Tag Archives: sociobiology

roundup of articles from allied fields

A few new works on related topics from spring issues that may pique the interest of our readership:

In Signs, a piece by Myrna Perez Sheldon titled Wild at Heart: How Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology Helped Influence the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity in American Evangelicalism

Its abstract reads:

During the 1990s, American evangelical texts contended that men have a stronger sex drive than women and that this natural sexual aggression makes men better suited to leadership roles in marriage, church, and society. Although this theology, called complementarianism, had earlier roots in conservative Protestantism, the connection that evangelicals made between male sexuality and male leadership was influenced by the scientific fields of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology during the 1980s and 1990s. These fields argue that maleness is a genetic evolutionary strategy characterized by social competition and a strong, even aggressive, sex drive. Evangelicals drew upon this scientific model in their efforts to combat second-wave feminism within their communities and in the broader culture. They turned to biology as a defense against the so-called cultural claims of feminism. Significantly, the model that evangelicals drew on from research in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology helped shape the articulations of “natural” masculine behavior in popular Christian self-help books, dating manuals, and theological texts. This article builds on the body of feminist scholarship that has critiqued the evidence, models, and popular influence of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. But it also urges the importance of analyzing the role of religious practices in the circulation and legitimation of scientific depictions of gender and sexuality.

Read more here.

In Social History of Medicine, by Julie Powell, the article Shock Troupe: Medical Film and the Performance of ‘Shell Shock’ for the British Nation at War

Its abstract reads:

In 1917, physician Arthur F. Hurst began filming the peculiar tics and hysterical gaits of ‘shell-shocked’ soldiers under his care. Editions of Hurst’s films from 1918 and 1940 survive. Cultural products of their time, I argue, the films engaged with contemporary ideas of class, gender and nation. The 1918 version reinforced class-based notions of disease and degeneracy while validating personal and national trauma and bolstering conceptions of masculinity and the nation that were critical to wartime morale and recovery efforts. The 1940 re-edit of the film engaged with the memory of the First World War by constructing a restorative narrative and by erasing the troubled years of gender crisis, ‘shell shock’ culture and class struggle to reassert masculine virtue and martial strength, essential for the prosecution of the Second World War.

Read the full thing here.

And not least, in History of Psychiatry, an article by authors Lois P. Rudnick and Alison Heru titled The ‘secret’ source of ‘female hysteria’: the role that syphilis played in the construction of female sexuality and psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Here is its abstract

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the unspoken fear of syphilis played a significant role in the development of beliefs about female sexuality. Many women were afraid of sexual relationships with men because they feared contracting syphilis, which was, at that time, untreatable. Women also feared passing this disease on to their children. Women’s sexual aversion, or repression, became a focus for Freud and his colleagues, whose theory of psychosexual development was based on their treatment of women. This article examines the case of Dora, the memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan and other sources to argue that the fear of syphilis was a significant factor in upper- and middle-class women’s avoidance of heterosexual relationships. The fear of syphilis, in turn, became a significant factor in the psychoanalytic construction of female sexuality. The social suppression of the fear of syphilis has had a profound impact on theories of women’s development. The implication for psychiatry is that our models of psychological development occur within a sociocultural milieu and cannot escape suppressed aspects of our culture.

Find the piece here.

 

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New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

Jean Piaget

The following four recently published articles may be of interest to AHP readers.

History of Science: “Rehabilitating LSD history in postwar America: Dilworth Wayne Woolley and the serotonin hypothesis of mental illness,” by Kim Hewitt. The abstract reads,

Revisiting the history of postwar LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) research illuminates how the work of a chemist at the Rockefeller Institute contributed to the development of a biochemical paradigm for mental functioning. Dilworth Wayne Woolley proposed one of the first theories of the biochemistry of mental illness based on empirical evidence. His research with LSD and serotonin had wide-ranging repercussions for pharmacology and fit neatly into the emerging medicalization of mental illness. Reevaluating Woolley’s ideas and the fruits of psychopharmacology leads to possible new approaches toward mental health and illness when considered alongside lessons learned from past research with psychedelic substances, and exemplifies a broader paradigm shift in cultural studies toward a biopsychosocial model that acknowledges the intersections between biology and culture.

Theory & Psychology: “Controversies on Evolutionism: On the construction of scientific boundaries in public and internal scientific controversies about evolutionary psychology and sociobiology,” by Nora Ruck. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Article Round-Up: LSD, Technology, Evolutionism, & Piaget’s New Theory

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Milgram and Masculinity, & More in Isis

The June 2011 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, is now out. Included in this issue are two articles of interest to historians of psychology. In his article on Stanley Milgram’s now infamous obedience to authority experiments, Ian Nicholson argues that Milgram’s research was less an attempt to explain the horrific acts of the Holocaust than it was a response to a crisis of masculinity in Cold War America. Nadine Weidman, in her article on American playwright Robert Ardrey, explores the popularization of the idea that human beings are innately violent and relates this view to the later development of sociobiology. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“’Shocking’ Masculinity: Stanley Milgram, ‘Obedience to Authority,’ and the ‘Crisis of Manhood’ in Cold War America,” by Ian Nicholson. The abstract reads,

Stanley Milgram’s study of “obedience to authority” is one of the best-known psychological experiments of the twentieth century. This essay examines the study’s special charisma through a detailed consideration of the intellectual, cultural, and gender contexts of Cold War America. It suggests that Milgram presented not a “timeless” experiment on “human nature” but, rather, a historically contingent, scientifically sanctioned “performance” of American masculinity at a time of heightened male anxiety. The essay argues that this gendered context invested the obedience experiments with an extraordinary plausibility, immediacy, and relevance. Immersed in a discourse of masculinity besieged, many Americans read the obedience experiments not as a fanciful study of laboratory brutality but as confirmation of their worst fears. Milgram’s extraordinary success thus lay not in his “discovery” of the fragility of individual conscience but in his theatrical flair for staging culturally relevant masculine performances.

“Popularizing the Ancestry of Man: Robert Ardrey and the Killer Instinct,” by Nadine Weidman. The abstract reads,

This essay examines Robert Ardrey (1908–1980)—American playwright, screenwriter, and prolific author—as a case study in the popularization of science. Bringing together evidence from both paleoanthropology and ethology, Ardrey became in the 1960s a vocal proponent of the theory that human beings are innately violent. The essay shows that Ardrey used his popular scientific books not only to consolidate a new science of human nature but also to question the popularizer’s standard role, to reverse conventional hierarchies of scientific expertise, and to test the boundaries of professional scientific authority. Understanding how he did this can help us reassess the meanings and uses of popular science as critique in Cold War America. The essay also shows that E. O. Wilson’s sociobiology was in part a reaction to the subversive political message of Ardrey’s science.

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