H-Sci-Med-Tech Call for Papers Roundup

With the new year comes the season for conference submissions, and your friendly editors over at the H-Sci-Med-Tech division of HNet have provided a range CfPs on topics that may be relevant to the work of scholars in our readership (click for link to more info on each):

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Advance Access from Social History of Medicine on Psychiatry and Social Engineering in Finland, 1945–1968

A new article has been published online first by the journal of the Social History of Medicine that will be of interest to our readership. Katariina Parhi and Petteri Pietikainen write on “Socialising the Anti-Social: Psychopathy, Psychiatry and Social Engineering in Finland, 1945–1968.” The abstract reads as follows:

This article argues that in Finland during the two decades after the Second World War, the diagnosis of psychopathy represented a failed attempt to adjust ‘difficult’ individuals to the social order. Discussing the social and medical character of the diagnosis, we examine psychopathy using the analytic and historical framework of social engineering in post-war Finland. We utilise patient records, official documents and psychiatric publications and analyse the diagnostic uses of psychopathy and its associations with social maladjustment. We also address the question of how mental health care in the less-developed northern part of Finland grappled with behavioural deviance, and especially with behaviour deemed ‘anti-social’. Contextualising psychopathy as a marker of individual disorganisation within the development of social organisation, this article contributes to historical scholarship that maps mental disorders onto the historical development of the nation.

 

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Another New Books Network Podcast Interview: Elizabeth Barnes on The Minority Body

From the New Books Network of podcasts is a new interview with Elizabeth Barnes on their recent book The Minority Body: A Theory of Disability.  As New Books Network describes,

We are all familiar with the idea that some persons are disabled. But what is disability? What makes it such that a condition–physical, cognitive, psychological–is a disability, rather than, say, a disease or illness? Is disability always and intrinsically bad? Are disabilities things to be cured? Might disabilities be merely ways of being different? And what role should the testimony and experiences of disabled persons play in addressing these questions?

Barnes argues that, at least for a range of physical conditions characterized as disabilities, disabilities are merely ways in which bodies can be different, not ways of their being intrinsically badly off. She argues that this view of disability as mere difference has important implications for broader moral and social issues concerning disabled persons; she also argues that her view is better able to respect the experiences and testimony of disabled persons.

The full interview between Robert Talisse and the author can be heard here.

 

 

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Winter 2017 Issue of JHBS

The first issue of the Journal of The History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available (Vol. 53, 1). It features four articles, the topics of which span the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries: early social surveying in Denmark; the replacement of Richard Avenarius’ work in the established history of the theoretical disagreement between Wundt and Külpe; the hybrid investigative research by Bowlby et al. at the Tavistock Clinic 1948-1956; and not least, the work by Gordon Gallop Jr. in the 1960s and 1970s on animal self-recognition as a lens to consider the often precluded compatibility between behaviorism and cognitive science. The abstracts for each follow after the jump.

Continue reading Winter 2017 Issue of JHBS

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Essay Review: “Putting the Present in the History of Autism”

Now in press at Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences is “Putting the Present in the History of Autism” by Sam Fellowes. In this essay review, Fellowes evaluates the history of autism as presented in two recent books, Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes and John Donvan & Karen Zucker’s In A Different Key.  As Fellowes writes in his introduction,

Recent media reviews of these books have been generally positive and although I highlight the positive elements, my primary focus is on some of the significant problems in these books. Both books have made some historical errors but they seem more problematic in Silberman’s case. Donvan & Zucker largely stick to describing a series of events whereas Silberman weaves specific events into a wider narrative, one which treats the modern classification of autism as correct scientific fact. The only evidence present in Neurotribes for this approach is implicit in Silberman’s history: the classification of autism employed historically used to be deeply flawed so therefore our modern notion is good. I will highlight problematic historical assertions both books make but largely focus upon showing how those errors undermine Silberman’s narrative. This critique gives more credibility to the alternative conceptions of autism he largely dismisses.

The full essay review can be found (behind a paywall) here.

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New in Medical History: “‘Electroshock Therapy’ in the Third Reich”

The January 2017 issue of Medical History includes an article that may be of interest to AHP readers: “‘Electroshock Therapy’ in the Third Reich,” by Lara Rzesnitzek and Sascha Lang. The abstract reads,

The history of ‘electroshock therapy’ (now known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)) in Europe in the Third Reich is still a neglected chapter in medical history. Since Thomas Szasz’s ‘From the Slaughterhouse to the Madhouse’, prejudices have hindered a thorough historical analysis of the introduction and early application of electroshock therapy during the period of National Socialism and the Second World War. Contrary to the assumption of a ‘dialectics of healing and killing’, the introduction of electroshock therapy in the German Reich and occupied territories was neither especially swift nor radical. Electroshock therapy, much like the preceding ‘shock therapies’, insulin coma therapy and cardiazol convulsive therapy, contradicted the genetic dogma of schizophrenia, in which only one ‘treatment’ was permissible: primary prevention by sterilisation. However, industrial companies such as Siemens–Reiniger–Werke AG (SRW) embraced the new development in medical technology. Moreover, they knew how to use existing patents on the electrical anaesthesia used for slaughtering to maintain a leading position in the new electroshock therapy market. Only after the end of the official ‘euthanasia’ murder operation in August 1941, entitled T4, did the psychiatric elite begin to promote electroshock therapy as a modern ‘unspecific’ treatment in order to reframe psychiatry as an ‘honorable’ medical discipline. War-related shortages hindered even the then politically supported production of electroshock devices. Research into electroshock therapy remained minimal and was mainly concerned with internationally shared safety concerns regarding its clinical application. However, within the Third Reich, electroshock therapy was not only introduced in psychiatric hospitals, asylums, and in the Auschwitz concentration camp in order to get patients back to work, it was also modified for ‘euthanasia’ murder.

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New Books Network Podcast Interview w/ Scott Selisker on Human Programming

New from the New Books Network of podcasts is an interview with Scott Selisker on his recent book Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons, and American Unfreedom.  As New Books Network describes, Selicker’s book

offers readers a fascinating new history of American anxieties along the borderland between the machine and the human mind. Demonstrating the way that a variety of fields influence and coproduce one another, Human Programming follows the metaphor of the automaton through news media, fiction, psychology, cybernetics, film, law and back again. Along the way, Selisker engages academic work on labor automation, posthumanism, affect and emotion, and techno-Orientalism.

Through careful interpretation of books on American soldiers returning from the Korean War, the trial of Patty Hearst, the narrative logic of Snow Crash and Blade Runner, the central conflicts of Homeland and the Manchurian Candidate, and the baffled news reports on John Walker Lindh, Human Programming “offers a new literary and cultural context for understanding the human automaton figure” as it has appeared and reappeared over the half century, and explores how the metaphor of the automaton has “shaped American conversations about the self and other, the free and unfree, and democracy and its enemies, since World War II” (7, 8). Beginning with a prehistory in WWII propaganda, this timely study comes up to a present in which we replace our employees with touchscreens, rely on machine learning to translate our conversations, use proprietary software to plot our routes, and deny the human freedom of our fellow citizens.

The full interview can be heard online here.

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Keynote psychologist reframes Indigenous youth suicide as response to Canadian colonization

Darien Thira, on left

CBC reports on an event held earlier in the month in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The Community Medicine Gathering was hosted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to bring educators, health workers, and adolescents together in response to a wave of youth suicides in First Nations communities. The keynote address was given by Darien Thira, whose psychological practice focuses on mental health and development consultancy for Indigenous populations in Canada.

Dr. Thira’s talk, which challenged how such suicides have been conceptualized in Canadian disciplinary psychology and public perception, was received enthusiastically by attendees and Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, Ron Michel. Thira’s assertions included that in this context, suicide is not a mental health issue, but rather a “natural but terrible response to colonization.” Further, that the appropriate response by our social systems to such situations is not to impose external expertise, which is the kind of logic that led to the establishment of ‘care’ programs like the residential schools. Instead, he advocates for systemic support and respect for the resources already present in communities.

Read the full article here. 

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The Journal of Genetic Psychology’s 125th Anniversary Issue

G. Stanley Hall founded this journal as The Pedagogical Seminary in 1891. The title was changed under the editorship of Carl Murchison in 1924 to The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, and then in 1954 the shift to its new focus was completed by reduction of the title to its current iteration.

The periodical has celebrated its history with a special volume that focuses on Stanley Hall, pedagogy, and the early 20th century field of developmental research. Abstracts for the included articles follow after the jump:

Continue reading The Journal of Genetic Psychology’s 125th Anniversary Issue

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New Fiction: Skinner’s Quests

A new novel, by Richard Gilbert, offers of fictionalized account of what might have happened had B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud met. Skinner’s Quests is described as follows:

Two of the best known psychologists of the twentieth century, B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud, never met. What if they had met? What if, as well, the young B.F. Skinner had discussed matters of mutual interest with Ludwig Wittgenstein, the century’s best known and most eccentric philosopher, also living in England in 1939?

Skinner’s Quests, a novel of ideas and relationships, describes a fictional trip to England by Skinner in May and June 1939. He traveled from his home in Minneapolis to London and Cambridge via Montreal and Glasgow. He returned via Lisbon and New York.

Skinner had two quests. Both were conceived by philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell, then at the University of Chicago. Both were to do with Russell’s former student Ludwig Wittgenstein – already the 20th century’s preeminent philosopher.

One quest was to correct what Russell regarded as Wittgenstein’s futile flirtation with behaviorism. (Russell had misunderstood Skinner’s position.)

The other quest, in collaboration with the White House, was to exploit Wittgenstein’s association with Adolf Hitler. The two were born a few days apart and were at high school together. Moreover, in 1939 Wittgenstein was involved with the German government, negotiating exemptions for his family from the Nuremburg (Race) Laws. He was also pally with the Soviet government.

Skinner had little interest in Wittgenstein. He welcomed the trip – over the strong objections of his wife – for a chance to meet Sigmund Freud, who was dying in London. Skinner was an admirer of Freud’s writings, even though he disagreed with much of what the founder of psychoanalysis had to say. Skinner met Freud, and Freud’s daughter Anna. In Cambridge, Skinner met Alan Turing as well as Wittgenstein. This was just after Turing had devised the modern computer and before he become a key figure in British cryptanalysis.

During the odyssey, Skinner met with other real and several fictional characters. Some of his encounters were romantic. Some were merely social. Some had a sinister edge that reflected the time of his travels, made during one of modern history’s most fraught periods.

Skinner’s odyssey had mixed success. He had little apparent impact on Wittgenstein, but he clarified his own thinking about several matters and provided information of possible value to the White House. Early in his odyssey, Skinner had visions of being the Darwin of the twentieth century, doing for psychology what Darwin had done for biology in the nineteenth century. Freud cautioned Skinner that his disregard for free will could become associated with totalitarianism. Skinner let the matter rest, at least for the moment.

The book will appeal to readers interested in some or all of these topics: psychology, philosophy, language, evolution, transportation in the 1930s, and the politics of North America and Europe just before the Second World War.

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