Abstract

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German medical hypnotists sought to gain a therapeutic and epistemological monopoly over hypnosis. In order to do this, however, these physicians were required to engage in a complex multi-dimensional form of boundary-work, which was intended on the one hand to convince the medical community of the legitimacy and efficacy of hypnosis and on the other to demarcate their use of suggestion from that of stage hypnotists, magnetic healers, and occultists. While the epistemological, professional, and legal boundaries that medical hypnotists erected helped both exclude lay practitioners from this field and sanitize the medical use of hypnosis, the esoteric interests, and sensational public experiments of some of these researchers, which mimicked the theatricality and occult interests of their lay competitors, blurred the distinctions that these professionals were attempting to draw between their “legitimate” medical use of hypnosis and the “illegitimate” lay and occult use of it.

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