Thursday, February 1, 2018

Present at AHA Pacific Coast Branch

[We have the following announcement.]

Of particular interest for legal historians on the west coast:

Invitation from the Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association for a panel on legal history at its 2018 meeting

Thanks to an invitation from Mike Green, President of the Pacific Coast Branch and local arrangements committee member for the 2017 ASLH Las Vegas meeting, ASLH members have been asked to propose a panel dedicated to legal history, to be presented at the PCB meeting in Santa Clara, California, August 2-4 2018.

Further information about the meeting can be found [here].

The PCB encourages especially work by early career scholars and welcomes in particular diverse panels and wide-ranging topics.  For invited panels, the deadline for the Call for Papers (which was January 16) does not apply.  Instead, proposals are due on February 15.

To help those of you with individual papers find other like-minded presenters to organize panels, the comments to this post are open. Feel free to post your paper topic and/or panel idea below (and make sure to include an email address or other contact information). And please spread the word!

1 comment:

Chris Babits said...

I'm interested in submitting a panel on legal history, sexuality, and gender. I wrote up this abstract for something else, but I would like to present on the same topic at PCB-AHA.

“The Puritanical Psychoanalytic Police”:
The American Legal System, Homosexuality, and Therapy, 1930-1960

Case No. 236, a 29-year-old man, had spent nine years in Long Island's Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital. Having displayed the "most severe psychiatric problem, aggressive homosexuality," Pilgrim's medical staff, on February 15, 1949, tried a new procedure -- a lobotomy. After the operation, the patient no longer exhibited "aggressive homosexuality." "He was clean, pleasant, but mentally deficient -- a moron," his report concluded. His parents, seeing drastic improvement, asked to bring their son home. After a couple weeks, though, the parents, unable to take care of their son, readmitted him to Pilgrim. Under the care of the facility's staff, the man remained "clean, quiet, passive," and "well-informed on current baseball scores."

"'The Puritanical Psychoanalytic Police': The American Legal System, Homosexuality, and Therapy, 1930-1960" examines laws which not only imprisoned homosexuals, but also statutes which allowed medical personnel to conduct experimental psychiatric procedures on these men and women. Beginning in the Great Depression, states created new "sex offender" laws focused on the dangers homosexuality posed to children, families, and communities. By working with specialists, like psychiatrists and pastoral counselors, law enforcement officials and legislatures in states like Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania turned psychiatric hospitals into liminal legal spaces, areas where medical specialty trumped individual rights. It was not uncommon for men who violated sodomy laws, either in a public area or in private residences, to be sentenced for "treatment." Others, like Case No. 236, were committed by family members who thought that homosexuality was a mental disorder.

By focusing on laws and prescribed medical practices, this paper exposes how the midcentury legal system expanded the scope of "conversion therapy." Drawing from newspapers, medical journals, censuses, political speeches, and the papers of psychiatrists, "The Puritanical Psychoanalytic Police" contends that lawmakers, medical officials, and pastoral counselors saw homosexuality as something they could rehabilitate. "Treatment" took different forms, though. The legal rights of "sex offenders," though few, helped restrict their treatment to dynamic psychotherapy or, at worst, behavior modification, like electroshock therapy. Individuals committed by family members, especially those with low intelligence quotients (IQs), had little legal protection, often finding themselves at the hands of psychiatrists who tested out new “cures,” some of which historians may never uncover. Analyzing the different “cures” homosexuals received in prisons and psychiatric institutions underscores a vital intersection of law, medicine, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) history, while also highlighting how so-called rehabilitatory reforms were torturous ways to police intimate and family life.

Chris Babits
The University of Texas at Austin
Chris DOT Babits AT utexas DOT edu