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Private Practices

Harry Stack Sullivan, the Science of Homosexuality, and American Liberalism

Naoko Wake

Publication Year: 2011

Private Practices examines the relationship between science, sexuality, gender, race, and culture in the making of modern America between 1920 and 1950, when contradictions among liberal intellectuals affected the rise of U.S. conservatism. Naoko Wake focuses on neo-Freudian, gay psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, founder of the interpersonal theory of mental illness. She explores medical and social scientists' conflicted approach to homosexuality, particularly the views of scientists who themselves lived closeted lives. In assessing how these dynamics worked to shape each other, Private Practices highlights the limits of the scientific approach to subjectivity and illuminates its strange career in modern U.S. culture.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii

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pp. 1-12

Homosexuality in the twenty-first-century United States is highly politicized. As the issue of same-sex marriage enters courtrooms or appears on ballots, often with a brusque no as an outcome, supporters of such unions express their dismay and anger at the denial of equal rights for sexual minorities. On another, related front, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been one of the most contested issues in the United States today,..

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1. A Man, a Doctor, and His Patients

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pp. 13-50

When Harry Stack Sullivan came to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, a psychoanalytically oriented mental hospital in Towson, Maryland, in late 1922, he doubtless did not know how much he would become fascinated in the coming years with a condition called schizophrenia. Nor did he know that he would become so intensively and deeply involved in issues of homosexuality through his interaction with patients with schizophrenia...

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2. Illness Within a Hospital and Without

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pp. 51-84

One day in December 1926, a patient at Sheppard-Pratt described how he thought he had changed since coming to the hospital: “I studied . . . a lot of things I would like to know about myself as far as I’m concerned with other people—my relations to other people.”1 This would have pleased Sheppard- Pratt doctors, if the patient’s understanding of his condition were indeed as thorough as his comment implied. As it turned out, his speech quickly became erratic and disturbed...

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3. Life History for Science and Subjectivity

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pp. 85-120

While Sheppard-Pratt doctors collected life histories as a promising medium for the scientifi c research of mental illness, some of the most infl uential social scientists of the time were beginning to use similar records in sociological, anthropological, and ethnographical research. Indeed, medical and social scientists’ interests in this kind of source, unique in its intense attention to individual experiences and its resistance to categorical thinking...

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4. Homosexuality: The Stepchild of Interwar Liberalism

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pp. 121-155

Just as the life history method was a scientifi c response to the changing relationship between “us” and “others” in modern America, the science of homosexuality in the 1920s and 1930s reflected the era’s shifting ideas about sexuality, gender, and culture. One striking characteristic of the scientific approach to homosexuality in these decades was a proliferation of different theories about its nature...

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5. The Military, Psychiatry, and “Unfit” Soldiers

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pp. 157-186

Exploration of homosexuality by medical and social scientists in the 1920s and 1930s comprised “private” practices in which some revised or reversed what they claimed in “public.” Whether it was an interaction with a patient in a clinical setting or a personal relationship with a friend, this private arena allowed scientists to imagine homosexuality in fluid, open-ended ways. The beginning of World War II dramatically transformed this pattern...

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6. “One-Man” Liberalism Goes to the World

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pp. 187-218

As the United States entered the postwar era, the role that scientists were expected to play in the nation’s effort to construct an image as a leader of nations took on a new face. In addition to the apparent need to both “assist” and “collaborate” with former enemies, there was an emerging international forum for American scientists to meet and converse with leaders from both Western and non-Western countries...


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pp. 219-255


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pp. 257-263

About the Author

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pp. 264

E-ISBN-13: 9780813551074
E-ISBN-10: 0813551072
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813549583
Print-ISBN-10: 0813549582

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 2011