This article examines the use of cinematic microanalysis to capture, decompose, and interpret mother–infant interaction in the decades following the Second World War. Focusing on the films and writings of Margaret Mead, Ray Birdwhistell, René Spitz, and Sylvia Brody, it examines the intellectual culture, and visual methodologies, that transformed ‘pathogenic’ mothering into an observable process. In turn, it argues that the significance assigned to the ‘small behaviours’ of mothers provided an epistemological foundation for the nascent discipline of infant psychiatry. This research draws attention to two new areas of enquiry within the history of emotions and the history of psychiatry in the post-war period: preoccupation with emotional absence and affectlessness, and their personal and cultural meanings; and the empirical search for the origin point, and early chronology, of mental illness.
film, infancy, microanalysis, mothering, psychiatry.
Margaret Mead observing ‘schizoid’ mothers in Bali
Ray Birdwhistell and mother’s ‘minimal responses’
René Spitz and the institutionalised infant
Sylvia Brody’s typologies of mother love
(Katie Joice, Birkbeck, University of London, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Room G10, 28 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ, UK. Email: email@example.com)
Mothering in the frame: Cinematic microanalysis and the pathogenic mother, 1945–67.
In: History of the Human Sciences 34,5 (Oct 2020), pp. 105-131.