Symposium: Film, Observation and the Mind

AHP readers may be interested in an online symposium on Film, Observation and the Mind taking place March 19th 2021 9:45-4:30 GMT. Full information on the event, including a online registration and full abstract for papers can be found here. Details below.

A symposium on the history of scientific and educational film in the ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ disciplines.

Symposium organisers: Dr Bonnie Evans & Professor Janet Harbord

The history of ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ disciplines has often been told with a focus on written materials including case studies and publications. Yet, the advent of cinema brought with it new techniques and methods through which to observe and study the workings of the mind via bodily gestures and behaviour. This one-day symposium will consider the significance of film to the establishment and development of neurology, psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and related disciplines. It will focus on how film observational techniques were employed to validate scientific knowledge and how literary and artistic representations of the self-influenced new scientific models from the late-19th century.

The symposium aims to bring together historians of science and film studies scholars to think critically about new ways to approach the history of scientific and educational film in the ‘neuro’ and ‘psy’ disciplines. It creates a forum to consider a number of questions. How were the techniques of early cinema used to create new ways to approach individual case studies? How did film inform statistical analyses? What role did film play in the distinction between atypical and typical states of mind and how were claims of atypicality justified? How did child observational films influence theories of developmental psychology and typical and atypical child development? Conversely, how were films used to challenge and question scientific narratives via approaches influenced by anti-psychiatry and neurodiversity movements. The symposium will be held over one day with the aim of papers leading to an edited volume or journal special issue.

Confirmed speakers: Professor Des O’Rawe (Queen’s University Belfast), Professor Janet Harbord (Queen Mary, University of London), Dr Kim Hajek (LSE), Dr Mathias Winter (Ecole Normale supérieure de Lyon), Dr Bonnie Evans (Queen Mary, University of London), Katie Joice (Birkbeck), Dr Felix Rietmann (University of Fribourg).

Presenters will speak for twenty minutes each followed by twenty minutes of questions and discussion. For more information, please contact Dr Bonnie Evans (


9:45-10:00: Welcome from Janet Harbord (Autism through Cinema)

10:00-11:00: Case Studies: Texts, Observations and Early Film

  • Bonnie Evans: Cinema, the Body and the Mind in its Inception
  • Kim Hajek: ‘She speaks correctly today’: Observations of States of ‘Personality’, 1870–1910

11:00: Break

11:30-12.30: Microanalysis and the Use of Film

  • Katie Joice: Mothering in the Frame: Cinematic Microanalysis and the Pathogenic Mother 1945-67
  • Felix Rietmann: Narrating Infant Experiences: Video-based Microanalysis as a Clinical Tool

12:30-13:30: Lunch

13:30-14:30: Psychoanalysis and Film as Pedagogic Tool

  • Film extracts from Fernand Deligny’s Le Moindre Geste (1971) and François Truffaut’s The Wild Child (1970)
  • Mathias Winter: Psychoanalysis, pedagogy, and cinema: François Truffaut’s The Wild Child and the French history of autism

14:30: Break

15:00-16:00: Observational Styles of Filmmaking

  • Janet Harbord: Filming in clinical settings: negotiating film grammar (1950-1969)
  • Des O’Rawe: Alternative Treatments: Documentary Film and the End of the Asylum

16:00-16:30: Concluding remarks

Feb 2021 HoP, Special Spotlight Section: Mental Health in Historical Context

The February 2021 issue of History of Psychology is now available. The issue includes a Special Spotlight Section on “Mental Health in Historical Context.” Full details below.

Special Spotlight Section: Mental Health in Historical Context

Graiver, I. (2021). A historical perspective on mental health: Proposal for a dialogue between history and psychology. History of Psychology, 24(1), 1–12. Abstract:

This contribution aims to promote a dialogue between history and psychology by outlining a direction for future research at the intersection of these disciplines. In particular, it seeks to demonstrate the potential contributions of history to psychology by employing the category of mental health in a historical context. The analysis focuses on notions of psychological health that were developed in late antiquity, especially the equation between “health of the soul” and dispassion (apatheia) within the Christian monastic movement. This theologically informed notion of what constitutes positive human functioning and well-being is examined in view of modern attempts, in mainstream and positive psychology, to define mental health. The optimism concerning the naturalness of virtue and the malleability of human nature that underlies late antique notions of “health of the soul” becomes noticeable in its absence once we turn to modern notions of mental health. It thus provides an illuminating counter-example against which to compare and analyze modern attempts to define mental health. A comparison of these alternative notions human flourishing offers an opportunity to reflect on and test the validity of contemporary attempts to define this condition in a culturally sensitive manner.

Lampe, K. (2021). Mental health and transcendence in antiquity and today: Comment on Graiver (2021). History of Psychology, 24(1), 13–16. Abstract:

I am sympathetic to Inbar Graiver’s (see record 2021-21903-001) claim that modern Western psychology can benefit from a dialogue with history and would emphasize that her article points toward two distinct ways this is so: first, on the basis of historiographical representations of individual experience; second, on the basis of the history of concepts. I also accept her generalization that modern psychology and psychiatry have often focused on pathology and that among the key reasons for this is the biomedical assumption that “an organism is healthy to the extent that it is not diseased” (pp. 7–8). (I am more diffident about the degree to which Freudian psychoanalysis remains responsible for this today. ) Insofar as Western psychologists do attempt to theorize a universal model of “mental health,” Graiver rightly highlights the danger they will not perceive their own culturally specific presuppositions. Though I am no expert in Christian monastic hagiography or theorizations of “the health of the soul,” I am sure both can contribute to illuminating some of these presuppositions. This article also raises many questions for me. For the sake of brevity, I will address only two of them. The first concerns the general conceptualization of “mental health,” whereas the second focuses on the roles of relationality and transcendence in mental health.

Ustinova, Y. (2021). Mental well-being in ancient Greece: Comment on Graiver (2021). History of Psychology, 24(1), 17–21. Abstract:

In her thought-provoking article, Graiver (see record 2021-21903-001) argues that many early Christian monks achieved sustained psychological health, perceived as joyful serenity by their contemporaries, and admired within their milieu and the society at large. This state was attained by means of dispassion (apatheia) and culminated in spiritual enlightenment. In the author’s opinion, conclusions of this historical research call for a reassessment of modern attitudes to psychological health that can be construed only “in a culturally sensitive manner” (p. 1). In my opinion, limitation of the evidence on mental health in Ancient Greece to medical authors only is hardly justified. The word psuchê is virtually ignored by Greek medical authors. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Rotman, Y. (2021). Moral psychopathology and mental health: Modern and ancient. History of Psychology, 24(1), 22–33. Abstract:

Following three turning points in the historical development of psychology this study examines how the relation between mental health and the state of illness is linked to the concept of “passions.” The first was the birth of modern psychiatry in 18th century France. The second was the development of the field of inquiry in antiquity about the psuch? and its mental activities, and the third was the turn of early Christian thought about mind and soul. A comparison between early modern and ancient concepts of “the passions” reveals the moral and ethical aspects of the concept “mental health,” and shows that more than for any other kind of illness, the history of mental illness and mental health is embedded within a moralistic philosophical perspective. Pathology as a field of study of “the passions,” whatever their definition was, enabled thinkers to refer to mental illness and health in moral terms. Although “passions” meant different things to different authors in different times, it was used by all as means to link between inner mental activities and the way the body react to the outside world. We can see it as an obligatory element to conceptualize illness, disorder, and health in regards to mental activities. Pagan ancient authors as well as early Christian authors used it to construct new theories and praxes about mental health, while early modern psychiatrists used it to develop corporeal methods of cure. In all currents of thought the concept of “passions” and the definition of the ways in which they affected the mind were used to distinguish mental illness and mental health from any other type of illness and health.

Regular Articles

Bandrés, J. (2021). Neo-Catholics against new psychology in 19th century Spain: The journal La Ciencia Cristiana (1877–1887). History of Psychology, 24(1), 34–54. Abstract:

In the 1870s, Krausists and Catholics struggled for hegemony in Spanish educational institutions. In the midst of the fray, a group of neo-Kantian intellectuals, led by José del Perojo, set out to renew psychology in Spain by introducing Wundt’s physiological psychology and Darwinian evolutionism. Neither Catholics nor Krausists welcomed the proposal. In the case of Catholics, the fundamentalist group led by professor of metaphysics Juan Manuel Ortí y Lara founded the journal La Ciencia Cristiana [Christian Science] to counter the neo-Kantian and Darwinian influences. In this article, I present a selection of texts from the journal to show how the editors tried to discredit the foundations of physiological psychology and evolutionism, as well as to promote a scholastic philosophy based on the literal interpretation of the texts of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Finally, I suggest that the identification of Catholic philosophy with fundamentalist scholasticism delayed the development of neo-scholastic psychology in Spain.

Shapira, M. (2021). A case for a “middle-way career” in the history of psychology: The work of pioneering psychoanalyst Marjorie Brierley in early 20th century Britain. History of Psychology, 24(1), 55–76. Abstract:

Historians often focus on the most famous or radical, prolific theoreticians among psychoanalysts, thereby at times reproducing the self-centered biases of their subjects rather than providing a useful critique. I offer instead a revisionist view of this history of psychology, arguing that we should pay more attention to a variety of middle-way actors who combined diverse forms of often-dismissed labor that included practice, editorial, and administrative work, and who tried to find a less rigid theoretical middle ground to toil. These middle-way actors were often women and although scholars have commented on the prominence of women in the early societies of psychoanalysis, we have not conducted adequate research on all these early active members and their roles. This article presents an example of such an actor, Marjorie Brierley (1893–1984), one of the first women psychoanalysts in Britain who made unique, yet unresearched, varied contributions—intellectual and non-intellectual—to the famous interwar debate on femininity and to organizational and clinical work. If we are to fully understand the establishment, cultivation, and maintenance of the flourishing field of psychoanalysis in the early 20th century, we must account for the work of women like her.

Lišková, K., & Szegedi, G. (2021). Sex and gender norms in marriage: Comparing expert advice in socialist Czechoslovakia and Hungary between the 1950s and 1980s. History of Psychology, 24(1), 77–99. Abstract:

First, we argue that sexuality was central to socialist modernization: Sex and gender were reformulated whenever the socialist project was being revised. Expertise was crucial in these reformulations, which harnessed people’s support for the changing regimes. Moreover, the role of the expert in society grew over time, leading to ever expanding and diversified fields of expertise. Second, gender and sexuality stood disjointed in these changes. Whereas in the early 1950s sex was a taboo subject in Hungary, in the last three decades of socialism it was gradually acknowledged and emancipated, along with a discursive push to alter gender roles within marriage. Conversely, Czechoslovak experts paid close attention to sexuality and particularly to female pleasure from the outset of the regime, highlighting the benefits of gender equality for conjugal satisfaction; yet, they changed course with Normalization (1969–1989) when they embraced gender hierarchy as the structure for a good marriage and a fulfilling sex life. It follows that gender and sexuality can develop independently: Change in one is not necessarily bound to similar progress in the other. Thus, third, whereas there was a shared initial push for gender equality, there was no unified socialist drive for the liberalization of sexuality.

Psychologies in Revolution: Alexander Luria’s ‘Romantic Science’ and Soviet Social History

AHP readers will be interested in a recently released book Psychologies in Revolution: Alexander Luria’s ‘Romantic Science’ and Soviet Social History by Hannah Proctor. The book is described as follows.

This book situates the work of the Soviet psychologist and neurologist Alexander Luria (1902-1977) in its historical context and explores the ‘romantic’ approach to scientific writing developed in his case histories. Luria consistently asserted that human consciousness was formed by cultural and historical experience. He described psychology as the ‘science of social history’ and his ideas about subjectivity, cognition and mental health have a history of their own. Lines of mutual influence existed between Luria and his colleagues on the other side of the iron curtain, but Psychologies in Revolution also discusses Luria’s research in relation to Soviet history – from the October Revolution of 1917 through the collectivisation of agriculture and Stalinist purges of the 1930s to the Second World War and, finally, the relative stability of the Brezhnev era – foregrounding the often marginalised people with whom Luria’s clinical work brought him into contact. By historicising science and by focusing on a theoretical approach which itself emphasised the centrality of social and political factors for understanding human subjectivity, the book also seeks to contribute to current debates in the medical humanities.

The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy by Hannah Zeavin

AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming book now available for pre-order. The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy by Hannah Zeavin is described as follows:

Therapy has long understood itself as taking place in a room, with two (or sometimes more) people engaged in person-to-person conversation. And yet, starting with Freud’s treatments by mail, psychotherapy has operated through multiple communication technologies and media. These have included advice columns, radio broadcasts, crisis hotlines, video, personal computers, and mobile phones; the therapists (broadly defined) can be professional or untrained, strangers or chatbots. In The Distance Cure, Hannah Zeavin proposes a reconfiguration of the traditional therapeutic dyad of therapist and patient as a therapeutic triad: therapist, patient, and communication technology.

Zeavin tracks the history of teletherapy (understood as a therapeutic interaction over distance) and its metamorphosis from a model of cure to one of contingent help, describing its initial use in ongoing care, its role in crisis intervention and symptom management, and our pandemic-mandated reliance on regular Zoom sessions. Her account of the “distanced intimacy” of the therapeutic relationship offers a powerful rejoinder to the notion that contact across distance (or screens) is automatically lesser, or useless, to the person seeking therapeutic treatment or connection. At the same time, these modes of care can quickly become a backdoor for surveillance and disrupt ethical standards important to the therapeutic relationship. The history of the conventional therapeutic scenario cannot be told in isolation from its shadow form, teletherapy. Therapy, Zeavin tells us, was never just a “talking cure”; it has always been a communication cure.

“Never sacrifice anything to laboratory work”: The “physiological psychology” of Charles Richet (1875–1905)

A new piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers. ““Never sacrifice anything to laboratory work”: The “physiological psychology” of Charles Richet (1875–1905),” by Renaud Evrard, Stéphane Gumpper, Bevis Beauvais, and Carlos S. Alvarado. Abstract:

Whilst best known as a Nobel laureate physiologist, Charles Robert Richet (1850–1935) was also a pioneer of scientific psychology. Starting in 1875 Richet had a leading role in the habilitation of hypnosis, in the institutionalization of psychology in France, and in the introduction of methodological innovations. Authoring several psychology books, Richet’s works contributed to the recognition of the scientific nature of the discipline. This role is often underplayed by some historians and psychology textbooks in favor of his later position as a proponent of the controversial discipline he christened metapsychics in 1905, which today lies within the province of parapsychology. In this article, we show how his psychological approach guided by physiology, or physiological psychology, facilitated the reception of psychology. We hypothesize a strong continuity between his physiological psychology and his metapsychics, as he himself considered metapsychics as an advanced branch of physiology, and thus also an outpost of psychology.

Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care

A recently self-published book by Jack Martin – who taught history and theory of psychology at Simon Fraser University for many years – may interest AHP readers. Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care is described as follows:

Starting in 1911, and for many years, the Alberta Hospital Ponoka, or AHP, was the largest and highest-population psychiatric institution in the Western Canadian Province of Alberta. It was also located on the outskirts of Jack Martin’s hometown, and his father was employed there, which means that its story and Martin’s intersect in varied and interesting ways.

In Hometown Asylum, Martin explores the Hospital’s history, along with some of his own. In this journey, Martin considers past and contemporary issues in mental health services and treatments from the perspectives of those receiving them, those attempting to provide them, and the citizens whose attitudes and tax dollars inevitably guide and contribute to these efforts.

In telling the history of the Alberta Hospital Ponoka, this book describes a wide and varied range of treatments for those suffering mental disorders, and examines how societies, past and present, have responded to the challenges of caring for them. As a part of this, Martin raises questions about the nature of mental illness, the efficacy and ethics of treatments offered, the rights of the mentally ill, and the obligations and manner of their care.

Special Issue: Going Public: Mobilizing, Materializing, and Contesting Social Science History

AHP readers will be interested in a recently released special issue “Going Public: Mobilizing, Materializing, and Contesting Social Science History” in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Full details below.

Introduction: “Going public: Mobilizing, materializing, and contesting social science history,” Alexandra Rutherford. No Abstract.

“Elements of a counter-exhibition: Excavating and countering a Canadian history and legacy of eugenics,” Evadne Kelly, Dolleen Tisawii’ashii Manning, Seika Boye, Carla Rice, Dawn Owen, Sky Stonefish, and Mona Stonefish. Abstract:

Into the Light, a recently mounted collectively curated museum exhibition, exposed and countered histories and legacies of 20th?century “race betterment” pedagogies taught in Ontario’s postsecondary institutions that targeted some groups of people, including Anishinaabe, Black, and other racialized populations, and disabled and poor people, with dehumanizing ideas and practices. This article advances understandings of the transformative potential of centralizing marginalized stories in accessible and creative ways to disrupt, counter, and draw critical attention to the brutal impacts of oppressive knowledge. The “counter?exhibition” prioritized stories of groups unevenly targeted by such oppression to contest and defy singular narratives circulating in institutional knowledge systems of what it means to be human. The authors draw on feminist, decolonial and disability scholarship to analyze the exhibition’s curation for the ways it collectively and creatively: (1) brought the past to the present through materializing history and memory in ways that challenged archival silences; and (2) engaged community collaboration using accessible, multisensory, multimedia storytelling to “speak the hard truths of colonialism” (Lonetree) while constructing a new methodology for curating disability and access (Cachia). The authors show how the exhibition used several elements, including counter?stories, to end legacies of colonial eugenic violence and to proliferate accounts that build solidarity across differences implicated in and impacted by uneven power (Gaztambide?Fernández).

“Social protest photography and public history: “Whose streets? Our streets!”: New York City, 1980–2000,” Tamar W. Carroll. Abstract:

“Whose streets? Our streets!,” a traveling exhibition that debuted at the Bronx Documentary Center in January 2017, brings together the work of 37 independent photographers who covered protests in New York City between 1980 and 2000. Collectively, they chronicle social justice struggles related to race relations and police brutality; war and the environment; HIV/AIDS and queer activism; abortion rights, feminism, and the culture wars; and housing, education, and labor. The exhibition and companion multimedia website demonstrate the role that photographers, activists, and ordinary people play in enacting democratic social change. They also highlight social protest photography as an important source for doing public history.

“Guns, germs, and public history: A conversation with Jennifer Tucker,” David Serlin. Abstract:

In this wide?ranging conversation, historians David Serlin (UC San Diego) and Jennifer Tucker (Wesleyan University) discuss the role of material culture and visual media in shaping how museums communicate histories of science and technology. Tucker describes recent a public history project focused on 19th?century histories of firearms and gun regulation in light of contemporary debates about the Second Amendment “right to bear arms.” Serlin and Tucker conclude by speculating about possible curatorial directions for a future public history exhibit focused on the social and cultural impact of the COVID?19 pandemic during 2020.

“Doing history that matters: Going public and activating voices as a form of historical activism,” Erika Dyck. Abstract:

For many of us academics, doing community?engaged research means coming to terms with the significant gaps in experience, privilege, and power, and overall access to knowledge. We are trained to learn through texts, not through direct experience. In some ways, we are even conditioned to tune out experience, or anecdote, to dilute personal subjectivities in favor of a critical analysis informed by a combination of methods and sources, and a reliance on text?based forms of evidence. Whereas for most community members, evidence is experiential. This dynamic also underscores the tremendous power and responsibility we have as historians to shape identities and legacies through the stories we tell. In the end, I believe the risks are worth the rewards.

Logic of Feeling: Technology’s Quest to Capitalize Emotion

A new book by Luke Munn may interest AHP readers. Logic of Feeling: Technology’s Quest to Capitalize Emotion is described as follows:

From the virulence of fake news to the rise of psychographic profiling, emotion has become ascendant. The new frontier of capitalization is not outward, but inward—the inner life of affect and emotion, desire and disposition. This book lays that new reality out with a series of close case studies.

A new set of technologies are emerging, from facial coding to affective computing, that attempt to render the emotional into the machine-readable. At the same time, social media and smart home devices are becoming empathic, attempting to draw out our affective participation and elicit our emotional expression. In these encounters with the medial and the technical, the emotional is remade.

Combining a close analysis of contemporary technologies such as Affectiva, Facebook, and Alexa with critical media theory, Logic of Feeling: Technology’s Quest to Capitalize Emotion examines how the quest to operationalize this inner life begins to reconfigure feeling itself.

Table of Contents

  1. The Ascendancy of Emotion

Emotional Content

Emotional Decisions

Emotional Computing

  1. Capturing Emotion: Affectiva and Facial Coding

From Darwin to Ekman

Basic Emotions and the Revenge of Empiricism

Affectiva and Optimizing for Emotion

A Future of Facial Calibration

  1. Eliciting Emotion: Facebook and the Injunction to Share

Anxious Pleasures

Addiction by Design

Making Emotion Count

  1. Emulating Emotion: Alexa and Friendly Power

From Algorithmic to Affective

Turning to Face Alexa

  1. Steering Emotion: Cambridge Analytica and Psychopolitics

Kosinski and the Intimate Like

Crawling into the Skin of the Consumer

From Demographics to Psychographics


Fechner on a Walk: Everyday Investigations of the Mind-Body Relationship

A piece in the February 2021 issue of Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences may interest AHP readers:

Fechner on a Walk: Everyday Investigations of the Mind-Body Relationship,” by Joshua Bauchner. Abstract:

The Leipzig physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–88) is best known for his introduction of psychophysics, an exact, empirical science of the relations between mind and body and a crucial part of nineteenth-century sensory physiology and experimental psychology. Based on an extensive and close reading of Fechner’s diaries, this article considers psychophysics from the vantage of his everyday life, specifically the experience of taking a walk. This experience was not mere fodder for his scientific practice, as backdrop, object, or tool. Rather, on foot, Fechner pursued an investigation of the mind-body parallel to his natural-scientific one; in each domain, he strove to render the mind-body graspable, each in its own idiom, here everyday and there scientific. I give an account of Fechner’s walks as experiences that he both undertook and underwent, that shaped and were shaped by the surrounding everyday cacophony, and that carried a number of competing meanings for Fechner himself; the attendant analysis draws on his major scientific work, Elemente der Psychophysik (1860; Elements of Psychophysics), as the thick context that renders the walks legible as an everyday investigation. What results are three modes of walking—physiopsychical, interpersonal, and universal—each engaging the mind-body at a different level, as also engaged separately in Elemente’s three major sections, outer psychophysics, inner psychophysics, and general psychophysics beyond the human. This analysis ultimately leads to a new view of Fechner’s belief in a God who was “omnipresent and conscious in nature” and whom Fechner encountered daily on his walks in the budding of new blooms and rustling of the wind. More broadly, I aim to bring the analysis of everyday experiences as experiences into the historiography of science.

Civilian Lunatic Asylums During the First World War: A Study of Austerity on London’s Fringe

AHP readers may be interested in a new open access book by Claire Hilton: Civilian Lunatic Asylums During the First World War: A Study of Austerity on London’s Fringe. As described by the publisher,

This open access book explores the history of asylums and their civilian patients during the First World War, focusing on the effects of wartime austerity and deprivation on the provision of care. While a substantial body of literature on ‘shell shock’ exists, this study uncovers the mental wellbeing of civilians during the war. It provides the first comprehensive account of wartime asylums in London, challenging the commonly held view that changes in psychiatric care for civilians post-war were linked mainly to soldiers’ experiences and treatment. Drawing extensively on archival and published sources, this book examines the impact of medical, scientific, political, cultural and social change on civilian asylums. It compares four asylums in London, each distinct in terms of their priorities and the diversity of their patients. Revealing the histories of the 100,000 civilian patients who were institutionalised during the First World War, this book offers new insights into decision-making and prioritisation of healthcare in times of austerity, and the myriad factors which inform this.