New HHS: Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, Burnout, & More

The December 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Full details below.

“Psychoanalytic sociology and the traumas of history: Alexander Mitscherlich between the disciplines,” by Matt ffytche. Abstract:

This article examines the way aspects of recent history were excluded in key studies emerging from psychoanalytic social psychology of the mid-20th century. It draws on work by Erikson, Marcuse and Fromm, but focuses in particular on Alexander Mitscherlich. Mitscherlich, a social psychologist associated with the later Frankfurt School, was also the most important psychoanalytic figure in postwar Germany. This makes his work significant for tracing ways in which historical experience of the war and Nazism was filtered out of psychosocial narratives in this period, in favour of more structural analyses of the dynamics of social authority. Mitscherlich’s 1967 work The Inability to Mourn, co-authored with Margarete Mitscherlich, is often cited as the point at which the ‘missing’ historical experience flooded back into psychoanalytic accounts of society. I argue that this landmark publication does not hail the shift towards the psychoanalysis of historical experience with which it is often associated. These more sociological writers of the mid-century were writing before the impact of several trends occurring in the 1980s–90s which decisively shifted psychoanalytic attention away from the investigation of social authority and towards a focus on historical trauma. Ultimately this is also a narrative about the transformations which occur when psychoanalysis moves across disciplines.

“The making of burnout: From social change to self-awareness in the postwar United States, 1970–82,” by Matthew J. Hoffarth. Abstract: Continue reading New HHS: Psychoanalytic Social Psychology, Burnout, & More

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Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America

AHP readers may be interested in Jamie L. Pietruska’s recently published book Looking Forward: Prediction and Uncertainty in Modern America. As noted on the publisher’s site,

In the decades after the Civil War, the world experienced monumental changes in industry, trade, and governance. As Americans faced this uncertain future, public debate sprang up over the accuracy and value of predictions, asking whether it was possible to look into the future with any degree of certainty. In Looking Forward, Jamie L. Pietruska uncovers a culture of prediction in the modern era, where forecasts became commonplace as crop forecasters, “weather prophets,” business forecasters, utopian novelists, and fortune-tellers produced and sold their visions of the future. Private and government forecasters competed for authority—as well as for an audience—and a single prediction could make or break a forecaster’s reputation.

Pietruska argues that this late nineteenth-century quest for future certainty had an especially ironic consequence: it led Americans to accept uncertainty as an inescapable part of both forecasting and twentieth-century economic and cultural life. Drawing together histories of science, technology, capitalism, environment, and culture, Looking Forward explores how forecasts functioned as new forms of knowledge and risk management tools that sometimes mitigated, but at other times exacerbated, the very uncertainties they were designed to conquer. Ultimately Pietruska shows how Americans came to understand the future itself as predictable, yet still uncertain.

 

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Techniques for Nothingness: Debate over the Comparability of Hypnosis and Zen in Early-Twentieth-Century Japan

AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming article in History of Science, now available online, on the intersection of Buddhism and psychology in Japan.

“Techniques for nothingness: Debate over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen in early-twentieth-century Japan,” by Yu-chuan Wu. Abstract:

This paper explores a debate that took place in Japan in the early twentieth century over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen. The debate was among the first exchanges between psychology and Buddhism in Japan, and it cast doubt on previous assumptions that a clear boundary existed between the two fields. In the debate, we find that contemporaries readily incorporated ideas from psychology and Buddhism to reconstruct the experiences and concepts of hypnosis and Buddhist nothingness. The resulting new theories and techniques of nothingness were fruits of a fairly fluid boundary between the two fields. The debate, moreover, reveals that psychology tried to address the challenges and possibilities posed by religious introspective meditation and intuitive experiences in a positive way. In the end, however, psychology no longer regarded them as viable experimental or psychotherapeutic tools but merely as particular subjective experiences to be investigated and explained.

 

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Erik Linstrum: The Empire Dreamt Back

A recent piece from historian Erik Linstrum over on Aeon may be of interest to AHP readers. In “The Empire Dreamt Back” Linstrum explores the role of psychoanalysis in British colonial rule. The piece begins:

Every state needs to know about the people it rules. Censuses, property surveys and tax records are familiar and tangible expressions of the state’s need to maintain power by accumulating knowledge. This is not just a matter of tedious bureaucratic record-keeping: especially when confronted with unfamiliar problems, states often turn to cutting-edge technologies and forms of expertise to make sense of the populations under their authority. In the early 20th-century Age of Empire, when European colonies stretched across the world, psychoanalysis was the novel technique of the moment. In an attempt to better understand their colonial subjects in those years, officials in the British empire undertook a curious and little-known research project: to collect dreams from the people of South Asia, Africa and the Pacific. The results were not what they expected.

Read the full article here.

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New Medical History: Psychiatry in the Atomic Age, Transvestism in Finland, Therapy in Russian Defectology

The January 2018 issue of Medical History is now available and includes several articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Healing a Sick World: Psychiatric Medicine and the Atomic Age,” by Ran Zwigenberg. Abstract:

The onset of nuclear warfare in Hiroshima and Nagasaki had far-reaching implications for the world of medicine. The study of the A-bomb and its implications led to the launching of new fields and avenues of research, most notably in genetics and radiation studies. Far less understood and under-studied was the impact of nuclear research on psychiatric medicine. Psychological research, however, was a major focus of post-war military and civilian research into the bomb. This research and the perceived revolutionary impact of atomic energy and warfare on society, this paper argues, played an important role in the global development of post-war psychiatry. Focusing on psychiatrists in North America, Japan and the United Nations, this paper examines the reaction of the profession to the nuclear age from the early post-war period to the mid 1960s. The way psychiatric medicine related to atomic issues, I argue, shifted significantly between the immediate post-war period and the 1960s. While the early post-war psychiatrists sought to help society deal with and adjust to the new nuclear reality, later psychiatrists moved towards a more radical position that sought to resist the establishment’s efforts to normalise the bomb and nuclear energy. This shift had important consequences for research into the psychological trauma suffered by victims of nuclear warfare, which, ultimately, together with other research into the impact of war and systematic violence, led to our current understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Boyish Mannerisms and Womanly Coquetry: Patients with the Diagnosis of Transvestitismus in the Helsinki Psychiatric Clinic in Finland, 1954–68,” by Katariina Parhi. Abstract:

This article examines the case files of patients diagnosed with Transvestitismus [transvestism] in the Psychiatric Clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital in the years 1954–68. These individuals did not only want to cross-dress, but also had a strong feeling of being of a different sex from their assigned one. The scientific concept of transsexuality had begun to take form, and this knowledge reached Finland in phases. The case files of the transvestism patients show that they were highly aware of their condition and were very capable of describing it, even if they had no medical name for it. Psychiatrists were willing to engage in dialogue with the patients, and did not treat them as passive objects of study. Although some patients felt that they had been helped, many left the institution as frustrated, angered or desperate as before. They had sought medical help in the hope of having their bodies altered to correspond to their identity, but the Clinic psychiatrists insisted on seeing the problem in psychiatric terms and did not recommend surgical or hormonal treatments in most cases. This attitude would gradually change over the course of the 1970s and 1980s.

“Lechebnaia pedagogika: The Concept and Practice of Therapy in Russian Defectology, c. 1880–1936,” by Andy Byford. Abstract:

Therapy is not simply a domain or form of medical practice, but also a metaphor for and a performance of medicine, of its functions and status, of its distinctive mode of action upon the world. This article examines medical treatment or therapy (in Russian lechenie), as concept and practice, in what came to be known in Russia as defectology (defektologiia) – the discipline and occupation concerned with the study and care of children with developmental pathologies, disabilities and special needs. Defectology formed an impure, occupationally ambiguous, therapeutic field, which emerged between different types of expertise in the niche populated by children considered ‘difficult to cure’, ‘difficult to teach’, and ‘difficult to discipline’. The article follows the multiple genealogy of defectological therapeutics in the medical, pedagogical and juridical domains, across the late tsarist and early Soviet eras. It argues that the distinctiveness of defectological therapeutics emerged from the tensions between its biomedical, sociopedagogical and moral-juridical framings, resulting in ambiguous hybrid forms, in which medical treatment strategically interlaced with education or upbringing, on the one hand, and moral correction, on the other.

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Honoring Janet Taylor Spence in Sex Roles

Janet Taylor Spence

AHP readers may be interested in a special section honoring Janet Taylor Spence in the December issue of Sex Roles. Especially relevant is a piece from Alexandra Rutherford:

“Contextualizing a Life in Science: Janet Taylor Spence and the History of Women and Gender in American Psychology,” by Alexandra Rutherford. Abstract:

The present paper reflects on the life and career of Janet Spence (1923–2015) by situating her experiences within the history of women and gender in American psychology. This history has revealed the structural factors that have affected women’s participation in psychology, the shared themes in women’s interpersonal and professional experiences, and the specific strategies that women have used to navigate an androcentric, and at times overtly sexist, discipline. In spanning the second half of the twentieth century, Spence’s career provides an interesting case study of how these decades of institutional and political change affected a specific woman scientist and her science. I argue that her biography can offer rich insights into the complexly intertwined, and even reflexive, relationships among psychologists, their psychologies, and their contexts.

Explore the full issue here.

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New Book! Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject

The books keep on coming! AHP readers will doubtlessly be interested in Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega’s new book Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject. As the publisher’s site describes,

Being Brains offers a critical exploration of one of the most influential and pervasive contemporary beliefs: “We are our brains.” Starting in the “Decade of the Brain” of the 1990s, “neurocentrism” became widespread in most Western and many non-Western societies. Formidable advances, especially in neuroimaging, have bolstered this “neurocentrism” in the eyes of the public and political authorities, helping to justify increased funding for the brain sciences. The human sciences have also taken the “neural turn,” and subspecialties in fields such as anthropology, aesthetics, education, history, law, sociology, and theology have grown and professionalized at record speed. At the same time, the development of dubious but successful commercial enterprises such as “neuromarketing and “neurobics” have emerged to take advantage of the heightened sensitivity to all things neuro. Skeptics have only recently begun to react to the hype, invoking warnings of neuromythology, neurotrash, neuromania, and neuromadness. While this neurocentric view of human subjectivity is neither hegemonic nor monolithic, it embodies a powerful ideology that is at the heart of some of today’s most important philosophical, ethical, scientific, and political debates. Being Brains critically explores the internal logic of such ideology, its genealogy, and its main contemporary incarnations.

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Dec 11 BPS/UCL Talk: Fernando Vidal “Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject”

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 next talk in their autumn seminar series. On Monday December 11th, Fernando Vidal will be speaking on “Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject.” Full details below.

Monday 11 December

Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject

Professor Fernando Vidal (Centre for the History of Science, Autonomous University of Barcelona)

Are we our brains? Starting in the “Decade of the Brain” of the 1990s, “neurocentrism” became widespread in most Western and many non-Western societies. Formidable advances, especially in neuroimaging, have bolstered this “neurocentrism” in the eyes of the public and political authorities, helping to justify increased funding for the brain sciences. The human sciences have also taken the “neural turn,” and subspecialties in fields such as anthropology, aesthetics, education, history, law, sociology, and theology have grown and professionalized at record speed. At the same time, the development of dubious but successful commercial enterprises such as “neuromarketing and “neurobics” have emerged to take advantage of the heightened sensitivity to all things neuro. Skeptics have only recently begun to react to the hype, invoking warnings of neuromythology, neurotrash, neuromania, and neuromadness. While this neurocentric view of human subjectivity is neither hegemonic nor monolithic, it embodies a powerful ideology that is at the heart of some of today’s most important philosophical, ethical, scientific, and political debates. Being Brains critically explores the internal logic of such ideology, its genealogy, and its main contemporary incarnations.

Register here

Location:
SELCS Common Room (G24)
Foster Court
Malet Place
University College London

Time: 18:00-19:30

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125 years of the American Psychological Association

The November 2017 issue of the American Psychologist is devoted to the 125th anniversary of the American Psychological Association. AHP readers will be especially interested in an article exploring this 125 year history:

“125 years of the American Psychological Association,” by Christopher D.Green and Robin L. Cautin. Abstract:

The American Psychological Association (APA) began 125 years ago as a small club of a few dozen members in the parlor of its founder, G. Stanley Hall. In the decades since, it has faced many difficulties and even a few existential crises. Originally a scientific society, it spent the decades between the world wars figuring out how to accommodate the growing community of applied psychologists while still retaining and enhancing its scientific reputation. After World War II, with an expanded mandate, it developed formal training models for clinical psychologists and became an important player in legal cases pertaining to civil rights and other social justice issues. With practitioners taking an ever-greater role in the governance of the organization in the late 1970s, and the financial viability of the association in doubt in the 1980s, many psychological scientists felt the need to create a separate organization for themselves. The 1990s and early 2000s brought more challenges: declining divisional memberships; a legal dispute over fees with practitioners; and a serious upheaval over the APA Board of Directors’ cooperation with governmental defense and intelligence agencies during the “war on terror.” These clashes appear to have precipitated a decline in the association’s membership for the first time in its history. The APA has faced many storms over its century-and-a-quarter, but has, thus far, always ultimately found a way forward for itself, for its members, and for the wider discipline of psychology.

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Now in The Psychologist: Conwy Lloyd Morgan, Stories of Psychology Event Report, Wonder Woman Film Review

New in the December 2017 issue of the British Psychological Society‘s The Psychologist are a couple of pieces of interest to AHP readers. First, Jan Noyes describes the life and work of Conwy Lloyd Morgan, an early psychologist who conducted research on animal learning, put forward what is now known as Morgan’s canon, and proposed – alongside Henry Fairfield Osborn and James Mark Baldwin – a theory of evolution now best known as the Baldwin Effect. Morgan, as Noyes notes, was also the first psychologist to become a Fellow of the Royal Society.

The issue also includes a piece from Ella Rhodes reporting on the BPS’s recent seventh annual Stories of Psychology event which explored the history of women in psychology to mark the 30th anniversary of the Psychology of Women Section. As Rhodes notes,

Women make up a majority of members of the British Psychological Society (BPS), women have been instrumental in shaping what psychology is today, and women may be the face of the subject for many decades to come. Yet inequality remains steadfast. The History of Psychology Centre’s seventh annual Stories of Psychology event traced the history of women within psychology and celebrated 30 years of the Psychology of Women Section.

Sophie Bryant, Beatrice Edgell, Alice Woods, Caroline Graveson, Mary Smith, Nina Taylor, May Smith, Helen Verrall, Nellie Carey, Jessie Murray, Julia Turner, Jane Reaney, Laura Brackenbury, Ida Saxby, Susan Isaacs and Victoria Hazlitt – these were the first female members of the BPS. The Society, founded in 1901, was unusual for a scientific society in the early 20th century in that it allowed women to join.

Finally, do not miss George Sik’s review of the just released feature film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

As Sik notes,

Marston’s private life created scandal (the film begins in 1928 when prohibition was in full swing and, while Cole Porter might have penned Anything Goes in 1934, it was clear that, at the time, very little went – in the American bedroom at least). He had a complex three-way relationship with his wife Elizabeth and research student Olive Byrne, the three of them often sleeping together, which lost him his job as a lecturer and got him kicked off campus. Like Liam Neeson’s Kinsey (2004), here was one psychologist whose theories and sex life became deeply intertwined… quite literally in this case as Marston’s fondness for ropes and sado-masochistic role-play became more and more apparent. It is fascinating how much it dominated – if that’s the mot juste – the early Wonder Woman comic strips.

The film somehow avoids making it seem salacious, however. By concentrating heavily on Elizabeth and Olive, one strident, one shy, and played superbly by Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote, the two emerge as characters more interesting and maybe more important than Luke Evans’s Marston. In fact, there is a deliberately feminist tone to the proceedings, a touch ironic given how much Marston made of the differences between men and women. Like Hitchcock (2012), which emphasised how important his wife Alma was to the Master of Suspense’s films, so it is here with Marston’s theories and indeed Wonder Woman herself, at least as much an empowered female icon as a fetishistic male fantasy. Marston put it this way: ‘Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.’

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