New JHBS: Psychiatry & Religion, Magnétisme, & More

The Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatry and religion in the mid-twentieth century, continuities from magnétisme in late-nineteenth century discourse on hypnotism, and more. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“THE POLITICS OF PSYCHIATRY AND THE VICISSITUDES OF FAITH CIRCA 1950: KARL STERN’S PSYCHIATRIC NOVEL,” by Daniel Burston. The abstract reads,

Karl Stern, MD (1906–1975) was the author of The Pillar of Fire (1951) and three nonfiction books on psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and religion. His novel, Through Dooms of Love (1960), written with the assistance of his friend and admirer Graham Greene, covers a number of topics that were to psychiatric theory, treatment, and research at mid-century, and reflects several features of his own personal and professional vicissitudes.

“IMPERCEPTIBLE SIGNS: REMNANTS OF MAGNÉTISME IN SCIENTIFIC DISCOURSES ON HYPNOTISM IN LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE,” by KIM M. HAJEK. The abstract reads,

In 1880s France, hypnotism enjoyed unique medico-scientific legitimacy. This was in striking contrast to preceding decades when its precursor, magnétisme animal, was rejected by the medical/academic establishment as a disreputable, supernaturally tinged practice. Did the legitimation of hypnotism result from researchers repudiating any reference to the wondrous? Or did strands of magnetic thinking persist? This article interrogates the relations among hypnotism, magnétisme, and the domain of the wondrous through close analysis of scientific texts on hypnotism. In question is the notion that somnambulist subjects possessed hyperacute senses, enabling them to perceive usually imperceptible signs, and thus inadvertently to denature researchers’ experiments (a phenomenon known as unconscious suggestion). The article explores researchers’ uncritical and unanimous acceptance of these ideas, arguing that they originate in a holdover from magnétisme. This complicates our understanding of the continuities and discontinuities between science and a precursor “pseudo-science,” and, more narrowly, of the notorious Salpêtrière-Nancy “battle” over hypnotism.

“KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGIES, “SUPPLE” OBJECTS, AND DIFFERENT PRIORITIES ACROSS WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES PROGRAMS AND DEPARTMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970–2010,” by Christine Virginia Wood. The abstract reads,

This article examines the evolving connections between local conditions and knowledge processes in women’s and gender studies, a research field in the social sciences and humanities. Data are historical records from five early-adopting women’s and gender studies units in the United States and interviews with affiliated professors. In their formative years, these programs were consistent in their intellectual content. Scholars across sites defined the purpose of women’s studies similarly: to address the lack of research on women and social problems of sex inequality. Gradually, scholars incorporated a range of analytic categories into women’s studies’ agenda, including gender identities and masculinities, leading to diverse understandings and redefinitions of the central objects of analysis. Analytic shifts are reflected in differences in the institutional and intellectual composition of programs and departments. To explain how local departmental conditions affect the conception of core objects of study in gender research, the author builds on the literature on knowledge ecologies and introduces the concept of the “supple object.”

““THE MAN WHO COMMITTED A HUNDRED BURGLARIES”: MARK BENNEY’S STRANGE AND EVENTFUL SOCIOLOGICAL CAREER,” by Raymond M. Lee. The abstract reads,

This article examines the life and career of the sociologist Mark Benney. It describes the processes, not all of them edifying, by which he made the transition from life as a career criminal, via literature, to become a sociologist first at the London School of Economics and then at the University of Chicago. Benney’s career is then used to illuminate particular episodes in the history of sociology, including the attempt to introduce into British sociology in the period after the Second World War quantitative survey techniques of the kind that were then becoming more widely used in the United States, and his work with David Riesman on the Interview Project, Riesman’s attempt to develop a empirically based sociology of the interview.

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About Jacy Young

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

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