, and binge eaters deliberately engage in a number of practices aimed at losing weight in order to improve themselves in moral terms. Their actions are further divided into an unofficial moral hierarchy, wherein anorexics embody an ideal moral-selfhood.

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Guest Blog: ‘In-Betweenness’: Liminality, Legality, and Migrant Health in Siracusa, Italy

This week on the blog, we are hosting a guest post by Adam Kersch, an MA Candidate who will begin his PhD in anthropology at the University of California – Davis this fall. Here, he presents findings from his ethnographic research on the health and wellbeing of migrants entangled in the legal webs of relocation in southern Italy.

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In January to July 2015, I conducted ethnographic research at a reception center for migrants in Siracusa, Italy, focusing on the struggles they faced upon arrival. Although the legal difficulties and hurdles that migrants faced were readily apparent, the toll that these policies took on the health and well-being of these migrants became increasingly visible during my research. Migrants coming to Italy and to Europe have often endured traumatic events resulting from war, violence, and poverty. Once migrants come to Europe, this crucial period of psychological and physical recovery is marked by ongoing anxiety and hardship as they navigate a complex web of legal processes as they seek asylum. That is, procedures and policies that compose the migration reception apparatus commonly have direct and deleterious effects on migrants’ health.

Abraham was one such migrant whose mental well-being was harmed by slow moving legislative mechanisms. Abraham, a 25 year-old Pakistani man, had been waiting in Umberto I, a primary reception center for migrants in Siracusa, Italy, for nearly six weeks and had heard nothing regarding the status of his asylum request. The poorly-supplied center was only designed to hold migrants for 72 hours, and no legal information was provided to its residents, leaving the migrants waiting in Umberto I without a clue as to their futures in Italy. Abraham left Pakistan fleeing sectarian violence and lack of economic opportunity. After some travel, he found himself in Libya, seeking passage to Europe. Like many other migrants, he was tortured and robbed by militias while in Libya as he worked to pay for his passage to Europe. Reeling from torture, the stress of his liminal status in Italy became unbearable. The center had given him no idea as to when he would be transferred, why he was there, or what his future might be like. Like many others before him, one day Abraham had enough of the waiting and clandestinely left the reception center. He contacted me a few days after leaving, begging for help. He was in Northern Italy, trying to cross the border into France to meet with a friend in Spain, but he kept getting caught and sent back to Italy. “I want to die,” he confessed, “I am a failure. I cannot support myself, I cannot support my family. No money, no work.” Having come to Europe for safety and to help support his family back in Pakistan, the painfully lethargic process of legal recognition prevented Abraham from being able to achieve his goals. His lack of documents prevented him from legally seeking work, but the longer he waited for these documents, the longer his family in Pakistan went hungry, unable to support themselves. Trying to seek asylum elsewhere seemed to him the only logical choice.

During my fieldwork in 2015, I found that migrants waiting to hear about their legal status in Italy had little to no access to legal information, and that this state of liminality facilitated social, psychological, and somatic trauma. Centers like Umberto I function as a part of the migrant reception apparatus in Italy that treats migrants with spotty assistance at best, and absolute negligence at worst. This lack of legal knowledge contributes to an environment of anxiety and leads to the physical and mental suffering of the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have come to Italy in recent years. This dearth of information violates United Nations and European Union (EU) policies on migrant reception, both of which stress that migrants should have access to any legal personnel willing to provide services. In this way, these policies suspend migrants in an ambiguous, unresolved legal status that both directly and indirectly impacts the psychological and somatic health of the migrants and their families.

Lamin, a 20-year-old migrant from Gambia, was another temporary resident of Umberto I. He, like Abraham, experienced deteriorating health as a result of the migrant reception policies and procedures in Siracusa. He had unknowingly agreed to serve as a legal witness for the state against the captain of the boat that brought him across the Mediterranean, who was being charged with human trafficking. The police had effectively coerced Lamin to sign the papers, which were in Italian. They assured him the papers were for his own benefit as they would secure him legal protection. However, since signing them, he had no updates about the court proceedings or about his own legal status. Lamin languished in Umberto I for the moment that he might be transferred or summoned, all the while ignoring the severe pain he was experiencing as a result of holes that had been drilled into his teeth when he was tortured in Libya. He refused to seek medical help, fearing that he may miss his chance to leave Umberto I and finally move forward while getting his teeth fixed. It was only after significant encouraging that he finally sought care from Emergency, a local medical NGO. Thankfully, Lamin successfully recovered and was finally transferred a few weeks later.

In cases such as Lamin’s, legal liminality takes priority over physical suffering. As a result, the slow and onerous migrant reception apparatus exacerbates and prolongs the wounds of migration, whether they are psychological, physical, or social. Those in Umberto I are far from the only sufferers of legal liminality. Cutiyo and her daughter, both refugees from Somalia, came into the legal office late one night in Siracusa. Cutiyo had regularly been coming to speak with Giulia, a local legal activist, to help file a family reunification to bring her husband living in Somalia to Italy. She often saw Giulia simply to ask about the progress of her husband’s case, wondering when she might finally see him again and when he would finally be safe from the violence in Somalia. Cutiyo spoke softly and left quietly after speaking to Giulia. Giulia turned to me, on the verge of tears, and explained that Cutiyo’s husband had been shot in the head five times by militants the night before in Somalia. This happened only a day or two before Cutiyo’s husband was finally to be brought to Italy to be with his wife and daughter. If the sluggish process had been streamlined, perhaps the family could have been reunited. Instead, Cutiyo was now alone in Italy with her daughter, faced with both an uncertain legal status and the social distress and strain caused by the death of her husband. The slow-moving Italian legal system had produced another casualty.

These moments of “in-betweenness” that migrants experience are crucial periods of temporal and social displacement that exacerbate the traumas from which many migrants are attempting to recover. As migrants wait to receive documentation or for their families to be reunited, the physical and psychological risks inherent to seeking a new future in Europe are placed in migrants’ peripheries as they seek legal recognition. As observed by anthropologists Cristiana Giordano (2014) and Miriam Ticktin (2011), granting asylum is often a process of recognizing and validating the suffering migrants experience before arriving in Europe. In circumstances such as these, suffering can become a migrant’s path to legal protection, functioning as a perverse currency that promises security and safety. But during the period in Europe preceding asylum decisions, migrants’ pains are perhaps ironically exacerbated by obtuse and labyrinthine legal processes in the very countries they have come to for protection. Whether it be by anxiety that defers attention to health issues, an uncertain future prompting a rejection of the reception apparatus, or documentation that arrives too late, migrant legislation and reception procedures in Siracusa, Italy have severe consequences for the well-being of people seeking a new future in Europe.

Sources Cited

Giordano, Cristiana. (2014). Migrants in Translation: Caring and the Logics of Difference in Contemporary Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ticktin, Miriam. (2011). Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. Berkeley: University of California Press.


 

About the Author: Adam Kersch is currently a MA Candidate at the University of Central Florida and in September 2016 will begin his first year of PhD studies in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California, Davis as a Mellon Institute Comparative Border Studies Fellow. His research is focused on provision of health and legal services to migrants in Italy. He is particularly interested in human rights, imaginaries of Europe, and the politics of care in the context of austerity.

Autism in Brazil and Italy: Two Cases From the June 2015 Special Issue

Our July 2015 entries on the blog highlighted individual articles from our latest release, the June 2015 Special Issue on the conceptualization of autism (which you can access here.) These articles, focused centrally on anthropological and ethnographic accounts of autism across the world, explore contemporary issues surrounding identity, subjectivity, citizenship, biosociality, neurodiversity, and disability. In this week’s installment, we visit two more articles from the issue to investigate concepts of autism and its treatment in two countries: Brazil and Italy.


Autism in Italy: Rigidity and the Culture of Therapy

Read the full article by M. Ariel Cascio here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11013-015-9439-6

In Italy, therapy and educational professionals who work with young adults with autism (ages 14-34) note that autism is often marked by a desire for intense social structure and timeliness: what they describe as “rigidity” or “rigid mind.” While the desire for structure is considered a core feature of the autism diagnosis across the world, Italian professionals who serve in community-based therapy, day centers, and residential homes for people with autism nevertheless have a complex relationship with “rigidity” as a mechanism for treatment.

Cascio interviewed both staff members at centers and programs for young people with autism as well as mental health and social service professionals throughout the region who worked on autism across the life course. These professionals voiced the value in creating structure for people with autism to assist in their development of improved social skills. Therapeutic centers and programs are themselves operated within an institutional structure that facilitates organized social interactions, both between their clients with autism and amongst staff members. However, professionals who worked at these programs often felt stymied by expectations from parents and their peers who wished for children with autism to adhere to a particular therapeutic regimen, diet, or activity schedule. The professionals likewise cautioned one another that taking any staunch, singular, and indeed “rigid” route to therapeutic intervention could prove counterintuitive to helping people with autism develop new social skills. Professionals embraced the idea of providing structure while, simultaneously, seeking to blend behavioral therapies to match individual client needs, as well as to create opportunities for clients to engage in valuable, less structured social activity.

These concerns about rigidity in the treatment of autism arrive at a time when older social structures for the care of neurodiverse individuals have been disassembled. In the 1970s, new social movements led to the deinstitutionalization of mental hospitals and care facilities, replacing the separation of mentally ill and neurodiverse individuals with integration policies that mandated new employment opportunities and equal-opportunity education for the developmentally disabled. Local mental health services attached to the national health care system provide psychiatric, behavioral, and therapeutic services that accompany other integration policies. This state of flux, at the societal level, refutes the notion that social services for autism must remain “rigid” and immmovable: they, too, change and develop with time given broader changes in the resources and services made available by the state to the disabled.

The Italian case presents a unique perspective on both the relationship between care professionals and the nature of diagnosis and treatment, as well as between concepts of autism at the scale of individual treatment and at the level of the state and national systems of health care. Like the discussion on Brazil, Italy similarly provides a fascinating context for the study of autism as a condition that is diagnosed globally, yet treated and conceptualized locally.

cropped-cropped-2009cover-copy1.jpgAutism in Brazil: Diagnosis, Identity, and Treatment Models

Read the full article by Clarice Rios and Barbara Costa Andrada here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11013-015-9448-5

Brazil’s model for delivering social services to the developmentally disabled was directly modeled after the Italian system of deinstitutionalization and social integration of the mentally ill and neurodiverse. Treatment interventions for people with autism, however, were not included in Brazilian social services until the early 2000s, when adolescent and child mental health conditions were integrated into existing mental health systems. This shift increased programming for people with autism, however concerns accompanied this new system about the nature of diagnosis and treatment, as expressed differently by mental health professionals and the parents of children with autism.

Rather than viewing autism as an integral piece of an individual’s identity, Brazilian mental health professionals instead employ a social model of disability that stresses the environment that a person with autism exists within. Therapies emphasize social inclusion and bolstering all mental health clients’ sense of autonomy, so as to combat the exclusion and institutionalization of the individual. This model did not emphasize treatment plans specific to autism, but rather sought to improve the lives of all clients with mental disabilities. Mental health professionals voiced concerns about creating autism-specific services, saying that these programs would exclude people with other forms of mental disability from seeking appropriate care (and exclude people with autism from engagement with people of other mental disabilities.)

Parent activists who have children with autism, on the other hand, take an identity-based approach to championing the rights of people with autism. They argued that by underscoring the specific nature of autism as a mental disability, and providing services tailored to the treatment of autism, their children would be better prepared for social inclusion. Parents feared under-diagnosis of the condition, which would mean that their children– failing to have a certified diagnosis by a health professional– would be unable to seek out care resources and early intervention programs to improve behavioral and social outcomes.

In both instances, the authors stress that the dichotomy between medical and social models of disability is scarcely stable when examining autism in Brazil. Mental health professionals and parents of children with autism both grasp the importance of medical certification of autism (diagnosis) as a means to access services (that are aligned with the social model of illness.) However, parents and professionals disagree on the nature of these services; parents hold that social inclusion for people with autism requires an understanding of their difference from non-autistic people, while professionals strive to avoid employing specific diagnosis categories as a means to separate the kind of care and services they deliver to clients with other mental health conditions.

The Brazilian case thus highlights the nature of autism and mental disability as both a medical and a social condition: one that must be negotiated, treated, and diagnosed in light of its manifold implications for human health, development, and social life.

June 2015 Issue Preview: Guest Editor M. Ariel Cascio, on Global Autism Studies

Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry’s second installment of the year arrives June 2015. This special issue will address anthropological studies of autism throughout the world. To give our readers a preview of the upcoming issue, special issue guest editor M. Ariel Cascio, PhD joined our social media editor for an interview to discuss compiling the issue, what topics the articles will address, and new themes in the study of autism.


Can you tell us a little about the upcoming June 2015 special issue?

The special issue, “Conceptualizing autism around the globe,” shares anthropological (and allied field) research on autism in Brazil, India, Italy, and the United States. We talk about “conceptualizing” autism as a way to counter the idea that autism “is” or “means” one specific thing. Sometimes autism means the diagnosis measured by a certain instrument (such as ADOS), sometimes it means a more broadly defined set of characteristics (such as those in the DSM), sometimes it means an individual identity, and so many more things. The articles in this issue explore how autism is conceptualized at several different levels: in national policy, in treatment settings, and in the home.

What’s been your favorite part of working on the special issue?

I’ve just enjoyed the opportunity to greater familiarize myself with the group of scholars who are pursuing the anthropology of autism, and to work alongside scholars whose work I have long followed.

So how did you become interested in the study of autism?

I’ve been studying autism since 2008. I actually came to anthropology before I came to autism, and when I first began learning about autism, I saw it as rich for anthropological inquiry (isn’t everything!) because of anthropology’s strengths in focusing on lived experience, challenging deficit narratives of so-called “disorders,” and placing medicine and psychiatry in sociocultural context.

What was it like doing fieldwork in Italy? How do Italians see autism differently than other places in the world?

I’ve studied the autism concept more in Italy than in any other place in the world, and I’m very grateful to everyone there from whom I learned – autism professionals, family members of people with autism, and people on the spectrum themselves. I could hazard comparisons with the literature that address perceptions in other parts of the world – and some of these comparisons come through in the special issue – but for now I would like to focus on the strength of the rich description of the Italian context without external comparison. As my article in the special issue shows, autism professionals tended to take a social model of autism, focusing on creating environments that were tailored to the needs of people on the spectrum and structured to help them learn.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in studying autism?

As in many areas of inquiry familiar to readers of CMP, it can be challenging to communicate information about my study to people who study autism in other fields (clinical, psychological, social work, etc.). A lot of research about autism takes a positivist stance, whereas my research takes an interpretivist stance and focuses on autism as a concept whose meaning may vary rather than a diagnosis measured in a particular way. Nonetheless, I love talking about my research interests with a broad audience because in many contexts (especially in the U.S.), so many people have personal or professional interest in autism and we can always have interesting and stimulating conversations.

What’s something you think would surprise non-anthropologists about the anthropology of autism?

I would imagine non-anthropologists would be surprised by the anthropology of autism for the same reasons they might be surprised by anthropology (or medical anthropology) in general. For example, they might be surprised that anthropologists study autism all over the world, particularly if they think of the autism concept as something that represents a universal set of characteristics and experiences that are unaffected by context. The articles in this special issue really show that context matters in all conceptualizations of autism, from Brazil to the United States, from national policy to the family home.

Where do you see the anthropology of autism heading next?

I see the anthropology of autism becoming more inclusive. In her commentary, Pamela Block expresses optimism that the anthropology of autism will increasingly include researchers who identify as autistic themselves, and I agree. In addition to including more researchers with autism, I anticipate that the anthropology of autism will increasingly work to include participants with higher levels of support needs (those whom some people call “people with low-functioning autism”), and delve deeper into their lived experiences as well.


Many thanks to Dr. Cascio for sharing her insights! Look for the special issue on conceptualizing autism in June 2015, and be sure to check back for more previews of the issue, article features, and other blog entries about the new installment here on our website.

Guest Blog: Culture, Medicine, and Neuropsychiatry

This week, we are featuring a special guest blog post by M. Ariel Cascio, PhD. Here, she discusses neuropsychiatry in the Italian context and within the United States.

In the 21st century, anthropologists and allied scholars talk frequently of the biologization, cerebralization or neurologization of psychiatry. Many make reference to the 1990s, the “Decade of the Brain” that closed out the last century. They talk about “brain diseases” as a dominant discourse in discussions of mental illness. The 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association hosted a panel on “reflections on mind and body in the era of the ‘cerebral subject.’” In these and other ways, scholars write and talk about increasing dominance of brain discourses in discussion of psychological and psychiatric topics. This dominance has historical roots, for example in German (Kraepelinian) psychiatry, and authors in Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry and elsewhere have written about the historical context and local manifestations of this dominance of the neurological in the psy- sciences.

In this blog post I explore a situation in which neurology and psychiatry have long co-existed: the Italian field of neuropsychiatry. While the field “neuropsychiatry” is not unknown in the United States, and similar terms are used in other countries as well, I offer some comments specifically on the Italian context. The example of Italian neuropsychiatry provides one case of a particular historical relationship between neurology, psychiatry, and psychology that would be of interest to any historical or anthropological scholars of psychiatry.

The Italian medical system distinguishes between neuropsychiatry and psychiatry, neuropsichiatria infantile and psichiatria. Neuropsichiatria infantile (child neuropsychiatry), abbreviated NPI but sometimes referred to simply as neuropsichiatria (neuropsychiatry), addresses neurological, psychiatric, and developmental problems in children under age 18. Psichiatria (psychiatry) treats adults starting at age 18. As such, it is tempting to simply distinguish child and adult psychiatry. However, neuropsychiatry and psychiatry actually have distinct origins and practices. As the names imply, neuropsychiatry links neurology and psychiatry. Adult psychiatry, however, does not.

While Italian psychiatry has its roots in early 19th century organicist and biological approaches, in the 1960s a younger generation of psychiatrists, most prominently Franco Basaglia, aligned themselves with phenomenology and existential psychiatry. These psychiatrists crystallized their ideas into the ideology of Psichiatra Democratica (Democratic Psychiatry) and the initiative of “Basaglia’s Law,” the 1978 Law 180 which began Italy’s process of deinstitutionalization, generally considered to be very successful (Donnelly 1992). While childhood neuropsychiatry is indeed the counterpart to adult psychiatry, more than just the age group served differentiates these fields. If Italian psychiatry has its roots in Basaglia and the ideology of democratic psychiatry, neuropsychiatry has its roots at the turn of the 20th century, in the works of psychiatrist Sante de Sanctis, psychopedagogue Giuseppe F. Montesano, and pedagogue Maria Montessori.

In this way, neuropsychiatry’s origins bridged psychiatry and pedagogy (Bracci 2003; Migone 2014). Giovanni Bollea has been called the father of neuropsychiatry for his role in establishing the professional after World War II (Fiorani 2011; Migone 2014). Fiorani (2011) traces the use of the term neuropsychiatry (as opposed to simply child psychiatry, for example) to Bollea’s desire to honor the distinctly Italian tradition and legacy following Sante de Sanctis.

Several features distinguish psychiatry and neuropsychiatry. Migone (2014) argues that child neuropsychiatry has taken more influence from French psychoanalytic schools, whereas adult psychiatry has taken more influence from first German and then Anglo-Saxon psychiatries. Migone further explains:

Child and adolescent psychiatry in Italy is therefore characterized by a reduced use of medications (if compared to the United States), and by a diffuse use of dynamic psychotherapy, both individual and family therapy (from the mid-1970s systemic therapy spread). The attention to the family and the social environment is extremely important for understand the clinical case during the developmental years. [My translation]

Moreover, neuropsychiatry is known for being multidisciplinary and working in equipe, teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and so on. It incorporates psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, dynamic psychology, psychological testing, social interventions, and more (Fiorani 2011).

This extremely brief overview outlines key characteristics of Italian neuropsychiatry and the ways it is distinguished from Italian psychiatry, as well as from U.S. psychiatry. Italian neuropsychiatry provides one example of a long-standing relationship between neurology, psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, and pedagogy. By drawing attention to this medical specialty and the complexities of the different fields it addresses, I hope to have piqued the interest of historical and anthropological scholars. I include English and Italian language sources for further reading below.


References and Further Reading – English

Donnelly, Michael. 1992. The Politics of Mental Health in Italy. London ; New York: Routledge.

Feinstein, Adam. 2010. A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Levi, Gabriel, and Paola Bernabei. 1997. Italy. In Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. 2nd edition. Donald J. Cohen and Fred R. Volkmar, eds. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Nardocci, Franco. 2009. The Birth of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry: From Rehabilitation and Social Inclusion of the Mentally Handicapped, to the Care of Mental Health during Development. Ann Ist Super Sanità 45: 33–38.

References and Further Reading – Italian

Bracci, Silvia. 2003. Sviluppo della neuropsichiatria in Italia ed Europa. Storia delle istituzioni psichiatriche per l’infanzia. In L’Ospedale psichiatrico di Roma. Dal Manicomio Provinciale alla Chiusura. Antonio Iaria, Tommaso Losavio, and Pompeo Martelli, eds. Pp. 145–161. Bari: Dedalo.

Fiorani, Matteo. 2011. Giovanni Bollea, 1913-2011: Per Una Storia Della Neuropsichiatria Infantile in Italia. Medicina & Storia 11(21/22): 251–276.

Migone, Paolo. 2014. Storia Della Neuropsichiatria Infantile (prima Parte). Il Ruolo Terapeutico 125: 55–70.

Russo, Concetta, Michele Capararo, and Enrico Valtellina. 2014. A sé e agli altri. Storia della manicomializzazione dell’autismo e delle altre disabilità relazionali nelle cartelle cliniche di S. Servolo. 1. edizione. Milano etc.: Mimesis.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M. Ariel Cascio is an anthropologist specializing in the cultural study of science and biomedicine, psychological anthropology, and the anthropology of youth. She recently successfully defended her dissertation on autism in Italy at Case Western Reserve University. She can be reached at ariel.cascio@case.edu. Her blog, written in Italian and English, can be viewed here: https://arielcascio.wordpress.com/.