Needles, picks and an intern named Laing: exploring the psychiatric spaces of Army life

McGeachan, C. (2013) Needles, picks and an intern named Laing: exploring the psychiatric spaces of Army life. Journal of Historical Geography, 40, pp. 67-78. (doi: 10.1016/j.jhg.2012.10.002)

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This paper delves into the world of medical and Army psychiatric practice in Britain during the 1950s, in order to reveal the importance of thinking geographically about the life and work of Scottish psychiatrist and psychotherapist Ronald David Laing (1927–1989). The paper first discusses the previous biographical literature produced on Laing and his own autobiography, arguing that by viewing Laing’s life and work through a geographical lens certain underexplored spaces, sites and places emerge. The following sections will detail Laing’s time spent as an intern in the West of Scotland Neurological Unit at Killearn, where he first endured the harsh working realities of medical practice and where critical debates in 1950s mental health care were playing out in a microcosm. These included the controversial treatment of lobotomy and the brewing tensions between neurology and psychiatry. As Laing’s career took a military turn and he was posted to work within the insulin coma unit of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley, it is possible to highlight the development of Laing’s thoughts on the treatment of psychiatric patients in the hands of the Army, and how he attempted to come to terms with these practices in his own unique way. Using the experimental practice of insulin coma therapy as an example, this paper seeks to demonstrate how the space of treatment itself was active in shaping Laing’s future engagements with his psychiatric patients.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McGeachan, Dr Cheryl
Authors: McGeachan, C.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Journal Name:Journal of Historical Geography
Published Online:28 November 2012

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