Tag Archives: historiography

“The ‘crisis’ of psychology between fragmentation and integration: The Italian case”

In an article forthcoming in Theory & Psychology Mariagrazia Proietto and Giovanni Pietro Lombardo explore the history of the idea of “crisis” in psychology through the lens of Italian psychology. The article is now available OnlineFirst here. Full title and abstract follow below.

“The “crisis” of psychology between fragmentation and integration: The Italian case,” by Mariagrazia Proietto and Giovanni Pietro Lombardo. The abstract reads,

Crisis, as a construct, recurs in the history of psychology and has attracted the attention of psychological historians and philosophers in recent years, who have given life not only to a debate about psychological historiography, but also to a philosophical-epistemological reflection about the foundations of scientific psychology. These scholars, however, ignore the Italian literature on the theme, which is rich with useful details for both areas. After an analysis of the different meanings historically applied to the term crisis, this article examines the history of Italian psychology with a description of the origins and developments and with special attention paid to the construct of crisis. The analysis covers both the output of early 20th-century Italian psychologists on the theme, and how this has been treated in historians’ reconstruction of the theme. The article provides new historiographical elements within the framework of international research on the crisis.

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Publication Announcement: The Wiley Handbook of Theoretical & Philosophical Psychology

1118748336This month saw the publication of a collaborative text on theoretical and philosophical psychology, edited by Jack Martin, Jeff Sugarman, and Kathleen Slaney out of Simon Fraser University.

The volume is comprised of sections on: philosophical/conceptual approaches, historical approaches, narrative and social psychological approaches, and theoretical studies of scientific, professional, and life practices.

Chapters of particular interest to our readership include:

  • Theory for and as Social Practice of Realizing the Future: Implications from a Transformative Activist Stance, by Anna Stetsenko
  • Historical Thinking as a Tool for Theoretical Psychology: On Objectivity by Thomas Teo
  • The History of Psychological Objects by Adrian Brock
  • Historical Ontology, by Jeff Sugarman
  • Historiometry, by Dean Keith Simonton
  • Statistical Thinking in Psychological Research: In Quest of Clarity through Historical Inquiry and Conceptual Analysis, by James T. Lamiell
  • Allies in Interdisciplinary Spaces: Theoretical and Science Studies, by Kareen R. Malone and Lisa M. Osbeck
  • Feminism and Theoretical Psychology, by Alexandra Rutherford, Kate Sheese, and Nora Ruck

The book can be purchased here.

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Nordic Network for Madness Studies

madness studies cropContinuing the theme of the history of madness that has organically cropped up in our posts as of late, the Finnish University of Oulu‘s  Department of the History of Science and Ideas has launched a new forum for scholars of madness as a substantive topic with a geographic focus on the Nordic region specifically, Europe at large, but with a global scope.

Their mission statement is as follows:

The main purpose of Madness Studies is to provide a useful platform for communication, cooperation and collaboration across national borders and disciplinary boundaries. At this early stage, the primary goal is to compile data about scholars, doctoral students and research groups involved in research activities, as well as inform about conferences, journals, books and primary sources. Potential future forms of activities include a founding of a society and organization of meetings devoted to the multidisciplinary aspects of madness.

Current projects include: modern depression and contemporary culture in Finland,  a history of the life and conditions of Danish children and adults who were taken into public care during the period 1945–1980,  mental health, medicine and social engineering in 20th century Finland, and perspectives on current forms of social vulnerabilities in contemporary Finnish society.

Current scholars range from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, and Spain in Europe, to Canada, the US, Argentina, and Australia.

Find further details here. Apply to join the network here!

 

 

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Call for Participation: Interviews with Archival Researchers

Humanites_Numeriques-550x300Here at AHP, we’re interested in fostering conversation about historiographic theory and methods, and as we have access to such a vibrant community of historians and allied researchers, I thought I’d forward this query posted on the H-Public discussions section of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. 

Alexandra Chassanoff from the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is looking for assistance with her doctoral research in the form of participation by “individuals who have used digitized photographs in their scholarly activities (teaching, publications, presentations, or related research pursuits). ”

Here are further details:

The interview should take approximately one hour and can be conducted in person, over the telephone, or online using Go2Meeting.  Your responses to these questions will be kept confidential.  There is no compensation for participating in this study; however, I am confident that your participation will contribute significantly to this emerging area of research.

If you are willing to participate, please send an email to: achass@email.unc.edu to confirm your interest. I am happy to answer any questions for you as well.

Historians of science (and other academic or professional disciplines) are used to studying how other people conduct research, but rarely have the spotlight turned on their own work. It is always beneficial to be be given the opportunity to take a look at your methodological ‘black box’ and reflect on those processes. If interested, please contact Alexandra.

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BBC Radio Free Thinking Series: Madness in Civilisation

free thinking

The March 17 2015 episode of BBC 3’s Free Thinking with Matthew Sweet featured authors Andrew Scull and Lisa Appignanesi, who discussed the history of madness within Western contexts–the reflexive relations between how it has been conceptualized and experienced, philosophical and theoretical changes in how it has been studied academically and professionally, and the shifting social politics of how it is apprehended and engaged with by the publics at large.

Listen to the full piece here.

Works cited in the interview:                                                                                                                 Andrew Scull, (April, 2015) Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity, from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine.                                                                          Lisa Appignanesi, (2009) Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present.

 

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Theory & Psychology: Debating Historiography in Psychology

The most recent issue of Theory & Psychology includes a several brief pieces on historiography in psychology. Contributions from Daniel Robinson (above), Kurt Danziger, and Thomas Teo debate the proper approach to the historiography of psychology, as well as the relationship between the history of psychology and the philosophy of psychology. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below. Join in on the discussion in the comments.

“Historiography in psychology: A note on ignorance,” by Daniel N. Robinson. The abstract reads,

A persistent theme in books and essays concerning the history of psychology suggests something amiss in tracing that history to ancient sources. Authoritative writers on the subject reject any intimation of continuity from classical to modern perspectives. Nonetheless, writers of textbooks identify the ancient world of philosophy and science as wellsprings of issues still alive within the discipline. To some, this tendency is attributed to simple ignorance. The controversy here is based on a failure to appreciate the relationship and the differences between continuity and recurrence, as well as an undisciplined application of terms far too protean for the intended purpose.

“Psychology and its history,” by Kurt Danziger. The abstract reads, Continue reading Theory & Psychology: Debating Historiography in Psychology

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New Issue of History of the Human Sciences: Historians in the Archive

A new issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. The October 2013 release is a special issue on the topic of “Historians in the Archive: Changing Historiographical Practices in the Nineteenth Century.” As described by guest editors Pieter Huistra, Herman Paul and Jo Tollebeek in the introduction, the issue  “explores the influence that archives, in a classic, institutional sense, exerted on the practices of 19th-century historiography. How did the archival turn affect historians’ working manners? How contested was this archival research imperative, with its underlying autopsy principle? And how did it spread geographically, in and outside Europe?” The seven articles that comprise the issue include pieces on the persona of the archival historian, the use of state archives, and the role of debates about testimony in the archival turn. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Historians in the archive: An introduction,” by Pieter Huistra, Herman Paul, and Jo Tollebeek. The abstract reads,

Historians in the 19th-century were not the first to discover the importance of source materials kept in archival depositories. More than their predecessors, however, scholars working in the historical discipline that the 19th century saw emerge tended to equate professional historical knowledge with knowledge based on primary source research, that is, practically speaking, on knowledge gained from source material that was usually kept in archives. While previous scholarship had paid ample attention to the methods that 19th-century historians employed for the study of such archival material, to the epistemologies they developed in tandem with these methods and to the institutions they created for the study of archival records, this special issue explores the influence that archives, in a classic, institutional sense, exerted on the practices of 19th-century historiography. How did the archival turn affect historians’ working manners? How contested was this archival research imperative, with its underlying autopsy principle? And how did it spread geographically, in and outside Europe?

“Inventing the archive: Testimony and virtue in modern historiography,” by Kasper Risbjerg Eskildsen. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue of History of the Human Sciences: Historians in the Archive

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To APA or not to APA?

Thoughts on having read (half of) Stanley Fish’s 2011 book, How to Write a Sentence:

Long ago, in order to seem more “scientific,” the discipline of psychology decided to adopt (and rigorously enforce) a staccato, just-the-facts writing style. We drill it into our students in nearly every course, using a multi-hundred-page writing manual that everyone is expected to own and use. Indeed, in some courses, knowledge of APA style seems to loom more important even than knowledge of the psychological topic (cognition, personality, social, etc.) that is supposedly being taught.

It was originally intended, I suspect, to be a kind of anti-style in which “things” would be the only persuasive factors at work, all rhetorical techniques having been banished to the not-entirely-trusted realm of “words,” so that the reader would not be confused by the eloquent flourishes of crafty belle-lettrists of times past (or of the humanities present). This justification is, of course, ridiculous. A spare, telegraphic writing style is every bit as much a style as an elaborately ornamented one; giving the appearance of reporting “just the facts” is every bit as much a rhetorical technique — viz., one intended to be persuasive beyond the mere quality of the content — as is one that displays erudition through the most startling verbal gymnastics.

My question, then, is what important insights has psychology, the discipline, made it difficult or impossible to express by cleaving so strictly to this particular style, rather than allowing a wider range of writing styles to exist side-by-side in the discipline?

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Essay: “‘Foolishness’ needs closer examination”

“‘Foolishness’ needs closer examination,” wrote Christopher Goodey (2004) in Medical History, 48(3). Why, yes, I thought. It does. And it seems especially apropos to revisit this topic today: through his delving into the past, we may well find a more interesting interpretation of contemporary pranksters’ April tomfoolery.

As Goodey points out, “foolishness” is often equated with a kind of “mental deficiency.” (Early texts describing it are now read by doctors as having anticipated modern diagnoses.) And the origins of April Fools’ Day could be read in this way too: on the earliest appearance of the day in English literature — as the 32nd of March — Chaucer’s (1392) cockerel Chanticleer was tricked into being eaten by a sly fox, who was then in turn tricked into letting his dinner escape (in the Canterbury Tales).

But did the origins of April Fools’ Day, in the Middle Ages, reflect this contemporary understanding? Has “foolishness” always been the opposite of “intelligence”?

Goodey suggests that the answer to this question is, simply, “no.” It is misleading, he shows, to reduce one to the other.

The idea of an intelligence peculiar to the human species… arrived only after logic-based methods started to be used to define essences of species, i.e. with the birth of modern biological classification in the eighteenth century. An ability for abstract thinking was perceived as universally human only when political and ecclesiastical élites were challenged over their divine right to prescribe the abstract principles known as “common ideas” to the rest of the population, and individuals started getting ideas by themselves. (p. 290)

In other words, the notion of intelligence as we think of it today is a relatively modern invention. As a result, we cannot read its meaning — or its opposite — into the texts of earlier writers.

Yet, it is the case that many contemporary April Fools’ Day pranks assume the mental deficiency of their targets (i.e., they assume their audience is “stupid”). Having accepted Goodey’s invitation to examine the notion more closely, however, I now suggest that this need not be the case.

Instead, I suggest that “stupid” pranks can be understood as reflecting a fundamental presentism. Recognizing this, and applying Hacking‘s notion of “the looping effect,” there then also seems to be a way out: contemporary pranksters have been led, by this misunderstanding of historical sources, to act differently than they might have otherwise.

Delving still more deeply, it seems that historicist readings of “foolishness” — and thus also of April Fools’ Day — may well be more subversive (and more interesting) than is usually thought at present. As Goodey points out:

Erasmus’s Praise of folly and Brant’s Ship of fools both use foolishness allegorically to attack political and ecclesiastical élites. (p. 292)

We are thus led to wonder: Were Chanticleer and the fox both actually stupid? Or did Chaucer use their foolishness to afford a commentary on a larger issue?

Thus, to close: if you pranked someone today, did your prank assume they were stupid? Or were you subverting something larger?

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Bibliography: Historiography of Psychology

This post is written by Michael Pettit, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.

Making (and reading) these kinds of lists is fun but always tricky. The problem is not so much what to include but exclude. The following gives you a snapshot of how I conceive of the “greatest hits” in the history of psychology (rather broadly construed) over the past fifty years. The list consists entirely of books: this reflects my graduate training if not necessarily my current reading habits. Most authors get only one book. The thought of Michel Foucault definitely has shaped this historiography profoundly, but the response among historians has been quite nuanced and sophisticated. This list of books includes work by historians, sociologists, philosophers, anthropologists, alongside psychologists, demonstrating how interdisciplinary the field has become. An important question to contemplate at the current moment is whether there are new, untapped historiographic directions offered by this tradition or whether we require a new starting point for debate?

Foucault, M. (1966/1970). The Order of Things. New York: Vintage.

Ellenberger, H. (1970). The discovery of the unconsciousness. New York: Basic Books.

Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: An introduction. New York: Vintage.

Young, R. M. (1985). Darwin’s metaphor: Nature’s place in Victorian culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Digby, A. (1985). Madness, morality and medicine: A study of the York Retreat, 1796-1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O’Donnell, J. M. (1985). The origins of behaviorism: American psychology, 1870-1920. New York: New York University Press. Continue reading Bibliography: Historiography of Psychology

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