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Psychiatric fringes: A historical and sociological investigation of early psychosis and related phenomena in postwar French and German societies

ANR-DFG & City of Paris – Programme Emergence(s) contract (2012-2015) | Cermes3; Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Coordinator: Nicolas Henckes, Cermes3

This research project explores the history and the sociology of the ideas and practices developed around the generic concept of early psychosis in German and French psychiatry after World War II.Today, early psychosis refers to a state of pre-psychosis or of high psychosis risk and is at the center of multiple initiatives and policies all over the world.Its very existence is based on an assembly of psychological tests, epidemiological methods, risk-analysis methods, and brain-imaging techniques, combined with screening and prevention measures, and specialized institutions and policies.

The recent debates on the introduction of a new "attenuated psychosis syndrome" category into the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association published in May 2013 showed the key role early psychosis plays in contemporary nosographic debates.

Yet although the emergence of early psychosis can be linked to the contemporary developments of the concepts of risk, prevention, treatment, and chronicity in psychiatry, it lays out an older history, which can be traced back to the first longitudinal studies of schizophrenia in the interwar period.In this project we approach early psychosis as a place of liminality, or a “gray zone” between pathology and health, disease and non-disease, which allows us to develop an analysis of the changing boundaries in psychiatric practices and categories.