New JHBS: Intelligence Testing in India, Racism in South Africa, & More

The autumn 2014 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue discuss the race and professional organizations in South Africa, intelligence testing in British India, and discussion over psychical, occult, and religious research at early twentieth century international congresses. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The Rhetoric of Racism: Revisiting the Creation of the Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa (1956–1962),” by Wahbie Long. The abstract reads,

This paper revisits the 1962 splitting of the South African Psychological Association (SAPA), when disaffected Afrikaner psychologists broke away to form the whites-only Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa (PIRSA). It presents an analysis of the rhetorical justification for forming a new professional association on principles at odds with prevailing international norms, demonstrating how the episode involved more than the question of admitting black psychologists to the association. In particular, the paper argues that the SAPA-PIRSA separation resulted from an Afrikaner nationalist reading of the goals of psychological science. PIRSA, that is, insisted on promoting a discipline committed to the ethnic-national vision of the apartheid state. For its part, SAPA’s racial integration was of a nominal order only, ostensibly to protect itself from international sanction. The paper concludes that, in a racist society, it is difficult to produce anything other than a racist psychology.

“Searching for South Asian Intelligence: Psychometry in British India, 1919–1940,” by Shivrang Setlur. The abstract reads,

This paper describes the introduction and development of intelligence testing in British India. Between 1919 and 1940 experimenters such as C. Herbert Rice, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, and Venkatrao Vithal Kamat imported a number of intelligence tests, adapting them to suit a variety of South Asian languages and contexts. Charting South Asian psychometry’s gradual move from American missionary efforts toward the state, this paper argues that political reforms in the 1920s and 1930s affected how psychometry was “indigenized” in South Asia. Describing how approaches to race and caste shifted across instruments and over time, this paper charts the gradual recession, within South Asian psychometry, of a “race” theory of caste. Describing some of the ways in which this “late colonial” period affected the postcolonial landscape, the paper concludes by suggesting potential lines for further inquiry into the later career of intelligence testing in India and Pakistan.

“A Tale of Two Congresses: The Psychological Study of Psychical, Occult, and Religious Phenomena, 1900–1909,” by Ann Taves. The abstract reads,

In so far as researchers viewed psychical, occult, and religious phenomena as both objectively verifiable and resistant to extant scientific explanations, their study posed thorny issues for experimental psychologists. Controversies over the study of psychical and occult phenomena at the Fourth Congress of International Psychology (Paris, 1900) and religious phenomena at the Sixth (Geneva, 1909) raise the question of why the latter was accepted as a legitimate object of study, whereas the former was not. Comparison of the Congresses suggests that those interested in the study of religion were willing to forego the quest for objective evidence and focus on experience, whereas those most invested in psychical research were not. The shift in focus did not overcome many of the methodological difficulties. Sub-specialization formalized distinctions between psychical, religious, and pathological phenomena; obscured similarities; and undercut the nascent comparative study of unusual experiences that had emerged at the early Congresses.

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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.

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