The Institute for Intercultural Studies

Institut Gregory Bateson (IGB)
and Mental Research Institute (MRI) Conference

The Double Bind in Paris: 50 Years Later…
November 18-19, 2006
Université de la Sorbonne, Paris
A report by Mary Catherine Bateson

IGB-MRI ConferenceAmong the international events following from the Bateson centennial was a conference in Paris to discuss the current status of the concept of the "double bind," first put forward fifty years ago by Gregory Bateson and his colleagues who were studying the etiology of schizophrenia. The conference convened on November 18-19, 2006 in the Great Hall of the Sorbonne and was sponsored jointly by the Institut Gregory Bateson (IGB) in Liege, Belgium, and the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, and chaired by Jean-Jacques Wittezaele, Director-General and co-founder of IGB.

The flow of conversation and influence across the semi-permeable membranes of the human sciences has varied from decade to decade. During the 1920s and 30s, as anthropologists read Freud and other psychological theorists, anthropologists began to ask whether their writings really applied to all human beings or reflected research within specific cultural settings. Thus, Mead's writings about adolescence (Samoa) and early childhood (New Guinea), as well as about gender, were written in the context of interdisciplinary dialogue with psychology, her undergraduate major. The direction was set by Malinowski (challenging Freud) and Benedict's ethnographic work grew out of this tradition, which asked both how individual character was shaped to fit into a cultural pattern and how some individuals (perhaps those born with an incompatible temperament) grew up unable to fit. Gregory Bateson took this constellation of interests a step further after World War II after he himself undertook a Jungian analysis (with Elizabeth Hellersberg) and began to study the phenomena of psychotherapy into which he brought the conceptual frameworks of cybernetics and communications theory. The "Bateson Group," which included Don Jackson, Jay Haley, John Weakland, and William Fry, theorized that schizophrenia, which manifested itself in disordered thought and communication, could have been produced by sustained and systematic distortions in communication within the family. Today, the management of schizophrenia has been almost entirely relegated to chemotherapy, but Bateson's most significant impact has been on systemic family therapy, particularly in Europe and Latin America.

The conference included a variety of presentations, ranging from case histories to discussions of methodology and reviews of the reception and evolution of the concept in different environments, including some discussion of its implications for understanding international and political discourse. The speakers included Wendel Ray and Molly Govener, Mony Elkaïm, Giorgio Nardone, Yves Winkin, François Roustang, Dezsoe Birkas, Irène Bouaziz, Véronique Servais, Claude Duterme, Jean-Jacques Wittezaele and Teresa Garcia, and Mary Catherine Bateson. Bradford Keeney, who had been scheduled to speak, was delayed by weather conditions in Amazonia. The proceedings of the conference will eventually be published by éditions Deboeck. For more information, visit

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Thank you for your interest in the Institute for Intercultural Studies . We encourage you to use this website to connect to the many resources available to answer your inquiry about Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and their intellectual legacy.  However, The Institute for Intercultural Studies, founded by Margaret Mead in 1944, has closed its doors as of December 31, 2009; no further contact information is available.  For contact about permissions please see the Publishing Permission or Literary Rights section of the website.

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