PD Dr. Hannah Ahlheim
Modern History, University of Göttingen
PD Dr. Hannah Ahlheim
International Research Center Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History
Unter den Linden 6
Profile cultural dream studies: www.culturaldreamstudies.eu/hannah-ahlheim
Hannah Ahlheim is a graduate of the Humboldt University, Berlin (MA 2003). She received her PhD at the Ruhr-University of Bochum in 2008 with a dissertation about anti-Semitic boycotts in Germany from 1924 until 1935. She was teaching at the Humboldt University and is now Lecturer at the university in Göttingen. Her research interests include the history of National-Socialism, the history of anti-Semitism, German-Jewish history, the history of knowledge, and social history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Currently Hannah Ahlheim is working on a project on the history of sleep during the “long” 20th century in Germany and the US.
Measuring dreams. REM-sleep and dream-deprivation in the sleep laboratory
In 1953, under the egis of Nathaniel Kleitman, a group of researchers at the University of Chicago discovered the so-called REM (rapid-eye-movement)-sleep. In these stages of sleep, the (closed) eyes of the sleeping subject were moving quickly in every direction, and at the same time the EEG recorded curves similar to those of wakefulness, although the person could barely be awoken. Scientists soon agreed that they had found a way to identify “dream” phases during sleep. The elusive phenomenon of dreaming seemed to have been captured on paper. It could be explored in a scientific manner, by an observer from the “outside”. In this light, researchers such as Kleitman’s student and co-worker William Dement hoped that, with the help of REM-sleep-research, the physiology of sleep could be linked more closely with methods of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Dement started to experiment with REM-sleep, above all by depriving his subjects of these sleep phases. However, such attempts were not as successful as anticipated, and after only a few years the physiologically oriented discipline of sleep research removed the idea of psychoanalytically influenced dream research from its agenda.
This project scrutinizes how the assumption that a dream could be caught by means of scientific measurement and records shaped the very idea of dreaming. What concepts of dreaming were developed, not only by the scientists and experts but also by the public? What conflicts arose, and why exactly have the paths of sleep and dream research parted again?