CFP – Nontheatrical Medias: Feminist Media Histories: An International Journal

Special Issue on Nontheatrical Medias

Guest Editors: Tanya Goldman & Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa


“In the introduction to a 2015 special issue of Feminist Media Histories dedicated to useful  media, Laura Isabel Serna writes that gender is “an extremely useful analytic” for uncovering the  role of women in nontheatrical media production as well as for analyzing the feminist potential of  such media. This special issue continues this conversation with a focus on the methodological  challenges of doing such work and potential interventions offered by approaches stemming from  gender and sexuality studies. 

In recent decades, scholars and archivists have increasingly turned their attention to the long  history of nontheatrical film and media. A dizzying list of moving image forms – educational  media, online “how to” videos, home movies, propaganda works, science films, industrials,  social guidance films and more – and the diversity of contexts within which they were produced  and consumed, has reoriented and diversified media history by moving presumably ‘marginal’  practices to the center. 

Nontheatrical media points to a range of spaces that have been differently gendered, from the  domestic to the industrial, the science lab to the classroom, and beyond. In some of these  settings, women of various walks of life have had unprecedented access to media production,  while in other cases such access was largely nonexistent. The cultural meanings of  nontheatrical media also often align with gendered distinctions between high and low, expert  and amateur, valuable and disposable — creating circumstances where such media objects are  housed in dispersed settings such as online sites (like, government and institutional  archives, specialized or classified collections (like those of various laboratories or military  branches), and boxes stashed in private attics and garages. Developing methods for  understanding the social reproduction of gender and sexuality within nontheatrical contexts  therefore requires an adaptable framework — one that can draw from feminist traditions of  historical research and critical analysis. 

This special issue invites contributors to interrogate the gender and sexual politics undergirding  nontheatrical media from past to present. We take a deliberately capacious and eclectic view of  nontheatrical media and encourage interdisciplinary, intersectional, and international  approaches from all periods of history. We invite submissions of work focusing on cis and trans  women and nonbinary nontheatrical filmmakers; the intersection of gender and race, ethnicity,  ability, and sexuality as expressed in nontheatrical media; strategies for recovering lost histories  of women working in nontheatrical media (including speculative approaches); and mediaarchaeology of gender in nontheatrical media.  

In addition to traditional research articles, we also invite videographic and other multimedia  formats of critique. This can include but is not limited to videographic and photographic essays,  and interactive scholarship. Criticism in forms beyond the traditional research article will  undergo peer review appropriate to their formats. 

Interested contributors should contact guest editors directly, sending a 500-word proposal and a  short bio no later than July 1, 2023 to and Contributors will be notified by August 1, 2023; submissions will be due by February 1, 2024 and  will then be sent out for peer review.

Feminist Media Histories is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to feminist histories of film, video,  audio, and digital technologies across a range of time periods and global contexts. Inter-medial and trans national in approach, Feminist Media Histories examines the historical role gender has played in varied  media technologies, and documents women’s engagement with these media as audiences and users,  creators and executives, critics and theorists, technicians and laborers, educators and activists. Feminist  Media Histories is published quarterly by the University of California Press. More information is available  here:”


CFP: The ‘cause of the mentally ill’: Mediatisating and destigmatising madness in the second half of the 20th century

“This international conference aims to bring together multiple perspectives on the way in which madness and its forms of care were mediatised and discussed in the public arena in a context marked, in France as in other European countries, by profound transformations in the field of psychiatry and mental health policies.

Based on the observation that the media – press, radio, television – gave increasing prominence to mental health issues in the decades following the Second World War/WW2, the conference “Mediatising and destigmatising madness” will be an opportunity to shed light on the means used to raise awareness, among a wider audience, of mental pathologies and of the conditions under which they are treated, against the tenacious prejudices fed by sensational reports or by fictional works which, while they sometimes acknowledge an aesthetic dimension to madness, also convey a number of negative representations and stereotypes.

The challenge will also be to identify the actors of this media coverage: psychiatric professionals, politicians, journalists, photographers, reporters and documentary filmmakers, producers and directors, but also of associations of patients’ families or patients, who are sometimes led to form paradoxical alliances in order to advance “the cause of the mentally ill”. This implies, in addition to reforming the psychiatric institution and promoting new approaches and new treatments, awakening consciences by once again posing the issue of the rights and the dignity of individuals caught up in processes of stigmatization, marginalization or even disaffiliation from which it seems impossible to extricate themselves.

The objective is to analyse (1) the conditions for producing these media objects (radio or TV broadcasts, reports, interviews, testimonies, articles, professional films, conference cycles, etc.), which very often involve entering an institution with a sometimes undeserved reputation for being particularly closed, (2) their reception and impact, as well as (3) the procedures, devices and formats used to act on the representations of madness that are identified as a hindrance to the implementation of mental health policies.

Although the chronological framework chosen is that of the three decades following the end of WW2, presentations that propose a longer-term narrative or whose subject matter lies within or beyond these chronological boundaries will also be taken into consideration. In order to complete, contrast and clarify the French framework, papers on other European countries will also be welcome.

The conference will take place on the 20th et 21st of September 2023 in Strasbourg. Please send a 500-word abstract and a short CV to Marianna Scarfone ( by June 15th 2023.


Ce colloque international se propose de réunir des perspectives multiples autour de la façon dont la folie et ses formes de prise en charge ont été médiatisées et discutées dans l’arène publique dans un contexte marqué, en France comme dans d’autres pays d’Europe, par de profondes transformations du champ de la psychiatrie et des politiques de santé mentale.

Partant du constat que, dans les décennies qui suivent la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les médias – presse, radio, télévision – accordent une place croissante aux questions de santé mentale, le colloque Médiatiser et déstigmatiser la folie sera l’occasion de mettre au jour les moyens et les canaux mobilisés pour sensibiliser un large public aux pathologies mentales et à leurs manifestations et plus largement aux conditions de leur prise en charge, à rebours de préjugés tenaces alimentés par des faits divers traités sur un mode sensationnel ou par des œuvres fictionnelles qui, si elles reconnaissent parfois une dimension esthétique à la folie, véhiculent également nombre de représentations négatives et de stéréotypes.

L’enjeu sera également d’identifier les acteurs de cette entreprise de médiatisation portée par des professionnels de la psychiatrie, des politiques, des journalistes, des photographes, des reporters et des documentaristes, des producteurs et des réalisateurs mais aussi par des associations de familles de malades ou de malades, amenés parfois à nouer des alliances paradoxales afin de faire progresser « la cause des malades mentaux ». Celle-ci supposant, outre de réformer l’institution psychiatrique et de promouvoir de nouvelles approches et de nouveaux traitements, de réveiller les consciences en posant à nouveaux frais, dans une approche éthique, la question des droits et de la dignité d’individus pris dans des processus de stigmatisation, de marginalisation voire de désaffiliation dont il parait impossible de les extraire.

Il s’agira d’interroger les conditions de réalisation de ces objets médiatiques (émissions de radio ou de TV, reportages, interviews, témoignages, articles, films professionnels, cycles de conférence, etc.) qui supposent bien souvent de pénétrer à l’intérieur d’une institution réputée particulièrement fermée qui commence toutefois à s’ouvrir. Leur réception voire leurs retombées feront aussi l’objet d’une analyse approfondie, de même que les procédés, les dispositifs et les formats privilégiés pour agir sur les représentations de la folie identifiées comme un frein à la mise en œuvre de toute politique de santé mentale.

Si le cadre chronologique retenu est celui des Trente Glorieuses, les présentations qui proposeraient un récit de plus longue durée ou dont l’objet se situerait en-deçà ou au-delà de ces bornes chronologiques, seront également prises en considération. Afin d’éclairer et de compléter le contexte français, des communications portant sur d’autres pays européens seront également les bienvenues.

Le colloque aura lieu le 20 et 21 septembre 2023 à Strasbourg.

Les propositions de communications – de 500 mots maximum et accompagnées d’une brève présentation de l’auteur/autrice – sont à envoyer avant le 15 juin 2023 à Marianna Scarfone (”


The NECS 2023 Conference: Care – University of Oslo – 13.-17. of June 2023 

Panels from the Media and Mental Health workgroup, led by Mireille Berton & Bregt Lameris

Much as literature can “repair the world” (Gefen 2017), audiovisual cultures, practices, and imaginaries have, from the outset, tried repairing our conditions as victims, to fight against illness, to relieve our traumas, to foster our empathic inclination. By taking the opposite side of the discourse that laments the damaging effects of screens (analog and digital) on the psyche, these panels explore, through case studies, the restorative, healing and reconciling effects of audiovisual images in the field of mental health.

While moving images have often caused concern because of their suggestive power, they have also been perceived as a valuable tool for health education, and sometimes even for health itself. This is evidenced by the recommendations of doctors in defense of the motion pictures (Berton 2015, 2016. 2017; Toropova 2022), the construction, within hospital institutions, of spaces dedicated to cinematographic projections seen as a leisure activity supporting the mental balance of the patients (Hennefeld 2022), moving colors used to heal shell shock soldiers, such as Auroratone films (Pernuit 2021), or more recently the creation of multimedia or immersive dispositifs meant to represent mental illness such as Goliath. Playing with reality or have therapeutical effects (Cavaletti & Grossi 2020).

These panels invite us to reflect on the question of “care” understood in the broad sense at two levels: that of practices, discourses and representations regarding the therapeutic or restorative powers of the media; and that of the historical or archaeological approach, which consists of taking care of “fragile” objects such as films, images, sounds, media, audiovisual devices, etc. (Denis & Pontille 2022).


Article by Mary Hallock-Greenwalt published in Motion Picture News (August 1921)

Panel B2, 15th June, 11 am – Caring and Repairing through Audiovisual Images: Films and other Medias for Mental Health – Part I – Film and Video Chair: Mireille Berton (University of Lausanne)

  • Paper 1 –– Beatrice Irwin and the Therapeutic Culture of North American Screen Practices (1910–1940), Pierre-Jacques Pernuit (University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)
  • Paper 2 — Caring Colours, Bregt Lameris (Open University of the Netherlands)
  • Paper 3 — Videotherapy through self-confrontation. Methods and approaches in the IAAPP (International Working Group for Audiovision in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy) 1977–1999, Renée Winter (Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna)
  • Paper 4 — Between self-help and how-to: reproductive (mental) health and prenatal care on film 1920s–1970s, Katrin Pilz (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History, Vienna)

Panel C2, 15th June, 14 pm – Caring for the Mentally Disordered; Learning Practice and Empathy from Mental Health Nursing Films Chair: Magdalena Zdrodowska (Jagiellonian University, Poland)

  • Paper 1 –– Papering over the cracks in nursing recruitment: a look at how films from the archives toe the line between fantasy and reality in mental healthcare, Angela Saward (Wellcome Collection, London)
  • Paper 2 –– Filming psychiatric nursing in Switzerland in the 1920s. A maieutic between “care” and “cure”, Raphaël Tinguely (University of Lausanne)
  • Paper 3 –– Studying research and teaching films in psychiatry: What practices of care?, Mireille Berton (University of Lausanne)

Panel D2, 16th June, 9 am – Caring and Repairing through Audiovisual Images: Films and other Medias for Mental Health – Part II – Digital Worlds Chair : Bregt Lameris (Open University of the Netherlands)

  • Paper 1 — On the Couch with Arielle and Mowgli. Therapeutic Narratives in Documentaries about Mental Illness, Janin Tschechel (University of Bonn)
  • Paper 2 The mediated practices and narratives of care. Artists and activists with disabilities under quarantine, Magdalena Zdrodowska (Jagiellonian University, Poland)
  • Paper 3 — Taking Care. VR, Immersiveness, Intimacy, Elisabetta Modena
  • Paper 4 –– Take Care of Your Digital Self: On the Usage of Virtual Reality in Contemporary Psychotherapy Practices, Federica Cavaletti & Giancarlo Grossi (University of Milan)

Panel I9, 17th June, 14 pm – Mental Health in Film and Television

  • Paper 1 – Everything Calls for Salvation: Caring for Mental Health among Adolescent through a TV Show, Romana Andó (Sapienza University of Rome) & Leonardo Campagna (Sapienza University of Rome)
  • Paper 2 – Consenting When in a Vulnerable Position: An Ethical Discussion on TV Participation, Kjersti Blehr Lånkan (Oslo Metropolitan University)
  • Paper 3 – Institutional Films From the Waldau’s Psychiatric Film Collections, or the Shift From the “Cure Gaze” to the “Care Gaze”, Elodie Murtas (University of Lausanne)
  • Paper 4 – Cinemas of Insanity: Popular Culture and the Precarization of Care, Simon Schleusener (Freie Universität Berlin)

Call for articles: Cinema, XR Media and Imaginaries of Disability – Imago. Studi di cinema e meda (Nr. 28, 2023)

Ivelise Perniola & Barbara Grespi (ed.)


“In recent years, growing attention has been paid to studies on physical and mental disability, both in the vast field of fictional cinema (cf. Chivers, S., and Markotić, N. eds., 2010, The Problem Body: Projecting Disability on Film. Columbus: Ohio State University Press), documentary (cf. Brylla C. and Huges H., eds., 2017, Documentary and Disability, London, Palgrave McMillan) and new media (Ellis, K. and Goggin, G., eds., 2015, Disability and the Media. London: Palgrave Macmillan).

The field of Disabilities Studies is therefore increasingly vast and complex, as much as to include not only investigations of the theme of disability in films, but also aesthetics capable of deriving a style from this condition, and finally the histories and theories of the connection between cinema and disability (stories of individuals working in the audiovisual sector and stories of cultural operations; theories of perceiving differently and theories of film aimed at differently percipient subjects).

However, especially in the Anglo-Saxon context, the study of niche and experimental productions has so far been privileged, while popular imaginary and genre cinema have received little attention. Moreover, disability has been treated since early cinema  especially in medical documentaries, characterized by attempts to “scientifically” describe cases, or militant documentaries, aimed at drawing the attention of a selected audience to forms of discrimination that are implicit or openly censored in the information channels (documenting for example the conditions of degradation in which people with mental disabilities are kept, or denouncing the actions of ‘annulment’ of disability carried out by the great dictatorships of the twentieth century, primarily Nazism).

The objective of this issue of ‘Imago’ is therefore twofold: firstly, it aims to broaden the analysis of audiovisual production to mainstream products, from national and international television seriality to genre cinema, from immersive media experiences that promise to make us experience disability with various forms of embodiment, to extended reality practice both narrative and rehabilitative. Secondly, the issue intends to redefine the territory of Disabilities Studies by indicating points of contact with different but parallel and often complementary strands, such as Trauma studies (for example with the case of war mutilated, or traumatized soldiers, documented in different forms and narrated in various ways by mainstream cinema). Sometimes these narratives assume disability as a symbolic motif, as in the case of Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession (1954) or Terence Young’s Wait until Dar (1967), built around characters suffering from mostly symbolic blindness. Of the same kind is Alfred Hitchock’s Rear Window (1954), Born on the Fourth July (1989) by Oliver Stone and Jacques Audiard’s De Rouille et d’Os (2012), just to mention the best-known titles. In other cases, the staging of disability leads to a transformation of the filmic language whose boundaries are experimented with, as in the case of deafness of Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck (2017) or blindness in Derek Jarman’s Blue by (1993) but also of a 360 degrees film such as Notes on Blindness (VR, ARTE, 2016), which essentially attempts the translation of sight into hearing by working on the environmentalisation of the image.

These lines of research can be developed through various approaches and applied to different objects; the following is a non-exhaustive list open to any integration:

  • The representation of disability in certain periods or geographies of the history of fictional cinema: Hollywood, Italian cinema, genre cinema.
  • Scientific documentaries on the topic of mental and physical disability, from its origins to the present day: archives, funds, case studies.
  • Cinema for the visually impaired: audio-description, expressive and evocative potential, limits, mirages.
  • Cinema without images: poetics of darkness and audiovisual boundaries
  • Cinema aimed at the hearing-impaired: the Pasolinian “written language of reality”, gestural and hypericonic cinema.
  • Disability caused by wars: between Visual, Disabilities and Trauma Studies.
  • Disability as an expressive model for the avant-garde
  • Disability and paradigms of XRmediality: multisensoriality and the decline of the gaze.
  • Disability and forms of care
  • Cinema and epochal, symptomatic, imaginary disabilities: hysteria, autism, sleepwalking.

Procedure for submitting essays: we welcome abstracts (max 2500 characters) in Italian or English, plus 5 essential bibliographical references, 5 key words and a biography (max 5 lines). Proposals should be sent by email to both editors ( and by May 30th. The results of the selection will be communicated by June 15th, and the complete essays (maximum 40,000 characters), written in Italian or English, possibly accompanied by a maximum of 8 images (jpg or png, 300 dpi, possibly already manipulated for publication in black and white), must be sent no later than 15th October 2023 for double blind review.”

Ivelise Perniola & Barbara Grespi (ed.)


Harry Yi-Jui, Made by the Millions. Mental Disorders and the Early Years of the World Health Organization, Cambridge Mass/Londres, The MIT Press, 2021

Descriptif de l’éditeur :

“Cet ouvrage étudie les travaux de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (World Health Organization) après la Seconde Guerre mondiale sur l’épidémiologie et la classification des troubles mentaux et sa vision d’une « psyché mondiale ».

En 1948, l’Organisation mondiale de la santé a commencé à préparer son projet de psychiatrie sociale, qui visait à découvrir l’épidémiologie et à parvenir à une classification des troubles mentaux. Dans Mad by the Millions, Harry Y-Jui Wu examine l’ambitieux projet de l’OMS, soutenant qu’il a été façonné par la foi d’après-guerre dans la technologie et l’expertise et par la vision universalisante d’une « psyché mondiale ». Wu montre que l’internationalisme scientifique idéalisé de l’OMS a jeté les bases d’un système mondial de santé mentale hautement rationalisé, toujours d’actualité

En examinant les interactions entre l’OMS et les pays en développement, Wu propose une analyse de la « transnationalité » de la santé mentale. Il examine le partage des connaissances entre l’organisation et ses collaborateurs africains et latino-américains, et étudie en détail le choix par l’OMS d’un scientifique taïwanais, Tsung-yi Lin, comme médecin-conseil et chef du projet de psychiatrie sociale. Il évoque la quête de normalisation des scientifiques – non seulement pour synchroniser les secteurs de l’organisation, mais aussi pour produire un langage commun de la psychiatrie – et la manière dont les progrès technologiques y ont contribué. Wu examine pourquoi l’optimisme et l’idéalisme du projet de psychiatrie sociale se sont transformés en insatisfaction, en réévaluant la première modalité de production de connaissances de l’OMS à travers le concept de « zone de traitement des exportations ». Enfin, il examine le projet de l’OMS à la lumière des débats actuels sur la psychiatrie et la santé mentale mondiale, les scientifiques déplaçant leurs préoccupations de la création de métriques universelles vers l’importance des matrices locales.”


Some notes on the “Useful Film in (Neuro)Psychiatry Europe, 1900-1950. Update on Current Research” conference

The main goal of the conference was to assess the research on “useful films” conducted during the first half of the 20th century by neurologists and psychiatrists in Europe for clinical, educational, and archival purposes. The “useful film” has been long neglected by film historians, remaining in the shadow of both commercial cinema and the “auteur film”. Partly escaping commercial theatrical release, useful films know over the years a large variety of formats, forms, and functions, but also a diversity of production, distribution, and reception contexts. Their pragmatic and ephemeral nature requires considering the context in which these films are elaborated, as well as the discourses that surround them and the practices that determine them.

Drawing on the work of Acland and Wasson, the notion of useful film refers to the multiple ways institutions conceive and engage with the tool of cinema. “The concept of useful cinema does not so much name a mode of production, a genre, or an exhibition venue as it identifies a disposition, an outlook, and an approach toward a medium on the part of institutions or institutional agents.” (Acland & Wasson 2011, 4). For our part, we employ this notion in order to designate an approach to cinema oriented by the needs of the actors in the field of neurology and psychiatry.

Kimberley Fleuren

One of the scopes of the conference was to compose, through a number of case studies, a panorama of the practices involved (themselves quite diversified, even though the model of a film as a tool within medical research largely prevails), while bringing forth new approaches or lines of research relevant for this type of audio-visual document. Contributions focused on films made in France (Jean Comandon), Italy (Gaetano Rummo and others), Great Britain (Wellcome collections), Germany (Ludwig Mayer), Belgium (Van Gehuchten and others), the Netherlands (Magnus-Rademaker), Spain (Antonio Subirana), and Switzerland (Walter R. Hess, Ernst Grünthal).

We have chosen to focus on the first part of the 20th century for pragmatical reasons, but also to reexamine the traditional history of neuropsychiatric film, which isolates two key moments in the development of the film practices of neurologists and psychiatrists. The first one amounts to the era of the pioneers around 1900–1910 (Marinescu, Van Gehuchten, Neri, Negro, Magnus, Sainton, Comandon, etc.). Their films are for the most part the result of personal initiatives and emerge outside institutional policies, as is the case with the amateur films made by Ernst Grünthal; other films are made through collaboration between a professional filmmaker and a doctor/institution/firm. The second key moment extends from the inter-war to the post-war years that saw the rise of the “institutional asylum film”, a term introduced by Bonah and Rotzoll (2015). Indeed, in addition to a persistent voluntarist tradition, films are from that moment on actively supported by medical institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and public policies.

Leander Diener

Yet how accurate is such an identification of two golden eras and what happens in between? Can the history of useful film in psychiatry and neurology really be divided into distinct periods and if so, according to what criteria? What forms does the notion of the camera’s alleged objectivity take during this period of fifty years? How do the films testify to this mechanical objectivity bestowed upon the medium of film? Certainly, the recourse to films pushes even further the fantasy of the “blind gaze” to which the scientists of the 19th century aspire – scientists who, as Daston and Galison observe, dream of becoming themselves machines with no will of their own. However, we must not forget that all statements about the objectivity of the cinematographic camera are essentially rhetorical. They serve in part to convince the scientific community of the legitimacy of such practices, since cinema is still associated with the world of entertainment. Therefore, discourses on the objectivity of the film medium have the function of legitimizing and stabilizing knowledge and practices.

Katrin Luchsinger on photography in psychiatric institutions

More importantly, these claims coexist with an acute awareness of the limits of such mechanical objectivity allowed by the film medium. For instance, the psychiatrist Paul Sainton highlights the challenges involved in properly filming subjects affected by movement disorders. It is not easy, he writes, to capture patients with neurological or mental illnesses because it happens that they freeze once they know they are being filmed: “Subjects who, in their hospital setting, had extensive movements, remained motionless when put in front of the camera.” This problem is of course magnified due to the high cost of the film. Neurologists and psychiatrists are fully aware of the epistemological obstacles that prevent them from getting a “good” shot – obstacles such as the whimsical behavior of the patients or the technical, material, and weather hazards. They know well it is a challenge to grasp some pathological movements such as hysteria or epilepsy, or to record eloquent enough movements, worthy of interest because of their emblematic or singular features. In their efforts to ensure the clarity of the images, they are forced to come up with solutions that seem contradictory to the “cognitive absolutism” of the “clinical gaze”. For instance, some doctors choose to dramatize and narrate their patients’ symptoms or to stage their own practice.

What are the main results of the conference?

The approaches presented during the Conference reflect the diversity of the disciplines to which the researchers belong. At the same time, they are telling of the complexity and richness of the films studied. As the first panel, “Filming the Brain”, illustrated (with Kimberley Fleuren, Leander Diener and Raphaël Tinguely), three different approaches stand out: a. a clinical approach, according to which the film is treated as a document informing on certain medical practices and pathologies, thus functioning as an extension of regular clinical observation, intended to capture what escapes the eye; b. a history of medicine and science approach that uses the film as a means of shedding light on a particular aspect of this history; c. a film and media history approach that focuses on the aesthetics and the materiality of films, as well as the context of their application. All three approaches attest to the epistemic value of the neuropsychiatric film, though the actual nature of this knowledge differs according to perspective adopted. As Christian Bonah remarked, “we look at the same images, but we don’t see the same thing” (referring to Ludwik Fleck’s “looking vs seeing model”). Therefore, it is important to openly assume the position from which we interpret these multi-dimensional images (and sounds).

Angela Saward from the Wellcome Collection (London)

As Katrin Pilz reminded us, the question of the “usefulness” can be asked at different levels, depending on the actual users. To whom are these films useful? Firstly, to medical doctors, teachers, staff, students, etc. at the time of the production (we may speak, in this case, of the films’ original usefulness). Then, they were useful to operators, filmmakers, firms, etc. interested in collaborating with doctors. Finally, they are useful today to researchers, archivists, curators, etc. If their original message is quickly outdated (they are ephemeral material), they present an immense historical value, as Angela Saward explained through a specific case study. Katrin Pilz concluded that one must begin by asking why these films were considered useless for so many years, forgotten in attics, remote hospital rooms, bunkers, etc.

The usefulness of these films is a dynamic concept, as David Cantor has noted. Usefulness changes over time (it increases or decreases with time and context); it fluctuates based on the groups that engage with the medium of film; it depends on the applications to which film is submitted, but also on the audiences that watch it. The question of the usefulness of films must be distinguished at all stages of their existence: production-direction, distribution, reception. Depending on the stages of the film’s development, the medical knowledge, the technology used, the content, the contingencies of the filmmaking, the audience responses, etc., the usefulness changes in form and meaning. Utility is a concept under constant construction, the object of negotiation between production, distribution and reception entities.

The roundtable with David Cantor, Katrin Pilz, Angela Saward, Christian Bonah and Caroline Fournier

With regard to the original utility, the paradigm of mechanical objectivity dominates. But mechanical objectivity constitutes only one type of epistemic virtue among several others, as Daston and Galison have shown. For Andreas Killen, the Ludwig Mayer’s films on hypnosis resort to the truth-to-nature paradigm, in that these films aim above all to demonstrate the effectiveness of hypnosis through emblematic images of the hypnotic state.

Nowdays, these films also inform us about the history of recording technologies (35mm, 16mm, 8mm, super 8, 9.5 Pathé Baby, etc.), as the Subirana collection presented by Paula Arantzatzu illustrated. The Subirana films testify to a media convergence practice that is quite extraordinary for the time: the films combine different types of still and moving images, such as real shots, X-rays, EEG, histological sections, and photographs. Moreover, they provide informations on the history of medical imaging, i.e. the usefulness of audiovisual devices expanding the field of scientific knowledge. This is also the case with the Waldau collections analyzed by Raphaël Tinguely, Léa Ritter, and Lucas Iliani. The hybridity of both the collections and the films of which they are composed requires us to trace the wider network in which they are embedded. According to Caroline Fournier, head of the film department of the Cinémathèque suisse, hybridity is what characterizes the production of amateur films—a paradigm that allows to understand the particularity of these film practices.

Léa Ritter and Lucas Iliani from the Cinémathèque suisse

Another question raised by the original usefulness is the content of these images. What exactly is the camera filming? Illnesses; patients, doctors, interactions between patients and medical staff; state of research; brain, mind, body, etc.?

Among those listed elements, the question of the patients has proven to be of a central importance. Who are they, where do they come from, how do they experience medical observation and filming; who are these invisible and unknown people on the screen? It seems quite difficult to trace their history, and when we do have some elements, they only come in fragments. Different sources provide some data: film storage material, administrative records, patient records, written testimonies, drawings, interviews with relatives, etc. But as Maia Woolner showed, this lack of information about patients is also meaningful. It reveals something about the status of patients as objects of experimentation, demonstration, or medical observation – hence, Christian Bonah‘s call to avoid the anonymization of data for legal reasons, as this process contributes to the invisibilization of people who have nevertheless played an essential role in the history of medicine. He also rightly reminded that the question of patients’ consent to be filmed is not just an ethical issue but also a legal one. In any case, solutions need to be found to conceptualize this invisibilization of patients, by drawing, for instance, on the social history of medicine, the spectralities or disabilities studies, which are interested in social groups neglected by canonical history.

The uncanny dimension of patients was also raised. While it strikes as obvious to today’s researchers, it is safe to assume that this must also have been the case, at least to some extent, for the experts watching the films at that time of their production. For example, it is difficult to make sense of images of patients who have completely lost control of their bodies and minds, as David Cantor has noted. And how to deal with the aesthetic dimension of certain shots that reduce patients to elements of the “medical set”? Part of the uncanny comes from their nudity, which emerges as a representational convention since the beginning of neuro-psychiatric cinema. For some speakers, nudity meets a need for visibility of every part of the body and muscles affected by pathological movements. For others, it is a cultural convention that allows nature and culture to be contrasted, with patients embodying the primitive and doctors the civilized. In this latter perspective, it is used to contrast the healthy body (that of the doctor who stands by the patients) and the sick body of the patient, in a comparative gesture typical of medical thought.

But is the nakedness always necessary? In some cases, the nudity does not fail to add something spectacular to the representation. According to Christian Bonah, some of these films appear as “medical exploitation films,” in that they rely on sensationalist effects. For this reason, they lend themselves to all sorts of hijackings, as illustrated by the films of Doyen that circulated on fairgrounds. One solution might be to contextualize these images when shown today, following the model of platforms such as Medfilm or the Wellcome collection.

From Lorenzo Lorusso’s presentation about Gaetanno Rummo

In any case, these films need to be interpreted as a history of specific power relationships, as for instance, the history of Western colonialism, and more generally the history of the stigmatization of the insane based on processes of exclusion and inclusion (in other words, in terms of negotiation, as suggested by Katrin Luchsinger). As Christian Bonah highlighted, one must be careful not to essentialize what one sees, as films always reveal more than the doctors wish to show; indeed, while mechanical objectivity is inherent in the film medium, film is underpinned by ideological, even political, issues, as Paula Arantzatzu showed.

Katrin Luchsinger has raised a yet another essential question on the subject of patients, namely that of the emotions aroused by these images of madness. She reminded how important it is to take time to watch and process these films and photographs. She also drew attention to the aesthetic and spectacular dimensions that escape those who produce the images. These films also respond in a way to existential questions that will be at the core of the avant-gardes, as when they display new images of the body and mind, through new technologies, a theme highly relevant for artists from the beginning of the 20th century.

Psychiatrie Museum Bern

There are still many more questions that need to be answered: Who is filming? Who is behind the camera? Doctors, operators, assistants? How are we filming? Is it just to document experiments that confirm research hypotheses (as for W. R. Hess) or to create a sophisticated discourse to be presented to peers at conferences (as for Subirana)? Who is watching these films? Medical and non-medical audiences (films do not always reach their original audience and may be enjoyed for their spectacular dimension outside the medical realm)? How should the issue of sensitive data be approached ? (We have seen that there are different “schools of thought” depending on the institution).


Charles R. Acland & Haidee Wasson (ed.) (2011), Useful Cinema, Durham-London, Duke University Press.

Maike Rotzoll & Christian Bonah (2015), “Psychopathologie en mouvement. Histoire des films à Strasbourg et à Heidelberg”, in Ch. Bonah, A. Sumpf, Ph. Osten, G. Moser, T. Close-Koenig & J. Danet (eds.), Le Pré-Programme. Film d’enseignement / film utilitaire / film de propagande / film inédit dans les cinéma et archives de l’interrégion du Rhin Supérieur. 1900-1970. Une étude comparée franco-allemande, Heidelberg-Strasbourg, A25 Rhinfilm.


Billet sous licence CC BY SA

“Media and Mental Health”, a call for proposals panel

NECS Conference Epistemic Media: Atlas, Archive, Network, Bucharest, National University of Theatre and Film, 22-26 June, 2022

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many actors in the field of mental health have pointed out the risks that such a phenomenon poses to the psychological balance of citizens under such stress. At a time when the 5th wave of Covid-19 is raging, the question of how to visualize data on the circulation of the disease on a global scale is more important than ever. Often compared to the Spanish flu or even to the various plague epidemics of the Middle Ages, Covid-19, like other respiratory diseases that appeared at the turn of our century, is characterized by its invisibility. It is not only difficult to locate the origin of the virus, but also to track its circulation in a globalized world where a virus can survive over long distances.

COVID-19 Dashboard by John Hopkins University (screenshot of 22.12.21)

Similarly it is difficult, in our times of interconnectedness through media, to locate origins and truthfulness of knowledge, discourses circulating on the pandemic and the virus. With that in mind it is interesting to ask what role the audiovisual and social media play in exacerbating or, on the contrary, countering fears about the pandemic. As Kirsten Ostherr (Ostherr 2020) shows for the Zika Virus, social media can also encourage the development of counter-narratives about the consequences of the disease.

This leads to questions such as: How do current representations and discourses on contagion negotiate the problem of the virus’ elusiveness and what are the consequences on mental health? How do digital and social media contribute to changing the ways in which the disease is codified and represented? What rhetorics are used now and in the past to talk about viruses and what kind of emotions can this evoke? How does the knowledge produced by the media contribute to the impact of users’ mental health? To what extent can contagion be seen as a metaphor for the circulation of knowledge about the pandemic?

Old and new visual rhetorics of contagion

These questions are just a few examples inspired by the current pandemic, to encourage proposals to reflect on the role of (audio)visual media in the construction of mental health-related knowledge and norms. Because it is an epistemic practice that produces discourses on what is normal and what is pathological, it has a central role in social mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. Therefore, we would like to question the ways in which the audiovisual media participate in drawing the boundaries between mental illness and health and what social, political and ideological issues underlie such processes.

Despite this important social role of media, research on audiovisual materials concerning mental health issues has long been a niche in media studies and medical humanities. A similar development can be noticed for research on mental health problems in relation to other media forms such as television, streaming platforms, telemedicine devices, social media, video games, etc. Since the 2000s interest in the relationship between audiovisual media and (mental) health has been growing, as shown by the ERC BodyCapital research program, the MedFilm platform, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and its Medicine on Screen collections and essays, the Wellcome collection or several important publications. More recently a new research project was funded on the Waldau collection in Switzerland. All these works show the vitality of a field of research that aims to understand the role of the media in the medical sciences, which contributes early on to modifying the epistemology of medicine and health.

The Eternal Fight (WHO, 1948)

Scholars from all areas of cinema and media studies, whether previously affiliated with NECS or new to the network, are invited to submit proposals, but NECS membership is a requirement.

Please submit your proposal before the 10th of January 2022, providing your name, email address, the title of the paper, an abstract (max. 300 words), key biographical references (max. 200 words), and a short bio (max. 150 words). Presentations last a maximum of 20 minutes, 15 minutes if the panel consists of 4 presenters.

Proposal has to be sent to and

Mireille Berton (UNIL) & Bregt Lameris (Open Universiteit, NL)


OSTHERR, Kirsten (2020), “Zika Virus, Global Health Communication, and Datasurveillance”, in Christian Bonah & Anja Laukötter (eds.), Body, Capital and Screens. Visual Media and the Healthy Self in the 20th Century, Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 305-334.

CFP – Useful Film in (Neuro) Psychiatry Europe, 1900–1950. Update on Current Research

Workshop – University of Lausanne 3-4 March 2022

Since its inception, the cinematograph had many applications in the medical field, and particularly in the fields of psychiatry, neurology and neuropsychiatry (Lorusso & Venturini 2019). With surgeons, neurologists and psychiatrists are at the forefront of using film as a tool for analyzing, storing, archiving, and transmitting knowledge. For a long time, the (neuro) psychiatric films made by doctors as part of their teaching and research have been overshadowed by educational and health films. But since 2000, and especially 2010, scholars from different disciplines are increasingly interested in these practices. Several interdisciplinary teams have conducted research, with the aim of rehabilitating film as a privileged source for both the history of medicine and the history of cinema.

This interest stems partly from discoveries of films thought to be lost, such as the Magnus-Rademaker collection (1909–1940) (Koehler, Lameris & Hielscher 2015; Koehler & Lameris 2016). We can also mention the research in Italy on the Vincenzo Neri collection (Lorusso, Vanone & Venturini 2012; Vanone, Lorusso & Venturini 2015; Venturini & Lorusso 2013); in Germany on the Arthur Simmons and Max Nonne collections (Holdorff 2010, 2012, 2016); in Belgium on the Van Gehuchten collection (Aubert 2002a, 2002b, 2009, 2016); or in Rumania on the G. Marinescu collection (Buda et al. 2009). All these studies, and many others, show the dynamism of a field of research in continuous expansion.

Scholars face several challenges in front of films made by mental health professionals. How to locate objects that are poorly (or not at all) identified? How to understand them in the absence of sufficient information about their production and distribution context? How to work on films that are in poor condition? How to solve problems of access to sensitive data? How to establish productive transdisciplinary collaborations? Indeed, there is still much to be done to build on these documents defying traditional classifications (e.g. the distinction between documentary and fiction) and even escape knowledge altogether, as they “sleep” at the bottom of a closet, in a hospital, a bunker or the cellar of private owners.

Such investigations involve observing the contexts in which the film medium is used. But also, how scientific practices, observation protocols and discursive logics discipline-specific shape the medium and the uses of film. If the film is embedded in a preexisting framework that it modifies, it is itself also transformed in return by its environment of use. For this reason, it would be essential to question the consensus on the epistemic value of the “medical gaze” as mediated by film.

Focusing on the study of films shown in medical institutions, in lecture halls and at scientific conferences, this workshop has several goals: to map the state of research on works devoted to useful films in the field of neurology, psychiatry and neuropsychiatry, in Europe between 1900 and 1950; to highlight investigations on poorly known or unknown film collections; to serve as a starting point for one to two publications (journal issues). The main purpose is thus to increase our knowledge on practices that have long been considered “marginal” both in the medical humanities and in the history of cinema (and the media

We seek papers that may provide some answers to one or other of these questions:

  • In which context (historical, institutional, scientific, etc.) do doctors appropriated the filmic medium?
  • What are their needs and expectations regarding film?
  • What are their explicit and implicit goals?
  • What conception(s) of cinema underlie(s) the use of the moving image?
  • What formal elements of the technology are considered productive or counterproductive?
  • Which criteria lead doctors to emphasize certain technical properties of the medium to the expense of others?
  • Which issues are raised by the films in the medical community?
  • How are the films distributed and watched?
Film reel, Waldau collections, Cinémathèque suisse (picture by MB)

Contributions can include but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Study of specific film collections, or other related media as film operates in conjunction with other visual media (Lorusso, Venturini 2019)
  • Methodological issues raised by the examination of such sources, including issues related to their preservation and storage
  • Theoretical questions, as long as they are supported by a case study
  • Investigation of institutional or personal synergies on a European scale (Switzerland, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, etc.), given the intense circulation of medical expertise during the twentieth century

Organization committee: Mireille Berton, Elodie Murtas, Raphaël Tinguely

Scientific committee: Mireille Berton, Christian Bonah, Peter Koehler, Lorenzo Lorusso, Simone Venturini

Proposals submission

  • Abstract submission deadline: November 15, 2021
  • Ideally, each abstract should articulate: 1) an issue or research question to be discussed, 2) a source-based case study 3) a methodological or critical framework used, and 4) expected findings or conclusions
  • Decisions will be communicated to the authors by November 30, 2021
  • Title and abstract (400 words max.), and a short bio (200 words max.) should be submitted in Word format to 

Practical info

  • Language: English
  • Location: University of Lausanne, Dorigny campus, Switzerland
  • Expenses covered: one night’s accommodation, meals, travel within Europe
  • No payment from the participants will be required
  • Contact: or


  • November 15, 2021: application deadline
  • November 30, 2021: notification of acceptance
  • February 1, 2022: submission of a long abstract (500-600 words)
  • March 3-4, 2022: workshop
  • September 1, 2022: submission of the articles for publication


AUBERT, Geneviève (2016), “Cinema and Neuroscience: Development and Application of Cinematography in the Field of Neurosciences”, Journal of History of Neurosciences, Vol. 25, Nr. 1, 1–2.

AUBERT, Geneviève (2009), “Neurological Illustration: From Photography to Cinematography”, Handbook of Clinical Neurology, Nr. 95, 289–302.

AUBERT, Geneviève (2002a), “Arthur Van Gehuchten Takes Neurology to the Movies”, Neurology, Vol. 59, Nr. 10 (November 26), 1612–1618.

AUBERT, Geneviève (2002b), “From Photography to Cinematography: Recording Movement and Gait in a Neurological Context”, Journal of the History of Neuroscences, Nr. 11, 248–257.

Buda O., Arsene D., Ceausu M., Dermengiu D. & Curca G. C. (2009), “Georges Marinesco and the Early Research in Neuropathology”, Neurology, Vol. 72, Nr. 1 (January 6), 88–91.

CURTIS, Scott (2016), “Dissecting the Medical Training Film”, in Marta Braun, Charlie Keil, Rob King, Paul Moore & Louis Pelletier (ed.), Beyond the Screen. Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 161–167.

CURTIS, Scott (2015), The Shape of Spectatorship. Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany, New York, Columbia University Press.

HOLDORFF, Bernd (2016), “Arthur Simons (1877-1942) and Tonic Neck Reflexes With Hemiplegic ‘Mitbewegungen’ (Associated Reactions): Cinematography From 1916-1919”, Journal of History of Neurosciences, Vol. 25, Nr. 1, 63–71.

HOLDORFF, Bernd (2012), “Arthur Simons (1877-1942) über tonische Halsreflexe beim Hemiplegiker mit Demonstration seines Film (mit Fällen aus den Jahren 1916-1919)”, Der Nervenartz, Nr. 83, 514–520.

HOLDORFF, Bernd (2010), “Max Nonne und die Kriegsneurose: Mit Filmdarstellung der Kriegszitterer vor und nach Hypnose von Max Nonne/Hamburg (1918). Zur Erinnerung an Max Nonnes 50. Todestag”, Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde, Nr. 16, 197–208.

LORUSSO, Lorenzo & VENTURINI, Simone (2020), “Cinema and Neurology: From History to Therapy”, dans Bruno Colombo (ed.), Brain and Art. From Æsthetics to Therapeutics, Cham/CH, Springer, 95–120.

LORUSSO, Lorenzo, VANONE, Federico & VENTURINI, Simone (2012), “L’arrivo e le sue tracce: la collezione Vincenzo Neri”, Immagine. Note di storia del cinema, Nr. 6 (July-August), 32–54.

KOEHLER, Peter J., LAMERIS, Bregt & HIELSCHER, Eva (2016), “Neurocinematography in Pre-World War II Netherlands: The Magnus-Rademaker Collection”, Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, Vol. 25, Nr. 1, 84–101.

KOEHLER, Peter, J. & LAMERIS, Bregt (2016), “The Magnus-Rademaker Scientific Film Collection: Ethical Issues on Animal Experimentation (1908-1940)”, Journal of History of Neurosciences, Vol. 25, Nr. 1, 102–121.

VENTURINI, Simone & LORUSSO, Lorenzo (2013), “Vincenzo Neri: Anatomy of a Finding”, Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, Vol. 16, Nr. 1, 112–116.

Neuropatologia (Camillo Negro) 1915 – Museo del cinema

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