Allan Young

Professor Emeritus

 allan.young [at]

Allan Young is an anthropologist and the former Marjorie Bronfman Professor in Social Studies in Medicine. His current research focuses on the ethnography of psychiatric science, specifically the valorization of (new) diagnostic and therapeutic technologies and the institutionalization of standards of evidence; and the ethnography of psychogenic trauma as a clinical entity and as a subject of laboratory and epidemiological research.




2012. Empathic cruelty and the origins of the social brain. In Critical Neuroscience: Between Lifeworld and Laboratory, S. Choudhury and J. Slaby, editors. Pp. 159-176. Oxford:Blackwell.

2012. Logic and sensibility in social neuroscience’s “New Unconscious”. Logic and Sensibility. Watanabe, Shigeru, ed., pp. 91-106. Tokyo: Keio Univ. Press

2011. Empathic cruelty and the origins of the social brain. In Critical Neuroscience: A Handbook of the Social and Cultural Contexts of Neuroscience. Suparna Choudhury and Jan Slaby, editors. Pp. 159-176. Oxford: Blackwell.

2011. Empathy, evolution, and human nature. In Empathy: From Bench to Bedside, J. Decety, D. Zahavi, and S. Overgaard, eds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

2010. Darwin, la dialectique de cerveau. In Darwin: 200 ans, Alain Prochiantz ed., pp.137-157 Paris: Odilie Jacob.

2010. The history of a virtual epidemic. In Embodiment and the State: Health, Biopolitics and the Intimate Life of State Powers. Giovanni Pizza and Helle Johannessen, eds. AM. Rivista della Società italiana di antropologia medica n. 27-28:21-36.

2009. Mirror neurons and the rationality problem. In Rational Animals, Irrational Humans, Watanabe, S., Huber, L., Young, A., and Blaidsell, A., editors. Pp. 55-69. Tokyo : Science University Press.

2009. Watanabe, Shigeru, Huber, Ludwig, Young, Allan, and Blaidsell, Aaron, editors. Rational Animals, Irrational Humans. Tokyo : Science University Press.

2009. An Anthropology of Science. In Ideas : On the Nature of Science, Cayley, David, editor. Pp.323-340. Fredericton, NB : Goose Lane Editions.

2008. Kultur im Gerhirn: Empatie, die menschliche Natur und Spiegelneuronen. Wie geht Kultur unter die Haut? Emergente Praxen an der Schnittstelle von Medizin, Lebens- und Socialwissenschaft. J. Niewöhner, C. Kehl, and
Stefan Beck eds., pp. 31-54. Bielefeld (Germany): Transcript Verlag.

2008. Psychiatric Diagnosis in the Era of the Social Brain: How Evolutionary Narratives May Shape Psychiatry's Future. In: Vera Saller, Mirna Würgler and Regula Weiss, eds. Neue Psychiatrische Diagnosen im Spiegel sozialer Veränderungen/New Psychiatric Diagnoses as Reflection of Social Change. pp. 21-37. Zurich: Seismo.

 2007. PTSD of the virtual kind – trauma and resilience in post 9/11 America. In Trauma and Memory: Reading, Healing, and Making Law. Austin Sarat, Nadav Davidovitch, and Michal Alberstein eds., pp. 21-48. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

2007. America’s transient mental illness: a brief history of the self-traumatized perpetrator. In Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations. João Biehl, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman, eds., pp. 155-178. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2007. Bruno and the Holy Fool: myth, mimesis, and the transmission of traumatic memories. In Understanding Trauma: Cultural, Psychological and Biological Perspectives, L.J. Kirmayer, R. Lemelson, and M. Barad, eds., pp. 339-362. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

2006. The self-traumatized perpetrator : from Vietnam to Abu Ghraib. In Large-Scale Victimisation as a Potential Source of Terrorist Activities: Importance of Regaining Security in Post-Conflict Societies, U. Ewald and K. Turković, eds., pp. 103-111. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

2006.  Trauma und Verarbeitung in den USA nach dem 11. September 2001 Ein anthropologischer Blick auf virtuelle Traumata und Resilienz.  In Ernestine Wohlfahart and Manfred Zaumseil, eds. Transkulturelle  Psychiatrie 
Interkulturelle Psychotherapie: Interdisziplinäire Theorie und Praxis
, pp. 391-410. Heidelberg : Springer Medizin Verlag.2006. La psychiatrie à la recherche d’un esprit post-génomique. Sciences Sociales et Santé 24 : 117-46. 

2004. When traumatic memory was a problem: On the antecedents of PTSD. In Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Issues and Controversies, edited by G. Rosen, pp. 127-146. London: Wiley.

2004. How narratives work in psychiatric science: An example from the biological psychiatry of PTSD. In Narrative Research in Health and Illness, edited by B. Hurwitz, T. Greenhalgh and V. Skultans, pp. 382-396. Oxford: Blackwell.

2002. Notes on the evolution of evolutionary psychiatry. In New Horizons in Medical Anthropology: Essays in Honour of Charles Leslie, edited by M. Nichter and M. Lock, pp. 221-238. London: Routledge Kegan Paul.

2001. PTSD a culture bound sydrome?: A cultural critique of a diagnostic concept and its export. In Culture op de vlucht: over de transculturele psychiatrische zorg aan asielzoekers en vluchtingen, edited by H. Bot, M. Braakman, L. Preijde and W. Wassink, pp. 77-84. Tilburg (Netherlands): Janssen-Cilag.

2001. Introduction to PTSD no Iyro-jinruigaku (The Medical Anthropology of PTSD, translated by Hisai Nakai, Yasuyoshi Otsuki, Akitomo Shimoji, Tsuyoshi Tatsumi, and Akane Naito. Tokyo: Misuzo Shobo. (Japanese
edition of The Harmony of Illusions, with a new introduction by the author and a preface by Hisao Nakai)

2001. Nos névroses traumatiques ont-elles un avenir? In La maladie mentale en mutations: Psychiatrie et société, edited by Alain Ehrenberg and Anne Lovell, pp. 101-126. Paris: Editions Odilie Jacob 

1995 The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Princeton: Princeton Unversity Press.

This book is simultaneously a history of traumatic memory, based on contemporary reports, and an ethnographic account, based on the author's field research in a Veterans Administration psychiatric unit specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of the memory's characteristic malady, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The discovery of traumatic memory in the nineteenth century challenged ideas about the moral autonomy of the self - specifically the mind's capacity to know and attempt to put into action its beliefs, desires, and intentions. Traumatic memory and the psychophysiological mechanisms on which it is based created a new language of self-deception ("repression" and "dissociation" now made it possible for the mind to keep secrets from itself) and justified the emergence of a new class of medical and moral authorities.

Most of what has been written about traumatic memory and PTSD until now has described these developments from the perspective of clinicians, researchers, and patients who assume that (1) the memory and its disorder are timeless realities, dating back to the dawn of recorded history, and (2) the standards and formal procedures practised by psychiatric science (e.g. psychometrics, randomized and control group experimental research) are external to the formation of these realities. This book's thesis is that (1) traumatic memory and psychiatric science are both historical products, and (2) PTSD is a techno-phenomenon, glued together by the nosological practices, clinical and research technologies, and narratives through which it is identified, treated and represented, and by the social interests, institutions, and moral arguments through which the required clinical and scientific resources are mobilized.

1992 Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge, with Charles Leslie, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press.


2012. The social brain and the myth of empathy. Science in Context 25: 329-352.

2011. Self, brain, microbe, and the vanishing commissar. Science, Technology, and Human Values 36: 638-661

2011. Vier Versionen des Holocaust-Traumas. Tel Aviver Jahrbuch für deutsche Gerschichte. Pp. 185-206.

2008. A time to change our minds: anthropology and psychiatry in the 21st century. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 32: 298-300.

2007. 9/11: In the wake of the terrorist attacks. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 195: 1030-1032.

2007. Troublesome memories: reflections on the future. Journal of Anxiety Disorders 21: 230-232. Co-author:Naomi Breslau

2006. Bruno et le fou sacré : Mythe,mimesis et la transmission des mémoires traumatiques, L’Evolution psychiatrique 7 : 485-504. 

 2006. La psychiatrie à la recherche d’un esprit post-génomique. Sciences Sociales et Santé 24 : 117-46

2006. Remembering the evolutionary Freud. Science in Context.19:175-189

2006. Traumatisme à distance, résilience héroïque et guerre conte le terrorisme. Revue Française de Psychosomatique 28 :39-62

2002. The self-traumatized perpetrator as a “transient mental illness.” Evolution Psychiatrique 67: 26-50. Published simultaneously in French as: L’auto-victimization de l’aggresseur: un ephémère paradigme de maladie mentale. L’Evolution psychiatrique 67: 1-25.

2001. Our traumatic neurosis and its brain. Science in Context 14: 661-683.

1996 Bodily memory and traumatic memory. In M. Lambeck, & P. Antze (Eds.), Tense past: Cultural essays in trauma and memory (pp. 89-102). London: Routledge

1996 Suffering and the origins of traumatic memory, in Deadalus, 125:245-260.

1994 Symptom attribution in cultural perspective, with L. Kirmayer and J. Robins, in Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 39:585-595.

1993 A Description of How Ideology Shapes Knowledge of a Mental Disorder (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), in Knowledge, Power and Practice: The Anthropology of Medicine and Everyday Life, Shirley Lindenbaum and Maragaret Lock, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 108-128.

1992 Reconstructing rational minds: Psychiatry and morality in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, in The Social Construction of Illness, J. Lachmund and G. Stollberg, eds. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 115-124.


2012. Invited presentation: “Beyond the horizon: what we don’t know that we don’t know (yet) about human nature”. Keynote paper at a workshop titled At the Crossroad of Medical and Cultural Anthropology, Keio University, Tokyo, Japan. (29 August)

2012. Invited presentation: “PTSD in a new light: the heterogeneity thesis”.  Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan. (30 June)

2012. Invited presentation: “Feral children, human nature, and the autism spectrum disorders”. Dept. of Philosophy of Science, Tokyo University, Tokyo, Japan. (26 June)

2012. Keynote presentation: “Stress, cultural psychiatry, and resilience in the 21st century”. Annual Meetings of the Japanese Society for Transcultural Psychiatry, Fukuoda, Japan. (23 June)

2012. Invited presentation:  “The heterogeneity thesis: a novel perspective on PTSD and Holocaust trauma”. Symposium title: Bridging the Divide in Holocaust and Genocide Studies: Towards a Cross-Cultural Interdisciplinary Dialog. University of Haifa (Israel). (13 June)

2012. Keynote presentation: “Feral children, human nature, and the autism spectrum disorders”. Conference title: The Rise of Child Science and Psy-expertise. Centre for Research in International Medicial Anthropology, Brunel University (UK). (30 May)

2012. Keynote presentation: “Stress, traumatic stress, and the culture of resilience”. Conference title: The Culture of Stress. University of Heidelberg (Germany). (23 May)

2012. Keynote presentation: “Empathy and pathology in the social brain: From the discovery of mirror neurons to the commodification of oxytocin”. Conferenece title: The Mutual Challenges of the Neurosciences and Public Health, European Neuroscience and Society Network, King’s College and Goodenough College, London. (UK). (26 April)

2012. Keynote presentation: “A Short History of the Stress Response in the 21st Century.” Conference title: The Stress of Life: Gender, Emotions and Health After the Second World War, The Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter (UK). (3 April)

2011. Invited presentation: “Does the brain have a mind f its own?” Conference title: Neuro Reality Check: Scrutinizing the ‘Neuro-turn’ in the Humanities and Natural Sciences. Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. (3 December)

2011. “Oxytocin and the end of history.” Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Americam Anthropological Association, Montreal (18 November)

2011. Invited presentation: “The twilight of human nature?” Conference title: Toward an Integration of Logic and Sensibility: From Neuroscience to Philosophy. Keio University, Tokyo (13 September)

2011. “Out of the Shadows: Schadenfreude and Human Nature”. Keynote speaker. Conference title: Mastering the Emotions: Control, Contagion and Chaos, 1800 to the Present Day. Queen Mary University of London. (16 June)

2011. “Empathy, Mental Time Travel, and the New Unconscious”. Invited talk, Seminar convened by Alexandre Koyré Centre and the Andre Centre de Recherche Médecine, Sciences, Santé, Santé Mentale, Société Université Paris Descartes. (25 February)

2010. “Schadenfreude Rediscovered: Oxytocin, Economic Games, and the Social Brain”. Invited lecture, Neuroscience Fellows Seminar. Max Planck Institute – Leipzig (Germany). (28 February)

2010. “Trauma, Mental Time Travel and the New Unconscious”. Invited lecture: Social Neuroscience Seminar, Humboldt University (Berlin). (2 March)

2010. “How Stress Became a Trauma Disorder”. Invited presentation. Conference title: Stress, Trauma, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century, organized by the History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, US National Institutes of Health and the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter, Bethesda, Maryland. (11 November)

2010 “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder through the Lens of Social Neuroscience”. . Invited talk, to Postdoctoral Fellows Seminar,  Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Ageing Research. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. (21 October)

 2010Trauma, the stressor criterion and the culture of psychiatry, a paper presented at an international conference, Rethinking Cultural Competence from International Perspectives, Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, 29 April to 1 May 2010, Montreal, QC. (1 May)

2010. “The social history of the posttraumatic syndromes, 1980 to 2010,” a research seminar presentation at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST), the University of Paris I (Sorbonne). (2 June)

2010. “On the history, epistemology, heterogeneity of the posttraumatic syndromes”, at an international workshop on Making of Psychiatric Epidemiology: History and Epistemology of an International Discipline, 3-5 June 2010, Centre for Psychotropics and Mental Health Research, at the University of Paris Descartes. (5 June)

2009. The History of the Evolution of the Social Brain. Keynote presentation at the annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association, Montreal (12 June).

2009. A Social Anthropology Perspective on Microbial Societies, a talk presented to the Department of Anthropology, University of Aarhus (Denmark). (3 June)

2009. Empathy, Cruelty and the Origin of the Social Brain, a talk presented at the Gnosis Centre, University of Aarhus (Denmark). (2 June)

2009. Conference title: Social Practices of In/Visibilisation, the Danish Research School in Anthropology and Ethnography (University of Copenhagen). My paper: Six Kinds of Invisibility: Imag(in)ing a Mind inside the Brain. (29 May)

2009. Does PTSD’s ‘Memory Logic’ have a Future? A talk presented to the Research and Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (Copenhagen). (27 May)

2009. Conference title: Neurocultures, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin). My talk: Psychopathy and the Social Brain (11 February)

2009. Conference title: Critical Neuroscience, University of California at Los Angeles and the Foundation for Psychocultural Research. My paper: Psychopatholgy in the Social Brain (28 January)

2008. Empathic Cruelty and the Evolution of Human Nature. University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology (27 October)

2008. Stress and the heterostatic body, Exeter University, Department of the History of Medicine. (11 November)

2008. Conference title: Varieties of Empathy in Science, Art and Culture. University of British Columbia. My paper: Empathic Cruelty: An Evolutionary Narrative for the Twenty-First Century (11 October).

2008. Enduring Misconceptions Concerning Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Dartmouth University, Department of Psychiatry. (26 September)

2008. Conference title: Globalization of Psychiatry and the Languages of Suffering, Trauma, Violence and Resilience. CESAME, University of Paris 5. My Paper: “History in Trauma” (5 June).

2008. Empathic Cruelty and the Evolution of the Social Brain. École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris). (6 June)

2008. Conference title: Medical Anthropology and Therapeutic Discourse. Van Leer Institute (Jerusalem). My paper: “Therapeutic Discourse and the Science of Empathy” (29 June).

2008. Conference title: Rational Animals, Irrational Humans. Keio University (Tokyo). My paper: “Empathy: an Evolutionary Riddle” (9 February).

2007. Pathologies of the Social Brain. Kyoto University (Tokyo, public lecture) (24 July)

2007. Changing Perspectives on Mind, Brain, and Empathy: Implications for Understanding the Intersection of Reason and Emotion. Keio University (Tokyo, public lecture) (2 August)

2007. Conference title: The Holocaust as the Paradigm of Psychic Trauma in the 20th Century. Tel Aviv University, Israel. My paper: “Historical transformations in the concepts of “trauma survivor” and “Holocaust trauma” (24 January)

2006. Workshop title: How Does Culture Get Under the Skin? Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany. My presentation: “The social worlds inside the body” (16 December)

2006. Conference title: Embodiment and the State. University of South Denmark, Middelfart Conference Centre, Denmark. My paper: “The body of the future prepares for the War on Terrorism” (28 October)

2006. Workshop title: Workshop on the History of Stress. Exeter University (UK). My presentation: “Overview of biological theories of stress” (13 September)

2006. Conference title: Healing the War: Psychosocial Perspectives and Experiences in Conflict-Torn Areas. International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome. My paper: “Inventing post-traumatic stress disorder” (21 June)

2006. Conference title: Le Cerveau Social. Centre de Recherches Psychotropes, CNRS – Université René Descartes Paris 5. My paper: “Pathologies of the social brain“ (2 June)

2005. “The Future of Psychiatric Genetics: From Genetic Blueprints to Extended Endophenotypes,” conference paper, Meetings of the Society for Social Studies of Science and the European Association for the Social Studies of Science and Technology; Paris  (August 4).

2005. “Empathy, Dissimulation, Neuroimaging and the Evolution of the Human Mind,” invited lecture, Heidelberg University, Department of Ethnography and South Asian Studies; Heidelberg, Germany (May 15).

2005. “Psychiatry’s Search for a Postgenomic Mind,” invited lecture, Michigan State University, Department of Epidemiology; Lansing Michigan (February 10).

2004. “Forgetting the Evolutionary Freud,” conference paper,  Conference: Forgetting Freud? How to write the history of psychoanalysis today. Sigmund-Freud-Museum; Vienna, Austria (December 10).

2004. “From Clinical Phenotype to Neo-Lamarckian Endophenotype,” conference paper, Symposium: Die Politik der Emotionen: Zur Wechselwirkung zwischen neuen psychiatrischen rklärungsmodellen und sozialen Veränderungen, sponsored by the Interdisziplinäre Kommission für Medizinethnologie (Switzerland); Zurich, Switzerland (November 4).

2004. “Does Evolutionary Psychiatry Have a Future?”, a keynote presentation at the Annual Meetings of the Canadian Psychiatric Association. Montreal (October 4). 


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