Steven Shapin on Autism: “Seeing the Spectrum” in The New Yorker

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker historian of science Steven Shapin explores the complicated history of autism in his review of John Donvan and Caren Zucker’s new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. As Shapin writes,

The history of how autism was discovered, how the term entered the vocabulary of psychological expertise and also of everyday speech, and how its identity has evolved has been told many times. Chloe Silverman’s 2012 book, “Understanding Autism,” is the most sensitive account by an academic historian, and Steve Silberman’s best-selling work “NeuroTribes” (2015) is a deep history of autism, which ends up as a discussion of how we ought to think about it today. Now comes “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown). The authors are journalists, and, like many writers on the subject, they have a personal interest in autism. Donvan has a severely autistic brother-in-law. Zucker’s son has autism, and so does a grandson of Robert MacNeil, a former anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” for which Zucker produced a series of programs on the condition. Appropriately, a major focus of the book is on autism in the family and the changing historical role of parents of autistic children. “In a Different Key” is a story about autism as it has passed through largely American institutions, shaped not only by psychiatrists and psychologists but by parents, schools, politicians, and lawyers. It shows how, in turn, the condition acquired a powerful capacity both to change those institutions and to challenge our notions of what is pathological and what is normal.

The full review can be read online here.

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UCL/BPS Talk Feb 1: “Kinaesthesia and the Avant-garde”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the another talk in their 2016 seminar series. On Monday February 1st Irina Sirotkina (right) will speak on “Kinaesthesia and the Avant-garde.” Full details follow below.

UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Monday 1 February 2016

Dr. Irina Sirotkina (Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Moscow)

Kinaesthesia and the Avant-garde

With a project as much anthropological as artistic, the re-creation of the human being and the renewal of human feelings, the avant-garde could not and did not ignore kinaesthesia. Filipo Marinetti conceived of a new art of touch — ‘tactilism’; with the futurist artist Benedetta Cappa, he created palpable ‘tables for the travelling hand.’ Avant-garde artists reassessed the ideas of theosophy and anthroposophy about ‘higher sensitivity’ — an unmediated access through feelings to the other, higher world. Vassily Kandinsky wrote on ‘fine sensitivity’ as a direct perception of ‘abstraction’ and on ‘abstract motion’ and dance, and Mikhail Matiushin experimented with ‘enlarged vision’ which included kinaesthesia and other feelings.
Many of the avant-garde artists were athletic and adroit, danced, played in theatre and cinema, fought and engaged in sport. They were eager to use kinaesthesia as a creative resource: Vladimir Mayakovsky, for example, insisted on composing verses in motion.

The avant-garde stressed practical ‘know how,’ the skill, the art of doing, in opposition to theoretical ‘knowing what.’ For making such knowledge, kinaesthesia is indispensable. In Russia, the post-Revolutionary cult of labour, the production art (proizvodstvennoe iskusstvo) and constructivism facilitated the growth of such knowledge, an alternative to academic forms. Yet it was initiated earlier, by the Russian Formalists, who adored dance, sport, theatre and the circus. By questioning the traditional hierarchy in which practice is inferior to theory, the avant-garde artists contemplated a “kinaesthetic turn” in the humanities. A century later, on the way to legitimating this new kind of knowledge, the avant-garde artists are still in the avant-garde.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.

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New Popular Book on the History of Autism

9780307985675ABC news correspondent Jon Donvan and producer Caren Zucker culminate their decade plus of reporting on the topic with a cultural history of autism, In a Different Key. Their narrative is populated with the landmark Cases (Donald T) and renowned researchers (Kanner, Asperger), but also those of the condition’s “pre-history,” phrenologists, mentalists, institutional administrators. The authors’ scope spans the shifting landscape of its social politics, theoretical, diagnostic and management controversies, making a grounded case for neurodiversity-oriented reform.

Here are links to the authors’ various pieces on the project from around the net:

 

 

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UCL/BPS Talk Jan 25th: “Disordered in Morals and Mind: Prisoners and Mental Illness Late 19th c. England”

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the first talk in their 2016 seminar series. On Monday January 25th Hilary Marland will speak on “Disordered in morals and mind: prisoners and mental illness late nineteenth-century England.” Full details follow below.

Monday 25th January

UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Professor Hilary Marland (University of Warwick)

“Disordered in morals and mind: prisoners and mental illness late nineteenth-century England”

From the early nineteenth century to the current day reformers, policy makers, prison governors and medical officers have grappled with relentlessly high levels of mental illness in prisons. Since the creation of ‘modern’ and specialised prisons and prison regimes, prison regimes and conditions – the separate system, solitary confinement and overcrowding – were criticised for their impact on the mental wellbeing of their inmates. This paper explores the management of mentally ill prisoners in the late nineteenth century, paying particular attention to Liverpool Borough Prison. Managing mentally ill prisoners – male and female – became a significant part of the prison surgeons’ workload and a drain on the prison’s resources. Drawing on underexploited prison archives, official papers, medical literature, and asylum casebooks, this paper examines the efforts of prison officers to cope with mental illness among prison populations, and how these drew on, reflected and reinforced late nineteenth-century preoccupations with the criminal mind.

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.

Location:  Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foster court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.

Organiser: Prof Sonu Shamdasani, UCL

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NIMH’s Insel moves to Google….

InselAPA’s Monitor reports that after 13 years as director of the American National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel is joining Verily, the Life Sciences Division of Google’s new Alphabet Inc. empire.

His vision for Google’s role in reforming mental health care creates an unprecedented intersection between the fraught social politics of public surveillance, ‘philanthrocapitalism‘ and the psychological industries:

“Google’s strength in data analytics could be leveraged to identify patterns such as changes in cognition and behavior that are difficult to detect in the early stages of psychosis, he says. In many cases, people who were eventually diagnosed with the disease went undiagnosed for years because their initial symptoms masked themselves as traditional adolescent behavior, such as isolation from others and difficulty with academics, Insel says. Smartphones, for example, could collect speech data that would be plugged into an algorithm that detects disorganized speech patterns indicative of psychosis.”

Read the full article here. Conversation on the topic welcome and encouraged.

 

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Recent Blog Post: “Surgery for Desperados” On Neurosurgical Solutions to Criminality

In a recent post on the history of medicine blog Remedia historian of science Delia Gavrus documents efforts to reform criminals through brain surgery. These surgeries, undertaken from the late-nineteenth century through the 1920s, helped set the stage for the advent of the lobotomy in the 1930s. As Gavrus notes,

The belief that surgery on the skull and brain could cure afflictions of the mind may appear out of place in the 1920s, coming as it did many years before the Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz developed a psychosurgical technique in which the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain were severed in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of mental illness (the prefrontal leucotomy or lobotomy, first performed in 1935).

In fact, ‘escaping’ prison by way of surgery on the skull or brain was far from unprecedented in the decades before the introduction of lobotomy. If Gardner didn’t learn about the procedure from a doctor, he might very well have been inspired by the many stories similar to his own which appeared in the newspapers. For instance, a decade and a half earlier, a notorious check forger underwent a much talked about skull operation that drew commentary even from a former chief of the United States Secret Service. The Governor of New York pardoned Edward Grimmell because “[m]any scientific men are interested in seeing whether his criminal tendencies have disappeared, which can only be determined by his conduct when at large […] I am willing that the Parole Board should permit the experiment to be tried in this case […].”

The full post can be read online here.

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New Article: “Scientometric Trend Analyses of Publications on the History of Psychology”

Günter Krampen

A new open access article forthcoming in the journal Scientometrics looking at publication trends in the history of psychology may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Scientometric trend analyses of publications on the history of psychology: Is psychology becoming an unhistorical science?,” by Günter Krampen. The abstract reads,

Examines scientometrically the trends in and the recent situation of research on and the teaching of the history of psychology in the German-speaking countries and compares the findings with the situation in other countries (mainly the United States) by means of the psychology databases PSYNDEX and PsycINFO. Declines of publications on the history of psychology are described scientometrically for both research communities since the 1990s. Some impulses are suggested for the future of research on and the teaching of the history of psychology. These include (1) the necessity and significance of an intensified use of quantitative, unobtrusive scientometric methods in historiography in times of digital “big data”, (2) the necessity and possibilities to integrate qualitative and quantitative methodologies in historical research and teaching, (3) the reasonableness of interdisciplinary cooperation of specialist historians, scientometricians, and psychologists, (4) the meaningfulness and necessity to explore, investigate, and teach more intensively the past and the problem history of psychology as well as the understanding of the subject matter of psychology in its historical development in cultural contexts. The outlook on the future of such a more up-to-date research on and teaching of the history of psychology is—with some caution—positive.

The full article can be accessed online here.

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Deadline Extended for Joint ESHHS & Cheiron Meeting Submissions

The deadline for submissions to the 2016 joint meeting of ESHHS & Cheiron has been extended to January 25th, 2016. The full call for papers follows below. More details on the meeting can be found here.

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

ESHHS and CHEIRON invite submissions to their joint conference to be held from June 27 to July 1, 2016, at the Centre for History of Science (CEHIC), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Sessions, papers, workshops, round-tables and posters may deal with any aspect of the history of the human, behavioural or social sciences. However, this year’s conference will devote particular interest in topics such as:

  • historiography
  • history and philosophy of science
  • popularization of science and the role of experts in modern society
  • the circulation of science and technology in the European periphery

Submissions: must be received by January 25, 2016 (there will no more changes of the date from now on). Please send your proposal electronically as attachment in MSWord (.doc/.docx) to the three members of the programme committee:

Ø  Ingrid Farreras (farreras@hood.edu)

Ø  Sharman Levinson (slevinson.eshhs@gmail.com)

Ø  Annette Mülberger (annette.mulberger@uab.cat)

Only original papers should be sent. Please indicate the submission type (session, paper, poster, workshop or round-table proposal). Any submission must include the name, email, and institutional address of the author.

Papers: send a 500-600 word abstract in English plus short bibliography. In case your communication will be in another language, please inform the committee in order to assist in planning linguistic support, if necessary. 

Posters: send a 300 word abstract.

Session, workshop or round-table: send a 500-600 word rationale of the event (plus short bibliography) as well as a short abstract for each paper or intervention.

Notification of acceptance will be sent by February 29, 2016.

A limited number of travel stipends will be available to students or scholars who present a paper or a poster and need economic support. Please indicate along with your submission if you wish to be considered for this arrangement.

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New Books in History Podcast: Dan Bouk’s How Our Days Became Numbered


The New Books in History podcast series, part of the New Books Network, has released an episode with historian Dan Bouk about his recent book, How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual, which may be of interest to AHP readers. As New Books in History describes,

Who made life risky? In his dynamic new book, How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual(University of Chicago Press, 2015), historian Dan Bouk argues that starting in the late nineteenth century, the life-insurance industry embedded risk-making within American society and American psyches. Bouk is assistant professor of history at Colgate University, and his new book shows how insurers categorized individuals and grouped social classes in ways that assigned monetary value to race, class, lifestyles, and bodies. With lively prose, Bouk gives historical context and character to the rise of the “statistical individual” from the Guided Age to the New Deal. Bouk’s primary argument is that risks did not always already exist, nor was risk invented by the medical establishment. Instead, the threat (and reality) of economic crisis helped insurers to create risk as a commodity, and eventually to control the lives it measured. As Bouk phrases it in the interview, “Insurers improved their bottom line by improving Americans’ bottom lines.” Bouk invites readers critically to reflect upon how we have come to see ourselves through a statistical lens in our daily lives– an issue of continued relevance in the age of big data and vast analytical capabilities.

The full episode can be found here.

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Mar. 12th Pop-Up Museum Explores Contributions of Women of Colour in Psych

Alberta Banner Turner, 1909-2008, Archives of the History of American Psychology, The University of Akron.

As part of the Smithsonian’s Museum Day Live! events on March 12th – National Girl Scout Day – a special pop-up museum exploring the contributions of women of colour in psychology will be launched. The pop-up museum, I Am Psyched!, is a collaboration between the American Psychological Association, The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology (a Smithsonian Affiliate), and Psychology’s Feminist Voices. In a recent blog post on the Smithsonian Affiliate blog, the project is described as focusing

on illuminating the past, present, and future of women of color in the field of psychology. Historically, psychology has been dominated by white men. However, the period following World War II and the Civil Rights Movement, women of color entered the field in greater numbers, leaving inspirational stories and paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive psychology.

I Am Psyched! explores these stories and celebrates the legacies of these women through a pop-up museum exhibit, a live-streamed conversation hour with groundbreaking women psychologists, and on-site and virtual learning activities.

The pop-up exhibit, to be installed at the American Psychological Association’s Capitol View Conference Center in Washington, DC, will feature film, sound recordings, images, artifacts, and letters that tell the fascinating story of how women of color have and continue to contribute to psychology.

Full details are available here.

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