Technoscientific control of nature: The ultimate paradox

A new piece forthcoming as part of a special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will be of interest to AHP readers: “Technoscientific control of nature: The ultimate paradox,” by Martin Fichman. Abstract:

The current interlinked environmental and socioeconomic global crises constitute the gravest threat to humanity’s well-being, indeed survival, today. Studies of the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of the various elements of these crises—including accelerating environmental degradation, unfettered capitalist technoscientific/industrial expansion, overpopulation, and overconsumption—are plentiful. Also well-known is the influence of Francis Bacon’s writings, particularly The Advancement of Learning (1605), Novum Organon (1620), and the utopian New Atlantis (1627), on the development of empiricism and the modern scientific method as well as the reform and organization of scientific research. Bacon’s significance for the founding of the Royal Society of London (1660) and for the plan and structure of the Encyclopedie (1751–1772), coupled with his oft-cited aphoristic injunctions to study nature to control/dominate it, are staples in the lore and justification of technoscience. I argue that the enduring appeal of so-called Baconianism derives, in part, from a fundamental misappropriation of certain of Bacon’s original ideas. Specifically, the complex ethical and religious framework within which Bacon situated his vision of scientific and technological development was discarded (or ignored) so that, by the early decades of the 18th century, Baconianism had come to be understood almost exclusively for its utilitarian role in society. This deracinated version became the familiar trope of technoscience’s unlimited potential to transform nature (including human nature and behavior) in the service of an ideology of industrial/consumerist expansion since then. Linkage between the history of science/technology and addictive consumerism, apparent by the close of the 19th century, has been insufficiently examined. Such addictive consumerist behavior and continued virtually unregulated industrialization and production, were effectively removed from ethical scrutiny and a high degree of material acquisition and personal/societal rapaciousness became the norm rather than the exception in most countries. I suggest that further historical deconstruction of this denuded Baconianism will yield important insights in the search for viable solutions to the present global socioenvironmental crises.

Expelled from Eden: How human beings turned planet Earth into a hostile place

A new piece forthcoming as part of a special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will be of interest to AHP readers: “Expelled from Eden: How human beings turned planet Earth into a hostile place,” by Ana Luiza de França Sá and Victor Lino Bernardes. Abstract:

The focus of this article is the mind–body problem in mainstream modern psychology examined from a decolonial perspective. The construction of the idea of the separation of mind and body is a seminal point of division of labor in the history of modern capitalism. This division perpetuated by the mind–body dualism idea was necessary to justify the enslavement of some and employment to others. Colonization processes have had profound importance on the mind, feelings, behaviors, and political settings. Throughout its history, the subject treated in EuroAmerican psychology has sought to deal with the mind–body problem as an individual, a separate entity, not as part of the psyche as a whole. A new perspective where the mind and body play an intertwined role is necessary considering subjectivity in a cultural-historical approach. The subjective level is defined by the unification between symbolical and emotional cultural processes. The body (emotions) operates in conjunction with the culture and, when amalgamated, constitutes what we entitle as subjectivity. An ontology defines the assumptions that lie under a cosmovision and sustains a way of seeing, feeling, thinking, and acting with oneself, others, and the whole living world. It is what defines the real. The trajectory of this paper is an invitation to shed light from a decolonial perspective on social inequality concerning the present crises of humanity. The consequences of social inequality expressed today indicate the difficulties created by the dichotomy of mind and body.

Call for Papers: Special Issue on Media Histories of Care

A call for papers for a special issue of Feminist Media Histories dedicated Media Histories of Care will be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

Special Issue on Media Histories of Care

Guest Editors: Olivia Banner & Hannah Zeavin

COVID-19 has forced medicine and psychiatry onto tele-platforms, a shift some claim will be permanent. For the technology industries, this is a welcome acceleration of health care’s digitalization. For care workers and their patients, this shift away from environments of inperson care to the screen interface may be less welcome. At the same time, disability activists are highlighting that after decades of being told remote access to care was impossible, those barriers have diminished—but for how long? By reconfiguring social and temporal relations, everyday media technologies encourage new dynamics among doctors, patients, activists, medical institutions, and care collectives. What does feminist media studies, with its rich histories of heightened attunement to mediated bodies, mediated care, and media of care have to contribute to this shift?

Noting these contemporary reconfigurations, this special issue takes as its cue media studies work that has established how medicine, psychiatry, and associated clinical disciplines have always been mediated and technological. Building on work in cinema studies (Kirsten Ostherr; Lisa Cartwright), science and technology studies (Kim Tallbear; Hannah Landecker), media studies (David Serlin; Cait McKinney; Jonathan Sterne), critical health studies (Jonathan Metzl; Helena Hansen; Laura Mauldin), Black studies (Moya Bailey & Whitney Peoples), queer studies (Ann Cvetkovich; Douglas Crimp) and crip studies (Leon Hilton; Aimi Hamraie), this Special Issue seeks new ways of theorizing, analyzing, countering, and, perhaps, cripping the histories of mediated technologies of care.

We invite papers from across a range of disciplines that address screen media, media technologies, digital care, medical knowledge, and health activism. Although we welcome work on established medicine and health care, we are particularly interested in feminist histories of media practices, media objects, and activist efforts that have taken digital and screen media as mechanisms for contesting and negotiating power and authority over care. Drawing from disability studies and crip theory, trans and queer theory, feminist studies, and critical race studies, we welcome papers that focus on “informal networks of care,” on processes and peoples which institutional perspectives might demote but which for us are the real spaces of emergence and innovation.

Possible topics may include: the activist histories of mutual aid networks and care organizations; big data and its histories; cinema and psychiatry; mediations of deinstitutionalization; medical racism and surveillance; and digital health/telemedicine/teletherapy, among others. We are especially interested in receiving proposals for papers that focus on the global south or transnational histories, but welcome papers focusing on any geographical area and time period.

Interested contributors should contact guest editors Olivia Banner and Hannah Zeavin directly, sending a 500-word proposal and a short bio no later than October 15, 2021 to and Contributors will be notified by November 15, 2021; article drafts will be due by March 15, 2022 and will then be sent out for peer review. Feminist Media Histories is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to feminist histories of film, video, audio, and digital technologies across a range of time periods and global contexts. Inter-medial and trans-national in approach, Feminist Media Histories examines the historical role gender has played in varied media technologies, and documents women’s engagement with these media as audiences and users, creators and executives, critics and theorists, technicians and laborers, educators and activists.

Demons of the mind: The ‘psy’ sciences and film in the long 1960s

A new introductory open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Demons of the mind: The ‘psy’ sciences and film in the long 1960s,” by Tim Snelson, William R. Macauley. Abstract:

This introduction provides context for a collection of articles that came out of a research symposium held at the Science Museum’s Dana Research Centre in 2018 for the ‘Demons of Mind: the Interactions of the ‘Psy’ Sciences and Cinema in the Sixties’ project. Across a range of events and research outputs, Demons of the Mind sought to map the multifarious interventions and influences of the ‘psy’ sciences (psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis) on film culture in the long 1960s. The articles that follow discuss, in order: critical engagement with theories of child development in 1960s British science fiction; the ‘horrors’ of contemporary psychiatry and neuroscience portrayed in the Hollywood blockbuster The Exorcist (1973); British social realist filmmakers’ alliances with proponents of ‘anti-psychiatry’; experimental filmmaker Jane Arden’s coalescence of radical psychiatry and radical feminist techniques in her ‘psychodrama’ The Other Side of the Underneath (1973); and the deployment of film technologies by ‘psy’ professionals during the post-war period to capture and interpret mother-infant interaction.

JHBS Special Issue: Histories and Cultures of Mental Health in Modern East Asia

The summer issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is a special issue on Histories and Cultures of Mental Health in Modern East Asia. Guest edited by Emily Baum and Howard Chiang, the issue includes the following:

“Histories and cultures of mental health in Modern East Asia: New directions,” Emily Baum, Howard Chiang. No abstract.

“Castration fever: On trans, China, and psychoanalysis,” Howard Chiang. Abstract.

This essay considers the evolution of the author’s research over the last 15 years in which the treatment of castration as a historical problem holds promise for bridging disparate scholarly fields and paradigms. In particular, by tracing the shift in the author’s intellectual focus from the science of sex change to the history of transcultural psychoanalysis, some insights are offered in regard to the intertwined politics of transness, Chineseness, and the unconscious. Though psychoanalysis may appear as a subject far removed from the eunuchs of ancient China, this essay highlights some of the methodological stakes that have saturated the historical study of both topics. These reflections can serve as a touchstone for thinking beyond disciplinary norms and conventions, especially in Chinese studies and the history of science.

“Of visceral/somatic practices in healing,” Li Zhang. No abstract.

“Battling coronavirus and mental illness in South Korea,” Theodore Jun Yoo. No abstract.

“Limits of empathy: The dementia t?jisha movement in Japan,” Junko Kitanaka. Abstract:

How can we imagine someone’s experience of illness—even extreme cases, like, for example, psychosis—to the extent that we begin to empathize as if the experience were nearly our own? Based on 5 years of archival research and anthropological fieldwork, I investigate how different forms of understanding and empathy have emerged through the work of people living with dementia (dementia t?jishas), some of who have advocated for the cause in Japan. I show how those with dementia used to be regarded as incommensurable beings, who were sometimes romanticized as having a transcendental power, and how those who care for them have changed their perspectives as they began to see dementia t?jisha as possible versions of their future selves. I also describe the rise of the t?jisha movement and the ways in which it has raised questions about the limits of empathy and instead asserted rights as a basis of understanding. In doing so, dementia t?jisha may be questioning the very foundation of Japanese society, highly invested as it is in the virtue of empathy for maintaining social relations.

“Bonds of time and space: Divination and the psychiatric encounter,” Emily Baum. Abstract:

This essay examines the intersections between divination and psychiatry in the context of modern Chinese history. Throughout the 20th century, subsequent political regimes attempted to drive an ontological wedge between psychiatry, which was deemed scientific, and divination, which was deemed superstitious. While the dichotomy between science and superstition remains a powerful ideology today, it belies the use of divination as a psychotherapeutic tool. Occult practices such as fortune telling and shamanism complement the application of technical psychiatric skills by serving a crucial moral and interpersonal function, one that has important implications for the practice of mental healthcare both within and beyond Asia.

“Between drift and confinement: What can the study of “lunatics” in Hong Kong contribute to the historiography mental health in East Asia?” Harry Yi-Jui. Abstract:

In this essay, the author reflects on his past and current research in transnational history psychiatry and the history of lunatics in Hong Kong, attempting to develop an alternative narrative in the unique free port between the East and the West concerning the conventional colonial historiography of psychiatry. He emphasizes that, in Hong Kong, the historiography of psychiatry should broaden its focus and not limited to the role of mental asylums, for modern psychiatry was almost absent in Britain’s crown colony until the end of World War II, and custodial care for lunatics was only one temporary measure in a much broader network of patient repatriation. The grand project was designed not for the well-being of the mentally ill but the smooth operation of the international commercial port. In addition, the post-war institutionalization of psychiatry, including the expansion of hospitals and the creation of the psychiatric specialty in Hong Kong, did not improve the mental health of Hong Kong residents. The author argues that this is because the rapid development of modern psychiatry in the former British colony overlooked the social determinants of mental suffering. A historical understanding of psychiatry in Hong Kong is helpful to address such ignorance.

“Ritual futures: Spirit mediumship as chronotopic labor,” Emily Ng. Open Access. Abstract:

This essay reflects on the still-present difficulty in approaching contemporary rural mediumship as coeval with their urban psychotherapeutic counterparts. Drawing on ethnographic work in rural Henan province in central China, I describe how both rurality and spirit mediumship have been rendered anachronistic through national imaginaries, anti-superstition campaigns, and psychiatric discourses. The essay centers on the case of a spirit medium located in the psychiatric unit, and the social evolutionary and developmentalist temporalities condensed in her cultural psychiatric diagnosis. I then turn to the medium’s ritual work and cosmological account, which invert mediumship’s position in space and time. The essay approaches mediumship’s rituals as a form of chronotopic labor, which reworks the spatio-temporal coordinates they inherit from within. It closes by bringing together the conundrums of rural mediumship and those of urban psychotherapeutic and diasporic worlds, to consider psychic landscapes of dislocation, and other formulations of futures to come.

A code for care and control: The PIN as an operator of interoperability in the Nordic welfare state

AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences: “A code for care and control: The PIN as an operator of interoperability in the Nordic welfare state,” by Marja Alastalo, Ilpo Helén. Abstract:

Many states make use of personal identity numbers (PINs) to govern people living in their territory and jurisdiction, but only a few rely on an all-purpose PIN used throughout the public and private sectors. This article examines the all-purpose PIN in Finland as a political technology that brings people to the sphere of public welfare services and subjects them to governance by public authorities and expert institutions. Drawing on documentary materials and interviews, it unpacks the history and uses of the PIN as an elementary building block of the Nordic welfare state, and its emerging uses in the post-welfare data economy. The article suggests that, although the PIN is capable of individualizing, identifying, and addressing individuals, its most important and widely embraced feature is the extent to which it enables interoperability among public authorities, private businesses, and their data repositories. Interoperability, together with advances in computing and information technology, has made the PIN a facilitator of public administration, state knowledge production, and everyday life. More recently, in the post-welfare data economy, interoperability has rendered the PIN a national asset in all the Nordic countries, providing a great advantage to biomedical research, innovation business, and healthcare.

The New Yorker: The German Experiment that Placed Foster Children with Pedophiles

A harrowing piece on the “Kentler experiment” in The New Yorker may interest AHP readers: “The German Experiment that Placed Foster Children with Pedophiles.” The piece details psychologist and sexologist Helmut Kentler’s “experiment”, beginning in the 1960s, in which he placed foster children with pedophiles. This continued into the twenty-first century. The piece begins,

In 2017, a German man who goes by the name Marco came across an article in a Berlin newspaper with a photograph of a professor he recognized from childhood. The first thing he noticed was the man’s lips. They were thin, almost nonexistent, a trait that Marco had always found repellent. He was surprised to read that the professor, Helmut Kentler, had been one of the most influential sexologists in Germany. The article described a new research report that had investigated what was called the “Kentler experiment.” Beginning in the late sixties, Kentler had placed neglected children in foster homes run by pedophiles. The experiment was authorized and financially supported by the Berlin Senate. In a report submitted to the Senate, in 1988, Kentler had described it as a “complete success.”

The full article can be read online here.

Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning

AHP readers will be interested in a new book by Audrey Watters. Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning is described as follows:

How ed tech was born: Twentieth-century teaching machines—from Sidney Pressey’s mechanized test-giver to B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist bell-ringing box.

Contrary to popular belief, ed tech did not begin with videos on the internet. The idea of technology that would allow students to “go at their own pace” did not originate in Silicon Valley. In Teaching Machines, education writer Audrey Watters offers a lively history of predigital educational technology, from Sidney Pressey’s mechanized positive-reinforcement provider to B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist bell-ringing box. Watters shows that these machines and the pedagogy that accompanied them sprang from ideas—bite-sized content, individualized instruction—that had legs and were later picked up by textbook publishers and early advocates for computerized learning.

Watters pays particular attention to the role of the media—newspapers, magazines, television, and film—in shaping people’s perceptions of teaching machines as well as the psychological theories underpinning them. She considers these machines in the context of education reform, the political reverberations of Sputnik, and the rise of the testing and textbook industries. She chronicles Skinner’s attempts to bring his teaching machines to market, culminating in the famous behaviorist’s efforts to launch Didak 101, the “pre-verbal” machine that taught spelling. (Alternate names proposed by Skinner include “Autodidak,” “Instructomat,” and “Autostructor.”) Telling these somewhat cautionary tales, Watters challenges what she calls “the teleology of ed tech”—the idea that not only is computerized education inevitable, but technological progress is the sole driver of events.

The Force of an Idea: New Essays on Christian Wolff’s Psychology

A new volume on Christian Wolff’s psychology, edited by Saulo de Freitas Araujo, Thiago Constâncio Ribeiro Pereira, and Thomas Sturm, will be of interest to AHP readers. The Force of an Idea: New Essays on Christian Wolff’s Psychology is described as follows:

This book presents, for the first time in English, a comprehensive anthology of essays on Christian Wolff’s psychology written by leading international scholars. Christian Wolff is one of the towering figures in 18th-century Western thought. In the last decades, the publication of Wolff’s Gesammelte Werke by Jean École and collaborators has aroused new interest in his ideas, but the meaning, scope, and impact of his psychological program have remained open to close and comprehensive analysis and discussion. That is what this volume aims to do.

This is the first volume in English completely devoted to Wolff’s efforts to systematize empirical and rational psychology, against the background of his understanding of scientific method in metaphysics. Wolff thereby paved the way to the very idea of a scientific psychology. The book is divided into two parts. The first one covers the theoretical and historical meaning and scope of Wolff’s psychology, both in its internal structure and in its relation to other parts of his philosophical system, such as logic, cosmology, aesthetics, or practical philosophy. The second part deals with the reception and impact of Wolff’s psychology, starting with early reactions from his disciples and opponents, and moving on to Kant, Hegel, and Wundt.

The Force of an Idea: New Essays on Christian Wolff’s Psychology shows not only that Wolff’s psychological ideas have been misinterpreted, but also that they are historically more significant than traditional wisdom has it. The book, therefore, will be of interest to historians and philosophers of science, historians of philosophy and psychology, as well as to philosophers and psychologists interested in understanding the roots of scientific psychology in 18th and 19th century German philosophy.

Table of Contents
Introduction: Reevaluating Christian Wolff’s Psychology
Araujo, Saulo de Freitas (et al.)

Who Was Afraid of Wolff’s Psychology? The Historical Context
Goldenbaum, Ursula

The Origins and Development of Wolff’s Psychology in His German Writings
Pereira, Thiago Constâncio Ribeiro (et al.)

Empirical Psychology: Between Reason and Experience
Marcolungo, Ferdinando Luigi

Wolff and the Dogmas of Classical Rationalism
Dyck, Corey W.

Wolff’s Idea of
Mei, Manuela

Wolff on Monadology and “Materialisterey”
Wunderlich, Falk

Wolff and the Logic of the Human Mind
Favaretti Camposampiero, Matteo

Image Composition as an Aesthetic–Epistemological Problem in Wolff’s Empirical Psychology
Suzuki, Márcio (et al.)

In-Between Psychology and Moral Philosophy: Christian Wolff’s Principle of Natural Obligation
Hüning, Dieter

The Relation Between Psychology and the Other Parts of Metaphysics: Ontology, Cosmology, and Theology
Goubet, Jean-François

Development and Diffusion of Wolff’s Psychology Through His Disciples and Followers
Carboncini, Sonia

Wolffians and the Emancipation of Aesthetic Faculties
Heßbrüggen-Walter, Stefan

Wolff and the Beginnings of Experimental Psychology in the Eighteenth Century
Rydberg, Andreas

The Science of the Soul and the Unyielding Architectonic: Kant Versus Wolff on the Foundations of Psychology
McNulty, Michael Bennett

Hegel and Wolff’s Psychologies
Euler, Werner Ludwig

“The Most Excellent Psychological Systematist”: Wolff’s Psychology in the Eyes of Wilhelm Wundt
Araujo, Saulo de Freitas (et al.)

DSM: A History of Psychiatry’s Bible

A new book documenting the history of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association will be of interest to AHP readers. DSM: A History of Psychiatry’s Bible by Allan V. Horwitz is described as:

The first comprehensive history of “psychiatry’s bible”—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Over the past seventy years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, has evolved from a virtually unknown and little-used pamphlet to an imposing and comprehensive compendium of mental disorder. Its nearly 300 conditions have become the touchstones for the diagnoses that patients receive, students are taught, researchers study, insurers reimburse, and drug companies promote. Although the manual is portrayed as an authoritative corpus of psychiatric knowledge, it is a product of intense political conflicts, dissension, and factionalism. The manual results from struggles among psychiatric researchers and clinicians, different mental health professions, and a variety of patient, familial, feminist, gay, and veterans’ interest groups. The DSM is fundamentally a social document that both reflects and shapes the professional, economic, and cultural forces associated with its use.

In DSM, Allan V. Horwitz examines how the manual, known colloquially as “psychiatry’s bible,” has been at the center of thinking about mental health in the United States since its original publication in 1952. The first book to examine its entire history, this volume draws on both archival sources and the literature on modern psychiatry to show how the history of the DSM is more a story of the growing social importance of psychiatric diagnoses than of increasing knowledge about the nature of mental disorder. Despite attempts to replace it, Horwitz argues that the DSM persists because its diagnostic entities are closely intertwined with too many interests that benefit from them.

This comprehensive treatment should appeal to not only specialists but also anyone who is interested in how diagnoses of mental illness have evolved over the past seven decades—from unwanted and often imposed labels to resources that lead to valued mental health treatments and social services.