Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Berlin ElectropolisShock, Nerves, and German Modernity$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Andreas Killen

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520243620

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520243620.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use (for details see http://california.universitypressscholarship.com/page/535/privacy-policy-and-legal-notice).date: 11 December 2017

Psychiatrists, Telephone Operators, and Traumatic Neurosis, 1900–1926

Psychiatrists, Telephone Operators, and Traumatic Neurosis, 1900–1926

Chapter:
(p.162) Five Psychiatrists, Telephone Operators, and Traumatic Neurosis, 1900–1926
Source:
Berlin Electropolis
Author(s):

Andreas Killen

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520243620.003.0006

This chapter, covering the years 1900–26, looks at medical discourses about female telephone operators and the role of electricity as pathogen in their nervous disorders. It examines the position occupied by operators both in the rationalization movement that animated Weimar social policy and in the postwar backlash against social insurance. Along with shell-shocked soldiers, operators played a central role in the medical recasting of traumatic neurosis as a condition caused not by an external event (a shock) but by morbid internal conditions (fright or hereditary weakness). Reconceptualized as a pseudomalady, traumatic neurosis was ultimately disqualified as a compensable illness in 1926 by the revision of Germany's social insurance legislation. By the late 1920s, when Freud was theorizing neurosis as a universal condition of modern civilization, mainstream German psychiatrists were dismantling the social contract built around neurasthenia. Losing its anchorage in the individual body, nervous illness became inscribed in more collectivist notions of heredity and mass psychology, even as medical experts shifted the burden of diagnosis away from the technological discontents of modern life to the pathologies of the bureaucratic social state.

Keywords:   medical discourse, female telephone operators, electricity, nervous disorders, Weimar social policy, social insurance, neurasthenia

California Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.