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Dr Hannah Proctor

Dr Hannah ProctorResearch Associate (Wellcome University Award Holder)
I’m a historian of the psy-sciences. My work proposes new ways of understanding relationships between psychiatry and political ideology, advancing knowledge of how theoretical ideas about the mind were formed by clinical practices and broader historical forces.

I hold a BA in History from UCL and an MA in Cultural and Critical Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London. After working in theatre for a few years, I completed a PhD at Birkbeck in Medical Humanities in 2015. I was then a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry, Berlin from 2016-18. I have just completed a three year Early Career Research Wellcome Trust fellowship at Strathclyde looking at Cold War era social science and am now working on a Wellcome Trust University Award project: ‘De-pathologising dissent: international campaigns against psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union and the crisis of the discipline in the West, 1953-1991.’

My monograph, Psychologies in Revolution: Alexander Luria's 'Romantic Science' and Soviet Social History (Palgrave Macmillan, Mental Health in Historical Perspective, 2020), is the first historical study on psycho-neurologist Alexander Luria (1902-1977). By foregrounding the marginalised Soviet people Luria encountered in his clinical research, I restored his publications to their historical context, while insisting on their relevance to debates in contemporary Critical Neuroscience.

I also have an on-going interest in antipsychiatry, explored through my article ‘Lost Minds: Sedgwick, Laing and the politics of mental illness’ (Radical Philosophy, 2016). My forthcoming second book, Burnout: On the Psychic Toll of Political Struggle (Verso, 2023), engages with understandings of care within social movements, exploring how psychiatric diagnoses – nostalgia, depression, mourning, trauma – were reconceptualised in specific moments of political defeat.

Research and Teaching Interests

All of my work is in the field of the Medical Humanities. I work on the history of the psy-sciences. My work combines methods of cultural, social and intellectual history with a mode of close-reading drawing on work in literary and critical theory, engaging with theoretical work in the medical humanities on ‘narrative medicine’ that brings literary modes of analysis to bear on primary sources to explore how questions of form, genre and authorship shape medical and psychiatric discourses and how these in turn circulate in popular culture.


Cold WarCommunismFreudo-MarxismIdeologyPsychiatry