Katja Guenther F'18, F'08

Katja  Guenther
Associate Professor
History
Princeton University

ACLS Fellowship Program 2018
Associate Professor
History
Princeton University
The Mirror and the Mind: A History of Self-Recognition in the Sciences of Mind and Brain

“The Mirror and the Mind” traces the history of the mirror self-recognition test, focusing on the period following World War II, to show why it was invested with such importance. The mirror test gained prominence at times when the notion of human nature was under assault; it provided a final line of defense against the tendency of the biological and cultural sciences to blur the boundaries between humans and other animals. This function has been exploited in a range of disciplines: psychiatry, psychoanalysis, animal and human psychology, cybernetics, anthropology, and neuroscience. Scientists placed infants, “primitives,” robots, and animals of various kinds in front of mirrors, in order to pose and find new answers to the perennial question: “What is man?”

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2008
Doctoral Candidate
History of Science
Harvard University
The Ethics of Medical Practice: Clinical Uses of Reflex Theory in Early Twentieth-Century Neuropsychiatry (1870- 1950)

My dissertation is an archivally-informed social history of reflex theory in neuropsychiatry around the turn of the 19th century. By studying the clinical uses of reflex physiology in Breslau, one of the leading centers of the clinical mind sciences at the time, demonstrate that the reflex was central to several important aspects of medical practice, including the diagnosis of mental illness and the treatment of chronic pain. My work overturns traditional accounts in which the reflex figured as the symbol of an unethical, reductionist biomedicine. By studying the real and concrete ways in which the reflex was used in clinical practice, the reflex rather becomes a model for understanding the conditions of ethical treatment within the confines of mainstream medicine.