Category Archives: General

New Books Network Podcast Interview: Rebecca Lemov’s Database of Dreams

Now available from the New Books Network of podcasts is an interview with Rebecca Lemov on her recent book, Database of Dreams: The Lost Quest to Catalog Humanity. As the New Books Network describes,

Rebecca Lemov‘s beautifully written Database of Dreams: The Lost Quest to Catalog Humanity (Yale University Press, 2015) is at once an exploration of mid-century social science through paths less traveled and the tale of a forgotten future. The book is anchored around the story of Harvard-trained social scientist Bert Kaplan, who embarked on, in her words, a dizzyingly ambitious 1950s-era project to capture peoples dreams in large amounts and store them in an experimental data bank. While unique in scope, Kaplan’s project can be characterized as the culmination of efforts to apply techniques of personality capture–projective testing, dream analysis, and life history–in cross-cultural research on indigenous peoples, an effort to account for the full spectrum of human life amidst the encroachment of modernity upon cultures based, for example, in oral traditions.

Richly documenting the entanglements of Kaplan and others in their attempts to render subjects as data, Lemov throws the transactional nature of anthropology into relief. A data point for an ethnographer can be many things for a research subject: cash for buying American niceties, a beer, a dream lost in the act of recounting, even a permanent mark of distrust. The book is also a history of a technology which never came to fruition: the futuristic reader for Kaplan’s Microcards was never realized, and the boxes of cards became dispersed and lost their value as a total archive of human personality. Lemov argues that we would do well to regard the fate of Kaplan’s database as a parable for our age by calling attention to the information loss upon which the technologies of documentation that saturate our present rely. What, then, will become of our compressed audio files, forgotten social media accounts, and backup hard drives stashed in the back corners of drawers?

The full interview can be heard online here.

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May 4th Talk: History of Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care

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New HoP: “Active Touch” Pre-Gibson, Health Psych & S. Africa, & Digital History

James Gibson (left) and Julian Hochberg. Ecological Optics conference, Cornell University, 1970. (photo: Sverker Runeson)

The May issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue address the (lack of) health psychology in post-apartheid South Africa , the concept of “active touch” before the work of James Gibson, the Lvov-Warsaw School of historical psychology, and the teaching of the history of psychology in Spain. Two further articles contribute to the digital history of psychology: John Benjamin offers a Zipfian analysis of the anglophone vocabulary of psychology, while Michael Pettit argues for caution in using the Google Books Ngram Viewer as a means of assessing cultural change over time. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Psychology and health after apartheid: Or, Why there is no health psychology in South Africa,” by Jeffery Yen. The abstract reads,

As part of a growing literature on the histories of psychology in the Global South, this article outlines some historical developments in South African psychologists’ engagement with the problem of “health.” Alongside movements to formalize and professionalize a U.S.-style “health psychology” in the 1990s, there arose a parallel, eclectic, and more or less critical psychology that contested the meaning and determinants of health, transgressed disciplinary boundaries, and opposed the responsibilization of illness implicit in much health psychological theorizing and neoliberal discourse. This disciplinary bifurcation characterized South African work well into the postapartheid era, but ideological distinctions have receded in recent years under a new regime of knowledge production in thrall to the demands of the global market. The article outlines some of the historical-political roots of key trends in psychologists’ work on health in South Africa, examining the conditions that have impinged on its directions and priorities. It raises questions about the future trajectories of psychological research on health after 20 years of democracy, and argues that there currently is no “health psychology” in South Africa, and that the discipline is the better for it.

“Pre-Gibsonian observations on active touch,” by Armin Wagner. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: “Active Touch” Pre-Gibson, Health Psych & S. Africa, & Digital History

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Help Kickstart the National Museum of Psychology!

Kurt Lewin, Edward Tolman, and Clark Hull.

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the National Museum of Psychology at the Center. In just a few days the campaign has raised more than $17,000 of their $250,000 goal. Donations at every level come with rewards, including a number of fun history themed items (Stanford Prison Experiment t-shirt anyone?) and the opportunity to sponsor an aisle of the archives, a table in the reading room, and more.

Head on over to Kickstarter to back the project and help #KickstartHistory! (And don’t forget to spread the word to your friends and colleagues about this worthy and important endeavour!)

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Chomsky’s Linguistics: Between Behaviorism and Cognitive Science

The March 2016 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now online. An article by Gregory Radick on the place of Noam Chomsky’s linguistics in the borderlands of the history of psychology may be of interest to AHP readers.

“The Unmaking of a Modern Synthesis: Noam Chomsky, Charles Hockett, and the Politics of Behaviorism, 1955–1965,” by Gregory Radick. The abstract reads,

A familiar story about mid-twentieth-century American psychology tells of the abandonment of behaviorism for cognitive science. Between these two, however, lay a scientific borderland, muddy and much traveled. This essay relocates the origins of the Chomskyan program in linguistics there. Following his introduction of transformational generative grammar, Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) mounted a highly publicized attack on behaviorist psychology. Yet when he first developed that approach to grammar, he was a defender of behaviorism. His antibehaviorism emerged only in the course of what became a systematic repudiation of the work of the Cornell linguist C. F. Hockett (1916–2000). In the name of the positivist Unity of Science movement, Hockett had synthesized an approach to grammar based on statistical communication theory; a behaviorist view of language acquisition in children as a process of association and analogy; and an interest in uncovering the Darwinian origins of language. In criticizing Hockett on grammar, Chomsky came to engage gradually and critically with the whole Hockettian synthesis. Situating Chomsky thus within his own disciplinary matrix suggests lessons for students of disciplinary politics generally and—famously with Chomsky—the place of political discipline within a scientific life.

 

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Weekend Listening with the CBC and BBC

podcasts combinedA couple of history of psychology related pieces cropped up from podcast land just in time to shift into gear for the weekend. For your listening pleasure, from CBC Radio’s Ideas and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, episodes on transcultural psychiatry and the early history of Bethlem Royal Hospital, respectively.

 

CBC’s Ideas with Peter Kennedy: Like I Was Talking to Myself in the Mirror 

Synopsis: Early in the twentieth century German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin travelled to Indonesia to see how mental illnesses there compared to what he knew back home. Transcultural psychiatry was born. Today McGill University is a world leader in the research and practice of a branch of psychiatry with links to anthropology, cultural studies and family therapy. David Gutnick steps into a world where treatment relies less on medication and more on talk and understanding.

Click here for highlight clips and reels, and info on the feature psychiatrists.

 

BBC’s In Our Time: Bedlam

Synopsis: Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the early years of Bedlam, the name commonly used for the London hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem outside Bishopsgate.

Click here for links and further reading.

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3 year Post-Doctoral Fellowship with Hidden Persuaders

The Wellcome Trust funded ‘Hidden Persuaders? Brainwashing, Culture, Clinical Knowledge and the Cold War Human Sciences, c. 1950-1990’ has announced a new 3-year post-doctoral fellowship. Applications for the position are due April 13th and interviews will take place April 28th. The project, lead by historian Daniel Pick, investigates how

The reputations of the ‘psy’ professions – and the status of their ideas – were altered by controversies, myths and testimonies about ‘brainwashing’ in its various guises during the Cold War. Our project uncovers new source materials and promotes original analyses of the involvement (real and perceived) of clinicians in brainwashing and its cognate practices of interrogation, psychological warfare, subliminal advertisement, and therapeutic experimentation. We consider what ethical guidelines and safeguards, past or present, have been formulated to deal with the dangers of mind control so powerfully articulated during the Cold War.

By exploring these historical debates over mind control and their continuing legacies for psy expertise, Hidden Persuaders offers timely historical analysis of continuing present-day controversies. The language of ‘brainwashing’ continues to influence, in diverse and unexpected ways, present understanding of the relationship between the individual and the state; the nature of the therapeutic encounter between patient and psy-professional; and the borderlands between education, persuasion and indoctrination.

Full details about the post-doctoral fellowship:

The new post-doctoral fellow will work closely with the Hidden Persuaders team to produce original research, organise academic conferences and public events, and also assist with various other outputs in the form of edited volumes, film, web resources and more. The post-doc will join our growing network of historians and practitioners of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and psychology, and should focus his/her research contributions on one or more distinct strands of the Hidden Persuaders project.

We would welcome applications from academics with prior knowledge of the history of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and/or psychology. Some previous familiarity with post-war political and/or cultural history would also be an asset. A working knowledge of one or more European languages other than English, e.g., Russian, German, Spanish or French would be useful, as would facility in one or more Asian languages (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer or Malay). The ability and willingness of the appointee to travel and work for several weeks at a stretch in overseas archives (as required) is essential, as part of the post-doctoral fellow’s task will be to gather and analyse data on perceptions and use of psychological warfare and indoctrination in various Cold War campaigns overseas.

The closing date for completed applications is midnight on Wednesday 13 April 2016.

Interviews will be held on Thursday 28 April 2016.

For further information, please consult the job announcement on Birkbeck’s website.

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Eysenck’s Centenary in The Psychologist

The March issue of The Psychologist, the flagship magazine of the British Psychological Society, includes an article marking the centenary of psychologist Hans Eysenck’s birth. Eysenck, a controversial and very public figure within psychology, would have celebrated this milestone birthday on March 4th 2016. As the article notes,

Hans J. Eysenck (1916–1997) enjoyed an extraordinary life in British psychology, much of it played out in the limelight of public attention. His fame and influence extended beyond the shores of these isles, to encompass the globe. He inspired generations of psychologists, many of whom were enthralled by his popular books that made psychology seem so vital, relevant and even urgent. His was an open invitation: arise from the supine position on the analytical couch, leap out from the comfort of the philosophical armchair, and visit the psychology laboratory – one chapter in Fact and Fiction in Psychology (Eysenck, 1965a) is titled, ‘Visit to a psychological laboratory’. His easy-to-understand causal theories of ‘what makes people tick’ (exposing the inner working of the human clock) were especially fascinating to an inquisitive public. He also courted controversy: his style of advocating change and some of the positions he took, especially on politically charged issues like race and IQ, attracted criticism of his work, and of him.

The full piece can be read online here.

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IamPsyched! Museum Day Live! Inspiring Histories, Inspiring Lives: Women of Color in Psychology

As we mentioned previously on AHP a special IamPsyched! Museum Day Live exhibit is planned for March 12th at the APA Capitol View Conference Center. The event, “Inspiring Histories, Inspiring Lives: Women of Color in Psychology,”  is a collaboration between the American Psychological Association Women’s Programs Office, the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron and Psychology’s Feminist Voices Oral History and Digital Archive Project, in partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls. The initiative aims to “immerse museum-goers in the histories of women of color in psychology and their legacies for contemporary psychology.” The event will feature a curated, interactive exhibit, a live-streamed interactive discussion, and empowering activities for girls. Full details can now be found on exhibit’s webpage.

In advance of the big day you can also join in the social media excitement by pledging your support on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr through Thunderclap. This platform allows social media postings to be pre-scheduled and unleashed all at once, like an online flash mob. When you sign up to share the IamPsyched! message, it will automatically post just this one message on your behalf. Go here to schedule your Tweet or Facebook post now!

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Call for Nominations: Sonnedecker Prize in the History of Pharmacy

pharmacyDid you or someone you know publish an article in 2015 that touches on the history of pharmacy practice (or education) in the U.S.? Nominate yourselves for the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy 2016 Glenn Sonnedecker prize!

The award, which honours the historian’s contributions to that field, consists of $1,000 and a commemorative plaque.  Submission deadline is June 30.

Further details on the competition can be found here.

Find out more about the AIHP, which is housed at U of Wisconsin-Madison (including student research support programs, archival collections, and other research resources and materials).

Find out more about Sonnedecker’s work here.

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