What Nostalgia was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion

Thomas Dodman’s What Nostalgia was: War, Empire, and the Time of a Deadly Emotion may be of interest to AHP readers. The book is described as follows:

Nostalgia today is seen as essentially benign, a wistful longing for the past. This wasn’t always the case, however: from the late seventeenth century through the end of the nineteenth, nostalgia denoted a form of homesickness so extreme that it could sometimes be deadly.

What Nostalgia Was unearths that history. Thomas Dodman begins his story in Basel, where a nineteen-year-old medical student invented the new diagnosis, modeled on prevailing notions of melancholy. From there, Dodman traces its spread through the European republic of letters and into Napoleon’s armies, as French soldiers far from home were diagnosed and treated for the disease. Nostalgia then gradually transformed from a medical term to a more expansive cultural concept, one that encompassed Romantic notions of the aesthetic pleasure of suffering. But the decisive shift toward its contemporary meaning occurred in the colonies, where Frenchmen worried about racial and cultural mixing came to view moderate homesickness as salutary. An afterword reflects on how the history of nostalgia can help us understand the transformations of the modern world, rounding out a surprising, fascinating tour through the history of a durable idea.

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A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology

New in the online magazine Behavioral Scientist, as part of a special issue on “Connected State of Mind,” is a piece on  “A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology” by Christopher J. Ferguson and Cathy Faye. As they note,

Since the earliest twentieth century, psychologists have been concerned with how technology affects health and well-being. In the 1930s, they weighed the effects of listening to the radio. In the 1960s, they turned their attention to television. And in more recent years, they have expanded their research to video games and cell phone use. Psychologists have always been vocal on questions about the long-term effects of entertainment technology.

However, both the past and present debates suggest that answering questions about the pros and cons of entertainment technology is complicated. Research findings have been mixed and therefore not easily translatable into policy statements, news headlines, or advice for parents. This was true in 1960 and it is true today.

Take, for example, debates regarding televised violence and childhood aggression. Between 1950 and 1970, televisions became a standard presence in American homes. However, not everyone believed they were a welcome addition. Parents, educators, and politicians questioned what they saw as excess violence and sexuality on TV.

In 1969, the Surgeon General’s Office deemed TV violence a public health problem and called on psychologists to provide definitive evidence on its effects. The million-dollar project was modeled on the well-known Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on health-related risks of tobacco use. It was hoped that evidence from the social and behavioral sciences could similarly close the case on television violence and aggressive behavior.

Read the full piece here.

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Aesthetics, Industry, and Science: Hermann Von Helmholtz and the Berlin Physical Society

AHP readers may be interested in M. Norton Wise’s recent book,  Aesthetics, Industry, and Science: Hermann Von Helmholtz and the Berlin Physical Society. The book is described as follows:

On January 5, 1845, the Prussian Cultural Minister received a request by a group of six young men to form a new Physical Society in Berlin. In fields from thermodynamics, mechanics, and electromagnetism to animal electricity, ophthalmology, and psychophysics, members of this small but growing group—which soon included Emil Du Bois-Reymond, Ernst Brücke, Werner Siemens, and Hermann von Helmholtz—established leading positions in what only thirty years later had become a new landscape of natural science. How was this possible? How could a bunch of twenty-somethings succeed in seizing the future?

In Aesthetics, Industry, and Science M. Norton Wise answers these questions not simply from a technical perspective of theories and practices but with a broader cultural view of what was happening in Berlin at the time. He emphasizes in particular how rapid industrial development, military modernization, and the neoclassical aesthetics of contemporary art informed the ways in which these young men thought. Wise argues that aesthetic sensibility and material aspiration in this period were intimately linked, and he uses these two themes for a final reappraisal of Helmholtz’s early work. Anyone interested in modern German cultural history, or the history of nineteenth-century German science, will be drawn to this landmark book.

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Holiday Reading Round Up: Imperfect Children, Sociobiology, Rationality, Communications, & More

As 2017 comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some recent releases for your reading pleasure. And if you find yourself in Amsterdam January 9th, 2018 swing by the release of Jaap van Ginneken’s new biography of Kurt Baschwitz. Best wishes for the new year!

Kurt Baschwitz: A Pioneer of Communication Studies and Social Psychologyby Jaap van Ginneken, Amsterdam University Press. Event: January 9, 2018, 17:00-18:30 in Amsterdam. Register here.

It was a century ago, that a young Jewish-German journalist rushed overnight from Hamburg to Rotterdam, to replace a predecessor correspondent who had been arrested and accused of espionage – halfway he First World War. Baschwitz was appalled by the mass propaganda he witnessed, and began to develop a book about ‘mass delusions’ – that became an immediate bestseller upon his return. Thereafter, he became a respected journalist under the Weimar republic, rose to become the editor-in-chief of the influential weekly of newspaper publishers, later published a book about the key role of the mass press in history.

In 1933, he fled to Amsterdam, where Baschwitz was made ‘private lecturer’ at the university, worked for a confidential agency gathering information about the rise of Anti-semitism in Germany: resulting in the ‘Wiener collection’, and the current Holocaust Museum in London. As well as for the newly founded International Institute of Social History, that smuggled the archives of socialist pioneers out. He also published books on mass politics and mass persecutions.

Halfway the war and occupation, Baschwitz was arrested in a raid, sent to the notorious Westerbork transit camp, for deportation to the East and certain death. But his daughter brought him papers that got him out for the time being. He went into hiding, she joined the resistance.

After Liberation, Baschwitz was made professor, and helped found the new faculty for political and social science in Amsterdam. Within it, he built a series of key institutions: a rejuvenated press museum, a national press library and a press studies department, as well as journalist courses.

Isis, December 2017

Pax Technologica: Computers, International Affairs, and Human Reason in the Cold War,” by Joy Rohde. Abstract: Continue reading Holiday Reading Round Up: Imperfect Children, Sociobiology, Rationality, Communications, & More

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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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