PhD, History, Indiana University, Bloomington (2015)

Academic Interests

My research examines the history of patient-staff relationships in mental institutions, in both France and the U.S. I explore the limitations and failures of past mental health reforms, as well as scientific innovation, creative expression, and community-building inside psychiatric facilities.

Currently, I am working on two book projects. The first is a study of how deinstitutionalization affected patients with intellectual disabilities at Indiana’s Central State Hospital in the 1990s (with Emily Beckman and Modupe Labode). This project was inspired by the patient-produced newsletter, The DDU Review. The second examines the roles played by art and science in the reform of French psychiatry at the turn of the twentieth century, focusing on Villejuif Asylum near Paris.

Since January 2018, I’ve also served as a consultant for the Indiana Women’s Prison History Project, in which incarcerated women are producing critical historical studies of gender, sexuality, and incarceration in Indiana.


Courses I’ve taught include HIST H364: The History of Medicine and Public Health and MHHS M201: Introduction to Medical Humanities. I am developing a new MHHS Capstone course on Disability Studies and the Medical Humanities for Spring 2019.


Elizabeth Nelson, “Confusion about Confusion: Édouard Toulouse’s Dementia Test, 1905-1920,” History of Psychiatry (forthcoming)

Elizabeth Nelson, “Running in Circles: A Return to an Old Idea about Asylum Reform,” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, Vol. 42 (2014), pp. 115-125.

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