Dying for home : the medicine and politics of nostalgia in nineteenth-century France
Nostalgia was first conceived as a clinical entity in the seventeenth century, and understood as an extreme psychological and physical reaction to dislocation. The condition was interpreted as a rupture of bonds thought to bind individuals to their local environment. This dissertation analyses the medical and political meanings attached to nostalgia in nineteenth-century France. It traces the medical and psychiatric history of nostalgia, and its rise and decline as a nosological category. In contrast to other extant interpretations, it shows how nostalgia was constructed in largely spatial terms. Nostalgia's subsequent temporalisation and internalisation reflect the emergence of new models of subjectivity within French psychology and psychiatry. The dissertation also shows how an examination of a neglected account in medical history can enrich our understanding of French nation-building and nationalism. It demonstrates that medical discussions of nostalgia informed, and were informed by, larger political considerations. In particular, it examines the role of nostalgia in debates about identity, patriotism and national belonging. Even after its demise as a clinical category, the concept continued to carry important ideological meanings relating to the role of the physical environment in human development, and the equation of physical displacement and pathology continued to influence French psychiatric and political discourses until the fin de siecle.