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Bodies Behaving Badly: Insights from the History of Mind-Body Medicine and Why They Matter

Bodies Behaving Badly: Insights from the History of Mind-Body Medicine and Why They Matter

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By


There is a general assumption in the academy that, while human cultures vary in different times and places, the human body always works the same, in all times and places. This talk draws on material from the history of mind-body medicine to challenge this assumption. Especially in situations of illness, there is evidence that human bodily experience is shaped by culture and, in this sense, has a history that needs to be told, alongside the histories of changing medical and folk theories. Together, we will explore some of the evidence, how it has been understood, and why it matters for work in both the humanities and the medical sciences.

Registration Pricing

This meeting is free, but you will need to register in advance.


Anne Harrington, PhD

Harvard University Department of the History of Science

Anne Harrington is Professor and former Chair of the History of Science at Harvard University, specializing in the history of psychiatry, neuroscience, and the other mind and behavioral sciences. Professor Harrington received her Ph.D. in the History of Science from Oxford University, and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in London, and the University of Freiburg in Germany. For six years, she co-directed Harvard's Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative. She also was a consultant for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Mind-Body Interactions. Currently she serves on the Board of the Mind and Life Institute, an organization dedicated to cross-cultural dialogue between Buddhism and the science. She is also a former founding editor of Biosocieties, a journal concerned with social science approaches to the life sciences.

Professor Harrington is the author of three books: Medicine, Mind and the Double Brain (1987), Reenchanted Science (1997) and The Cure Within; A History of Mind-Body Medicine (2008) She has also published many articles and produced a range of edited collections including The Placebo Effect (1997), Visions of Compassion (2000), and The Dalai Lama at MIT (2006). She is currently working on a new general audience book that uses small-scale historical narrative—intimate human stories across time—to help people make sense of the big-scale issues that define modern psychiatry, broadly understood. Other research interests include the history of the neurological case history, and especially changing interests in the "inner world" of brain disorder; and the origins and larger significance of current visions of partnership between Buddhism and science.

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