Psychiatry in Context: the Problem of Degeneration in Brazil

Cristiana Fachinetti (Fiocruz)
4 October 2016

This paper aims to analyse the circulation of the concept of degeneration in the first half of the twentieth century. More precisely, I'll discuss the appropriation of the concept by psychiatrists who were members of the Brazilian League of Mental Hygiene. In this process, I want to demonstrate the selection of some theories made by local psychiatrists from the vast existing psychological repertoire, in order to consider the appropriation choices in relation to the social, political and scientific context of the period. Several studies have indicated the central role of the concept of reception for the analysis of science in different contexts from which they were produced. However, as Roelcke, Weindling and Westwood (2010) show, international knowledge transfers often end up being perceived as neutral operations, failing to consider local regulations in the process. I therefore propose, in agreement with the authors, that concepts and practices are adopted in one country for particular reasons, and this particular selection is intended to boost expansion strategies of professional skills and application of new practices and technologies that allow the solution of local scientific and social issues.It is from this framework that I’ll seek to present the theories that guided the understanding of degeneration in Brazilian population at the beginning of the twentieth century, its impact to psychopathology, as well as theoretical solutions found by local psychiatry considering regeneration.

Geographical area: 
History type: