Digital Scholarship on Marriage and Depression

Yesterday was the ultimate software day for me. Confined to bed with a serious cold (I should have insisted on a warm beer at our History of Medicine class end-of-term dinner the night before), I finished my paper on statistical software for fMRI data analysis. Because this led only to a severe headache, and not to the feeling my head would explode every second, I decided to go on working and did my first digital humanities project ever. Here it is:

Number of referencing publicationsNeedless to say that this is not a very sophisticated piece of digital scholarship. Nonetheless, I am proud of myself and indebted to Mitch Fraas for instructing me how to take these first careful steps into the realm of TextMechanic, the Regex Coach, and CSV files for Google resp. Google Scholar search results. Originally, I intended to visualize my data set with Many Eyes, but Firefox seems to have a problem with my Java plugin … Oh well.

What you can see on this modest Excel graph is the yearly number of works that reference David Kinzie et al.’s Vietnamese Depression Scale (VDS) paper from 1982. I am currently writing a research paper on the development of this diagnosis/screening1 test for depression in Vietnamese refugees in the US for my History of Medicine seminar (yes, the one mentioned above).

My initial thesis was that the VDS didn’t fly because it couldn’t compete with the preparations for the DSM-IV Outline for Cultural Formulation, but the many citations on Web of Science and Google Scholar pointed into another direction. I was too lazy to read all the citing works; thus, I put their references into a table, and the data into a chart, and this reveals that there was some unexpected quoting going on a decade after the original publication. Why?

I don’t want to be a marriage determinist, but see what Dedra Buchwald, first author of a 1993 publication on the VDS, writes:

Dedra + Spero

http://www.p4nh.org/dedra-buchwald-md/

She met Spero Manson, who contributed to both the 1982 and the 1993 papers, around 1988, and married him. Could it be the case that she pushed her two colleagues, one of which was her husband (to be), to publish a paper that had been awaiting its completion for almost a decade after the funding for the project had been terminated (p. 78)?—I will have to speculate about this, because the authors are not very generous with personal information on request (and because my chart doesn’t tell me anything about causal relationships).

At first glance, this project might not be in line with my interests in the neurosciences, but just take a second look: specialists in the life sciences try to put an apparently clearly defined subaltern group into numbers. Doesn’t this resemble the neuroscientists who classify subjects in male and female in order to measure sex differences in their brains, which then serve popular authors to naturalize social inequities?

If you don’t think so, let me tell you that my paper on the VDS, somatization, and cross-cultural psychiatry will at least help me to fulfill my course requirements. Sometimes that has to suffice to take a class in grad school. (But I still love this project!)

1 Yet to determine!


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