A newly published article by Andy Byford (left) on “The imperfect child in early twentieth-century Russia” may be of interest to AHP readers. The article is currently available open access in the journal History of Education. The abstract reads,
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The article discusses the role that conceptualisations of child ‘imperfection’ played in the rise and fall of Russian ‘child study’ between the 1900s and the 1930s. Drawing on Georges Canguilhem’s ideas on ‘the normal’ and ‘the pathological’, the article analyses practices centred on diagnosing subnormality and pathology in the Russian child population in the late tsarist and early Soviet eras. It first examines mutually competing normative regimes that framed categorisations of ‘imperfection’ among Russia’s children in the context of the empire’s accelerated, yet ambivalent modernisation during the 1900s–1910s. It then charts the expansion of this diagnostics in the first decade or so of the Soviet regime, following its shift in focus from the early-1920s’ ‘delinquent child’ to the late-1920s’ ‘mass child’. The article concludes with a discussion of the emergence, over this same period, of the Russian field of medicalised special education known as ‘defectology’. It argues that defectology’s disciplinary specificity crystallised in 1936 around a purposely restrictive concept of ‘imperfection’, understood as individualised and clinically established pathological ‘impairment’. The latter conceptualisation became fixed at the height of Stalinism as a strategic counter to the expansive flux in which the diagnostics and conceptualisation of child ‘imperfection’ had otherwise been over the first three decades of the twentieth century in the context of the remarkable rise of child study during this period.
The October 2014 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Among the articles included in this issue are ones exploring the relationship between psychology and ethnology, the role of mental tests in Russian child science, and the Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa by Wahbie Long (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“On relations between ethnology and psychology in historical context,” by Gustav Jahoda. The abstract reads,
Ever since records began, accounts of other peoples and their institutions and customs have included comments about their mental characteristics. The present article traces this feature from the 18th century to roughly the First World War, with a brief sketch of more recent developments. For most of this period two contrasting positions prevailed: the dominant one attributed human differences to ‘race’, while the other one explained them in terms of psychological, environmental and historical factors. The present account focuses on the latter, among them those who asserted ‘the psychic unity of mankind’. Generally it is shown that from the early period when writings were based almost entirely on secondary sources, to the beginnings of empirical studies, ethnological theories were indissolubly linked to psychological concerns.
“The mental test as a boundary object in early-20th-century Russian child science,” by Andy Byford. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HHS: Psych & Ethnology, Mental Tests in Russia, & More!
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Psychologists of a certain age (roughly, over 40) may recall the considerable public controversy that erupted over an 1998 article published in Psychological Bulletin (124, 22-53) entitled, “A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples.” The article, written by Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch, and Robert Bauserman, argued against the widespread belief that child sexual abuse is always traumatic and damaging. Instead, the authors wrote that “self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA [child sexual abuse] indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and tha[t] men reacted much less negatively than women…. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported.” The article drew a storm of protest, most notably from conservative members of the US Congress, who condemn the article and made dark noises about responding to it by pulling funding for behavioral research. The American Psychological Association scrambled in limit the damage while simultaneously trying not to appear to be buckling to overt political pressure (see Scott O. Lilienfeld’s comment in a 2002 issue of the American Psychologist). The article was later heavily criticized on methodological grounds by Stephanie J. Dallam.
The first author of that article, Bruce Rind, is back in the news again because a piece he has written on a related topic, though about ancient Greece, has been refused by two different publishers who, apparently, are not willing to weather the same sort of backlash. Continue reading Who Prevails When Academic Freedom Threatens the Bottom Line?
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