Tag Archives: subjectivity

New Articles: Psychosomatic Illness, Crania Americana, & Hypnotism

A number of new articles of interest to AHP readers are now in print. Relevant articles from the most recent issues of Subjectivity, the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, and History of Science are listed below.


Psychosomatic feelings as memory practices,” by Elena Trivelli. The abstract reads,

I here explore the manifestation of problematic memories on a psychosomatic level, with a focus on the work of psychiatrist Franco Basaglia (1924–1980) in the Italian city of Gorizia. As Basaglia transformed the local asylum into a Therapeutic Community during the 1960s, the city became a nationally acclaimed pilot for alternative psychiatry. After he left in 1968, Gorizia’s characterisation in the media shifted from being a radical experiment to a failed revolution, and the city has since held an ambiguous relationship with this heritage. Using the data gathered through an ethnography conducted between 2011 and 2012, I suggest that the controversial vicissitudes of ‘the Basaglia experience’ and the attempts to erase their emotional weight in Gorizia have left traces that I frame as embodied remembering practices. In discussing psychosomatic expressions of social discomfort, I formulate a body that is both somatic and psychological, contributing to a field at the intersection between psychoanalysis, trauma and affect studies.

Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

Panic and Culture: Hysterike Pnix in the Ancient Greek World,” by Susan P. Mattern. The abstract reads,

Starting perhaps in the second century BCE, and with Hippocratic precedent, ancient medical writers described a condition they called hysterike pnix or “uterine suffocation.” This paper argues that uterine suffocation was, in modern terms, a functional somatic syndrome characterized by chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Transcultural psychiatrists have identified and described a number of similar panic-type syndromes in modern populations, and a plausible theory of how they work has been advanced. These insights, applied to the ancient disease of hysterike pnix, demystify the condition and illuminate the experience of the women who suffered from it.

History of Science

The fear of simulation: Scientific authority in late 19th-century French disputes over hypnotism,” by Kim M. Hajek. The abstract reads,

This article interrogates the way/s in which rival schools studying hypnotism in late 19th-century France framed what counts as valid evidence for the purposes of science. Concern over the scientific reality of results is particularly situated in the notion of simulation (the faking of results); the respective approaches to simulation of the Salpêtrière and Nancy schools are analysed through close reading of key texts: Binet and Féré for the Salpêtrière, and Bernheim for Nancy. The article reveals a striking divergence between their scientific frames, which helps account for the bitterness of the schools’ disputes. It then explores Bernheim’s construction of scientific authority in more detail, for insights into the messiness entailed by theorizing hypnotism in psychical terms, while also attempting to retain scientific legitimacy. Indicative of this messiness, it is argued, is the way in which Bernheim’s (apparently inconsistent) approach draws on multiple epistemic frames.

National types: The transatlantic publication and reception of Crania Americana (1839),” by James Poskett. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Articles: Psychosomatic Illness, Crania Americana, & Hypnotism

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Call for Papers: 4S Open Panel on STS, Technology & Psychology


CfP: Open Panel @ the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)

November 11-14, 2015. Denver, CO.

STS Open Panel call for papers deadline: March 22, 2015.

An open panel is being hosted at the 4S AGM on “STS & Technologies/ Techniques in the Psychological Sciences.” The panel organizers welcome submissions from a wide range of disciplines, including those from the humanities, STS, anthropology, psychology, statistics, psychiatry, etc. They are particularly interested in interdisciplinary work that combines historical and contemporary sites of analysis to address the following questions:

What can STS theories and methodologies contribute to the study of the
psychological sciences?

What perspectives from psychology and the behavioral sciences might be
beneficial to STS?

How do psychological sciences and technologies create power and knowledge,
across diverse societal spheres?

How might we best identify and address aporias in existing research on the
psy sciences, including discussions of race/gender/sexuality, new models of
subjectivity, and new technologies, projects, and processes of

Submissions should be made directly to the conference (find detailed instructions here).         Please also forward a copy of your abstract to the panel organizers:

 Marisa Brandt, UCSD (mrbrandt@ucsd.edu)                                                                                          Beth Semel, MIT (bsemel@mit.edu)                                                                                                              Luke Stark, NYU (luke.stark@nyu.edu)

Further conceptual elucidation after the jump:  Continue reading Call for Papers: 4S Open Panel on STS, Technology & Psychology

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Review Essay: “Subject matter: Human behavior, psychological expertise, and therapeutic lives”

The February 2015 issue of Social Studies of Science includes a Review Essay of a number of recent works in the history of the human sciences. In this essay Michael Pettit (left) surveys recent monographs by Peter Hegarty (Gentlemen’s Disagreement: Alfred Kinsey, Lewis Terman, and the Sexual Politics of Smart Men), Helen E. Longino (Studying Human Behavior: How Scientists Investigate Aggression and Sexuality), Chloe Silverman (Understanding Autism: Parents, Doctors, and the History of a Disorder), Mathew Thomson (Lost Freedom: The Landscape of the Child and the British Post-War Settlement), and Marga Vicedo (The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America), commenting on the current state and future possibilities of work in the field. Title, author, and an excerpt from the essay (in lieu of an abstract) follow below.

“Subject matter: Human behavior, psychological expertise, and therapeutic lives,” by Michael Pettit. Excerpt:

Few have greater confidence in psychology’s ability to mold subjectivity than its critics. However, there is a tension in much of the historical and sociological literature on psychology and the psychological society between a commitment to a microphysics of power (Foucault, 1977) and the kinds of sources and voices that get included in such analyses. ‘Subjectification’ (Rose, 1996) is all too often taken for granted, rather than made into a matter of inquiry involving contestation, multiplicity, and rejection. Relationships between scientists and publics are largely understood in terms of a hypodermic needle model of communication (Gitlin, 1978). On this basis, critical psychologist-historians select their favored disorder or construct, offer a largely intellectual history of it, and then assert that everyday experience has been psychologized. Such an approach speaks more to scientists’ visions and pretensions than to the social life of psychological facts (O’Connor and Joffe, 2013). Moreover, this approach bolsters and inflates, rather than critically scrutinizes, the scientist’s authority. We need greater specificity about psychology’s impact, better evidence of the circuits between expert description and self-understanding, and appreciation of the complicated lives of scientific methods and theories.
The books under review explore entanglements of psychology, sex, childhood, and development, and in so doing offer rich resources for rethinking much of the received wisdom about the public understanding of psychology, the authority of its experts, and the process of subjectification. The sex/gender distinction has long been recognized as a crucial site of traffic between nature and culture, one weighty with politics and consequences. These dynamics are amplified around children and development, where behavioral sciences and social policy meet, and each tries to anticipate and realize a better future (Adams et al., 2009). As the books here illustrate, psychology does not seek simply to craft accurate depictions of human behavior, but rather …

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