Melanie Tanielian

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline History
Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

Research project

Transnational Lunacy: Madness, Society and Citizenship in a World at War (1914-1920)

 

“HUNGERTOD!” From 1914-1920, around the globe, the death rate of civilians in mental health institutions is truly staggering. During these six years, 70,000 civilians died in Germany’s psychiatric hospitals of starvation and malnutrition. In Britain, the death rate of civilians in “insane asylums” rose to 20 percent in one year (1918). The history of “civilian insane” during World War I, has not only never been told from a transnational/comparative perspective, but even in a national context, scholars largely overlook their fate. According to historians of medicine, World War I generated medical diagnostic advancements and treatments of physical diseases and mental illnesses. On the battle and the home front, medical officials and psychiatrists diagnosed men with “shell shock” and “war neurosis” as this modern mechanized conflict took its toll on soldiers’ bodies and minds. The history of shell shock and its paralyzing physical, mental, and social effects are well known. The effects of the war on those who are already struggling from serious mental health conditions, however, are completely ignored.

 

This project is interested in a lesser-known history that of the civilian ‘lunatic,’ a forgotten category of people in all the belligerent states. In the broadest of terms, this book is the history of World War I’s effects on the experience of civilian mental patients, their caregivers and wardens, and on the mental institutions. Moving away from the usual wartime mental illness story of traumatized soldiers, the book is also a socio-economic and legal history of asylums and their civilian patients. Discussing the wartime experiences of civilian suffering from mental illness was taboo, due to the stigmatized nature of their afflictions. These men and women, old and young, were not only forgotten by their communities and eventually history, but were, if not discarded or neglected, mobilized to sacrifice and contribute to the war effort. Focusing on civilian ‘insane’ in Germany, Britain, France, Austria, the United States, and the provincial Ottoman Empire from 1914-1920, this book is a timely study contributing to the growing scholarship on mental health during wartime from a seriously neglected historical perspective.

 

It is a transnational history of World War I’s effects on the experience of people situated at the margins of society and in the crossings of citizenship. My research is committed to expose civilian experiences during World War I and highlight their importance to our understanding of war and society more generally. It exposes how civilian wartime experiences were mediated through their positionality in the hierarchy of citizenship and fills a historical lacuna, challenge the singular focus on the mental health and care of the citizen soldiers, and contribute to a global history trend in the field of World War I studies.

 

Biography

 

Melanie Tanelian is Assistant Professor in the History Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She received her PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research has been supported by the Allan Sharlin Memorial Grant for Dissertation Research, the DAAD Graduate Fellowship, and the Sultan Fellowship from the Center of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

Her research and teaching interests include the social and cultural history of WWI in the Middle East, the emergence of religious philanthropic societies and their work in times of conflict, the history of German missionaries, social Protestantism and modern humanitarianism, disease, medicine, and hospitals.

Selected publications

 

The Charity of War: Famine, Humanitarian Aid, and World War I in the Middle East, Stanford University Press, Stanford , 2017.

 

'Feeding the City: The Beirut Municipality and Civilian Provisioning During World War I', International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 46, 2014, pp. 737-758.

 

'Politics of Wartime Relief in Ottoman Beirut', First World War Studies, vol. 5, 2014, pp. 69-82.

 

'Food and Nutrition (Ottoman Empire/Middle East)', in U. Daniel et al. (eds), 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War [online], Freie Universität Berlin, published 8 October 2014. 

 

'Disease and Public Health (Ottoman Empire/Middle East)', in U. Daniel et al. (eds), 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War [online], Freie Universität Berlin, published 8 October 2014.

 

institut

senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline History of Science and Technology
2017
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Political Science
2018
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Education
2016
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology
2017