Brainwash: History, Cinema and the Psy Professions

A workshop to be held on the 3rd and 4th of July 2015 Birkbeck Cinema
43 Gordon Square
WC1H 0PD London
United Kingdom

The full programme and free registration for this event can be found here:

The history of cinema, like the history of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and psychotherapy, percolates with Western suspicions that our minds are susceptible to covert, even unconscious manipulation. Cinema and psychoanalysis—two essential exponents of subjectivity in the twentieth century—have been celebrated as royal roads to the unconscious, catalysts for our dreams, and means of self-discovery and human emancipation. But cinema and psychotherapy, Freudian or otherwise, have also been castigated for their special capacity to tap the unconscious, and as tools for mind control, even as they have depicted and shaped understanding of what it means to have or to manipulate a mind.

In this workshop we ask whether the Cold War obsession with brainwashing was a break with past narratives and anxieties over mental manipulation and suggestion. We consider how far cinema, television and video have been caught up in this history of hidden or coercive persuasion, and how far they have changed the terms of debate. What forms of human experimentation inspired interest in brainwashing, and vice versa?  And how and why did depictions of automatism on screen so often connect to fears of the ‘psy’ professions?

In addressing these questions we revisit some iconic and obscure brainwashing sagas of the past. By re-examining Cold War films and some of their precursors, we invite discussion of the representation of coercively altered states of consciousness—the dangerous spell that film and 'the talking cure' have been said to exert.

_Workshop Programme_

3 July:
Raymond Bellour (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique): Cinema and Hypnoses: Mabuse as an example Laura Mulvey (Birkbeck, University of London): From Momism to The Feminine Mystique

Maya Oppenheimer & Rod Dickinson (University of West England):  Re-enacting Obedience: laboratory on film Jelena Martinovic (Geneva University of Art and Design): Depatterning desire: Aversion therapy on film

Laura Marcus (University of Oxford): Flicker Marcie Holmes (Birkbeck, University of London): Flickering lights: mind control on screen

4 July:
Ian Christie (Birkbeck, University of London): The Soviet story: From interrogation to confession Ana Antic (Birkbeck, University of London): Cinema and education: Building the new communist person

Erik Linstrum (University of Virginia): Interrogating The Interrogator: Cyprus, the BBC, and the performance of violence Gavin Collinson (BBC) Brainwashing on the Box: Depictions of brainwashing on British TV

Daniel Pick (Birkbeck, University of London): Suddenly: Some thoughts about assassination at the cinema Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge): Manchurian automata

The full programme and free registration for this event can be found here:

For more information about the Hidden Persuaders Project please visit our website: Follow us on twitter: @HPersuaders