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  • Depression, Shock and Stimulation : Regimes of Touch in the Field of Psychiatry

    Moritz von Stetten

    Chapter from the book: Nirta, C et al. 2020. TOUCH.


    Modern psychiatry is dominated by a regime of touch that has not yet overcome the limitations of neurological and biological reductionism. I reconstruct the history of brain stimulation in the case of severe depression as a prominent example of this regime of touch. The therapy of brain stimulation is based on the assumption that direct causal effects can be achieved without violating the ethical integrity of the treated person. The achievements of medical imaging have intensified the hopes associated with modern brain stimulation. Since the 1980s we can observe a renaissance of brain stimulation with regard to therapies like electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation. I argue that the tradition of body phenomenology provides a more convincing regime of touch in order to explore the limits and possibilities of modern psychiatry. Using ideas from body phenomenological thinkers like Helmuth Plessner and Thomas Fuchs, I present a concept of touch underlining the ecological, relational and embedded nature of the human body. Plessner's concepts of ‘eccentric positionality’ and of ‘mediated immediacy’ entail a regime of touch that cannot be reduced to direct skin contact, direct stimulation and causal effects. Body phenomenological accounts provide a more coherent conception of the body and its relationality.

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    von Stetten, M. 2020. Depression, Shock and Stimulation : Regimes of Touch in the Field of Psychiatry. In: Nirta, C et al (eds.), TOUCH. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book37.d

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    Published on Jan. 17, 2020