Psyche on the Skin: A History of Self-Harm
Self-harm is thought by many to be a modern epidemic: a phenomenon of the late twentieth century, a symptom of extreme emotional turmoil in young people, particularly young women. Yet it was 150 years ago, within early asylum psychiatry, that self-mutilation was first codified as a category of behaviour, and explanations for a variety of self-injurious acts were conceived very differently. Psyche on the Skin charts the secret history of self-harm. The book describes its many forms, from sexual self-mutilation and hysterical malingering in the late Victorian period, to self-castrating religious sects, to self-mutilation and self-destruction in art, music and popular culture. Sarah Chaney's refreshing historical approach refutes the notion that self-harm has any universal meaning - that it necessarily says something specific about an individual or group, or that it can ever be understood outside the historical and cultural context of a particular era. Drawing on her personal experiences, written in an engaging style and containing many powerful images, Psyche on the Skin challenges the misconceptions and controversies surrounding self-harm.The book is crucial reading for professionals in the field as well as all those affected by this act.
'Eloquent, awe-inspiring, and sassy. This book will captivate anyone curious about the body and pain.' - Joanna Bourke; 'A remarkable account from the pen of a young and brilliant scholar of the history and meaning of self-harm. Insightful and immensely readable.' - Sander L. Gilman, Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University and author of Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery
Sarah Chaney is a Research Associate at UCL Health Humanities Centre, and Research Project Manager at Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions, University of London.