History of the Human Sciences in Isis

The most recent issue of Isis, the journal of the History of Science Society, includes two articles on the history of the human sciences. Leila Zenderland explores the work of Max Weinreich (above) on culture and personality at the Yiddish Scientific Institute, while in the issue’s Focus section, Global Currents in National Histories of Science: The “Global Turn” and the History of Science in Latin America, Julia Rodriguez looks at the historiography of the human sciences in Latin America. Full titles, authors, and abstracts – along with human science related book reviews – follow below.

“Social Science as a “Weapon of the Weak”: Max Weinreich, the Yiddish Scientific Institute, and the Study of Culture, Personality, and Prejudice,” by Leila Zenderland. The abstract reads,

This essay examines Max Weinreich’s efforts to turn “culture and personality studies” into social and psychological weapons that could be used to combat the effects of prejudice. It focuses on language choice, audience, and purpose in the production of such knowledge by and for a Yiddish-speaking Eastern European population. During the 1930s, Weinreich led the Yiddish Scientific Institute, a research organization headquartered in Poland but affiliated with neither a state nor a university. He was profoundly influenced by a year spent at Yale and a trip through the American South visiting segregated African-American universities. In his 1935 study Der veg tsu undzer yugnt [The Way to Our Youth], Weinreich blended European, Soviet, American, and African-American research traditions to examine the effects of prejudice on child and adolescent development; he also considered the ways members of “despised minorities” could use such science. In 1940 he fled to New York and in 1946 published Hitler’s Professors, the first book analyzing the uses of the human sciences to advance Nazi state-sponsored antisemitism. In examining Weinreich’s Yiddish and English writings, this essay explores the broader relationship of social science not only to state power but also to statelessness and powerlessness.

“Beyond Prejudice and Pride: The Human Sciences in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Latin America,” by Julia Rodriguez. The abstract reads,

Grappling with problematics of status and hierarchy, recent literature on the history of the human sciences in Latin America has gone through three overlapping phases. First, the scholarship has reflected a dialogue between Latin American scientists and their European colleagues, characterized by the “center/periphery” model of scientific diffusion. Next, scholars drew on postcolonial theory to undermine the power of the “center” and to recover the role of local agents, including both elites and subalterns. In the wake of numerous studies embracing both models, the way has been cleared to look at multiple dimensions simultaneously. Histories of the human sciences in the complex multicultural societies of Latin America provide an unusually direct path to integration. Moreover, this dynamic and multilayered approach has the potential to address ambivalences about authority and power that have characterized previous analyses of the production and application of knowledge about the human condition.

Book Reviews
Peter Lamont. Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological Problem. Review by: Michael Pettit.

Nicolas Langlitz. Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain. Review by: Chris Elcock

Melissa M. Littlefield; Jenell M. Johnson, eds. The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain. Review by: Stephen Jacyna

Paul Wouters, Anne Beaulieu, Andrea Scharnhorst, & Sally Wyatt. (Eds.). Virtual Knowledge: Experimenting in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Review by: Joshua W. Clegg.

Share on Facebook

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *