In the early 1970s, as the industrial economy crumbled around Detroit and its suburbs, Dr. H. C. Tien, an independent electroconvulsive therapist who ran the Michigan Institute of Psychosynthesis in Lansing, MI, advocated a “cybernetic” approach to family psychiatry. In Tien’s practice, one can learn how the liberatory kernel of religion and the truth of sexual difference—key components of moral treatment in nineteenth-century asylum reform—became amplified by emerging paradigms of neural nets and information processing. In Tien’s practice—what he called Electric Love Therapy—electric shock treatment became a technology of conversion and, more precisely, of sexual differentiation and spiritual cultivation. Tien’s is a disturbing example of how the regulation of sexuality and gender as private matters serves as resource and spur to secular demands to proprietize religion as an interior matter.

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