The Wiener Library

For the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide

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Fraenkel Prize Lecture: Wounded minds: Experiencing the violence of the Nazi New Order in Yugoslavia

Dr Ana Antic

Wed 27 Apr 2016

Time: 6.30pm-8pm

In WWII, death and violence permeated all aspects of everyday lives of ordinary people in Eastern Europe. Moreover, almost entire populations were drawn into fierce and uncompromising political and ideological conflicts, and many ended up being more than mere victims or observers: they themselves became perpetrators or facilitators of violence, often to protect their own lives but also to gain various benefits. Yugoslavia in particular saw a gradual culmination of a complex and brutal civil war, which ultimately killed more civilians than did the foreign occupying armies. This lecture will tell a story of the tremendous impact of such pervasive and multi-layered political violence, and will look at ordinary citizens' attempts to negotiate these extraordinary wartime political pressures. It proposes to use Yugoslav psychiatric case files as unique windows into this harrowing history in order to gain an original perspective on the effects of wartime violence and occupation through the history of psychiatry, mental illness and personal experience. By looking at patient files as historical sources, it explores the socio-cultural history of wartime through the eyes of (mostly lower-class) psychiatric patients. Moreover, the experiences of observing, suffering and committing political violence critically affected the understanding of human psychology, pathology and normality in WWII and post-war Balkans and Europe. The lecture traces the formation and re-definition of psychiatric concepts, categories and practices in the context of extreme violence, Nazi occupation and post-war socialist revolution. It shows how such brutal external conditions and unprecedented anti-civilian violence transformed psychiatric and scientific paradigms, and changed psychiatric and broader public evaluations of the human psyche.

Dr Ana Antic is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck. She is a social and cultural historian of twentieth-century Europe, with a special interest in the history of violence, everyday life and psychiatry. Her first manuscript, Therapeutic fascism: Experiencing the violence of the Nazi New Order in Yugoslavia, is forthcoming with OUP. Dr Antic is the joint winner of the 2015 Fraenkel Prize.

Location: The Wiener Library - click for map

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