Near-Death Experience

swissnex Boston and Jelena Martinovic invite you to a discussion about the fascinating history of the Near-Death Experience.

Event Details


swissnex Boston
420 Broadway, Cambridge , Massachusetts 02138 United States




How Psychiatry Leveraged a Folk Phenomenon into Therapeutic Insight

swissnex Boston and Jelena Martinovic (UNIL-CHUV Post-doctoral researcher at the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University) cordially invite you to a lecture on the fascinating history of Near-Death Experience, based on her forthcoming book “Mort Imminente – Genèse d’un phénomène scientifique & culturel”, to be released on June 12, 2017.

Carl Nigshwonger, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and a patient during a session of “Death and Dying Seminars” at Bilings Hospital Chicago. Life, November 21, 1969.

Sensations of well-being, out-of-body experiences, traveling through a dark tunnel, or an “Empyrean ascent”: representations related to near-death experiences have profoundly influenced collective conceptions of how we imagine the very last moments of existence. They suggest no more or less the possibility of an afterlife. Though recorded since Antiquity and observed in many different cultures across the world, studies on near-death experience have only recently been progressively integrated into Western medicine and psychology.

Following the work of the American psychiatrist Russell Noyes, Mort Imminente (Near-death) reveals the origin of this integration, tracking its emergence from the 1950s in the medical field in the United States.

A contemporary of palliative care, psychedelic therapy, thanatology and medical humanities, near-death experience studies have contributed dramatically to the development of the art of dying in the United States. Most of all, they suggested that a potentially traumatic near-death experience bears a powerful element for personal transformation.

The account of Albert Heim, an influential Swiss geologist and contemporary of painter Ferdinand Hodler, inspired Noyes to pursue this work. Heim published an essay in 1892, in which he describes his fall from the Säntis summit, focusing on the absence of fear and pain, sensations of well-being, and the seeming ability to travel back in time. Indeed the notoriety of this essay in the US in the 1970s and its reinterpretation by American NDE researchers caught Martinovic’s attention.

A panorama of a specific field of study and an epoch, Jelena Martinovic’s book unfolds a passionate historical inquiry, which puts its readers into the core activity and transformation of scientific research.

About the author

Jelena Martinovic is UNIL-CHUV visiting postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, Department of the History of Science. An associate member of the Institute of the History of Medicine and Public Health Lausanne, Jelena has previously held a position as Swiss National Science Foundation senior researcher and has taught at University of Lausanne, Geneva School of Art and Design, and the University of Art and Design Linz. She received her Ph.D. in the history of medicine at University of Lausanne and holds an MA both in sociology and visual arts. She has recently published Bold Climbers, an art book dealing with mountaineering, science, and aesthetics, and has collaborated in a team researching on “mind control” in art & design. Mort Imminente is her first monograph, published by MetisPresses, Geneva.

About Martinovic’s new book

Mort imminente. Genèse d’un phénomène scientifique et culturel (Near-Death Experience: How Psychiatry Leveraged a Folk Phenomenon into Therapeutic Insight)

Written by Jelena Martinovic

Edited by MetisPresses, Geneva

Collection FABRICA, co-led by Francesco Panese and Vincent Barras

French only, Print & Ebook

ISBN 97 82940 56 3142

Price: 25 USD

With the support of Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique, Société Académique Vaudoise, Fondation pour l’Université de Lausanne, République et Canton de Genève.

About another book


Bold Climbers

Climbers today and in the past have perceived the mountain as a theatre of aesthetic exploration and scientific experimentation. In this richly illustrated book, featuring sixteen original artworks, the paths of artists and writers cross as, following the trails of mythology, medical geography, natural history and cinema, they turn mountain landscapes into modernist painting. Whether the expedition itself was famous or obscure, the ascent to high altitudes was a crucible for bold eccentrics in the Alps, including art historian Aloïs Riegl, occultist Aleister Crowley, operatic filmmaker Daniel Schmid, and altitude therapist Henri Clermond Lombard. Four original texts written by Merel van Tilburg (art historian), Vincent Barras (poet and historian of medicine), Maxime Guitton (music curator), and Jelena Martinovic (artist and historian of science) reflect on the interest and inspiration found in alpinism from the 19th century to the present. Bold Climbers is both an investigation and experiment into the aesthetics of peak performances.

Edited by Jelena Martinovic

Featuring Artists: Stefan Benchoam, Pauline Cazorla, Guillaume Dénerveaud, Aldric Lamblin, Sarah Margnetti, Mathias Pfund, Aude Richards, Vincent de Roguin, Pierre Szczepski, Luca Schenardi, Konstantin Sgouridis, Annabelle Voisin, Héloïse Verdan, Vivian Suter, Elisabeth Wild.

Published by Cordyceps Press, Lausanne

Graphic Design: Studio Boris Meister

Printed by Musumeci SpA September 2016

English/French, Print & Ebook

ISBN: 978-2-8399-1826-8

Price: 35 Dollars

With the support of HEAD-Geneva, Ville de Genève, Ville de Lausanne, Soutien pour les arts plastiques

Book available at: Motto Bookshop Carpenter Center for Visual Arts Cambridge (MA – USA), Oraibi Books Geneva (CH), Printed Matter New York (USA), Pioneer Books New York (USA), Kunstgriff Zürich (CH), Centre Culturel Suisse Paris (FR).

Both of Jelena’s books will be available for purchase at the event.
Cover Image: Ferdinand Hodler, Absturz IV (detail), 1894, Swiss Alpine Museum Berne.