‘A woman and now a man’: The legitimation of sex-assignment surgery in the United States (1849–1886)

AHP readers may be interested in a new open access piece in Social Studies of Science: “‘A woman and now a man’: The legitimation of sex-assignment surgery in the United States (1849–1886),” Maayan Sudai. Abstract

Throughout much of recorded history, societies that assigned rights and duties based on sex were confounded by people with unclear sex. For the sake of maintaining social and legal order in those contexts, legal systems assigned these people to what they figured was the ‘most dominant’ sex. Then, in mid-19th century United States, a new classification mechanism emerged: sex-assignment surgery, which was imagined by some surgeons to ‘fix’ one’s physical and legal sex status permanently. Other surgeons, however, fiercely opposed the new practice. This article traces the controversy around sex-assignment surgery through three high-profile cases published in US medical journals from 1849 to 1886. Its central argument is that the more general effort to transform surgery into a scientific field helped legitimate the practice of sex-assignment surgery. Although such surgery was subject to intense moral criticism because it was thought to breach the laws of men and nature, over time, these concerns were abandoned or transformed into technical or professional disagreements. In a secondary argument, which helps explain that transformation, this article shows that surgeons gradually became comfortable occupying the epistemic role of sex-classifiers and even sex-makers. That is, whereas sex classification was traditionally a legal task, the new ability to surgically construct one’s genitals engendered the notion that sex could be determined and fixed in the clinic in a legally binding manner. Accordingly, I suggest that surgery became an epistemic act of fact-making. This evolution of the consensus around sex-assignment surgery also provides an early origin story for the idea of sex as plastic and malleable by surgeons, thus offering another aspect to the history of plastic sex.

Meaning-Change Through the Mistaken Mirror: On the Indeterminacy of “Wundt” and “Piaget” in Translation

A new open-access piece in Review of General Psychology will interest AHP readers: “Meaning-Change Through the Mistaken Mirror: On the Indeterminacy of “Wundt” and “Piaget” in Translation,” Jeremy Trevelyan Burman. Abstract:

What does a name mean in translation? Quine argued, famously, that the meaning of gavagai is indeterminate until you learn the language that uses that word to refer to its object. The case is similar with scientific texts, especially if they are older; historical. Because the meanings of terms can drift over time, so too can the meanings that inform experiments and theory. As can a life’s body of work and its contributions. Surely, these are also the meanings of a name; shortcuts to descriptions of the author who produced them, or of their thought (or maybe their collaborations). We are then led to wonder whether the names of scientists may also mean different things in different languages. Or even in the same language. This problem is examined here by leveraging the insights of historians of psychology who found that the meaning of “Wundt” changed in translation: his experimentalism was retained, and his Völkerpsychologie lost, so that what Wundt meant was altered even as his work—and his name—informed the disciplining of Modern Psychology as an experimental science. Those insights are then turned here into a general argument, regarding meaning-change in translation, but using a quantitative examination of the translations of Piaget’s books from French into English and German. It is therefore Piaget who has the focus here, evidentially, but the goal is broader: understanding and theorizing “the mistaken mirror” that reflects only what you can think to see (with implications for replication and institutional memory).

Hannah Zeavin’s “Hot and Cool Mothers”

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in differences: “Hot and Cool Mothers,” Hannah Zeavin. Abstract:

“Hot and Cool Mothers” moves toward a media theory of mothering and parental “fitness.” The article begins with an investigation into midcentury pediatric psychological studies on Bad Mothers and their impacts on their children. The most famous, if not persistent, of these diagnoses is that of the so-called refrigerator mother. The refrigerator mother is not the only bad model of maternality that midcentury psychiatry discovered, however; overstimulating mothers, called in this study “hot mothers,” were identified as equally problematic. From the mid-1940s until the 1960s and beyond, class, race, and maternal function were linked in metaphors of temperature. Whereas autism and autistic states have been extensively elaborated in their relationship to digital media, this article attends to attributed maternal causes of “emotionally disturbed,” queer, and neurodivergent children. The author argues that these newly codified diagnoses were inseparable from midcentury conceptions of stimulation, mediation, domesticity, and race, including Marshall McLuhan’s theory of hot and cool media, as well as maternal absence and (over)presence, echoes of which continue in the present in terms like “helicopter parent.”

Lesbian and bisexual women’s experiences of aversion therapy in England

A new open-access article in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Lesbian and bisexual women’s experiences of aversion therapy in England,” Helen Spandler and Sarah Carr. Abstract:

This article presents the findings of a study about the history of aversion therapy as a treatment technique in the English mental health system to convert lesbians and bisexual women into heterosexual women. We explored published psychiatric and psychological literature, as well as lesbian, gay, and bisexual archives and anthologies. We identified 10 examples of young women receiving aversion therapy in England in the 1960s and 1970s. We situate our discussion within the context of post-war British and transnational medical history. As a contribution to a significantly under-researched area, this article adds to a broader transnational history of the psychological treatment of marginalised sexualities and genders. As a consequence, it also contributes to LGBTQIA+?history, the history of medicine, and psychiatric survivor history. We also reflect on the ethical implications of the research for current mental health practice.

Winter issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología

The Winter issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología is now online. Full titles, authors, and English abstracts follow below:

  1. O. Hobart Mowrer and the scandal of the Missouri “Sex Questionnaire” (1929). (Article written in English)

José María Gondra

O. Hobart Mowrer (1907-1982) was a prominent figure in learning theory in the late 1930s and mid-1940s. After World War II he began practicing psychological counseling with students and his controversial views on psychopathology and religion, along with his criticism of psychoanalysis, had a great impact on the daily press as has recently been pointed out (Page, 2017). Mowrer’s presence in the media, however, did not start at this stage of his career but goes back to the late 1920s, when he was an undergraduate student of psychology at the University of Missouri and circulated a sex questionnaire that caused public uproar in the state of Missouri and the rest of the United States. This article focuses on the questionnaire and the implications of the scandal for Mowrer and the history of psychology. I analyze his appearances in the press during his career, the social and intellectual context at the University of Missouri, the two parallel forms of the questionnaire – male and female. I also examine the impact of this episode on Mowrer’s career and on American psychology and society as evidenced by its widespread press coverage and the report of the American Association of University Professors in defense of freedom of teaching and research.

  1. Imitation and Distinction. History of Two Theoretical Concepts in Social Psychology: The legacy of Simmel, Tarde and Bourdieu. (Article written in English)

Vicente Caballero de la Torre

The Annales Movement underlined the importance of the non-conscious mechanisms which perpetuate social phenomena. Such mechanisms can be understood as the object of microanalysis by multiple social sciences. Concerning Social Psychology, the theoretical concepts of imitation and distinction are found at the same microlevel and have been the object of such a microanalysis by three eminent sociologists. The thought of George Simmel, Gabriel Tarde and Pierre Bourdieu on these topics is exposed in order to show the historical relevance of their contributions concerning these microlevel key-concepts of Social Psychology. As a conclusion, this article aims to provide a rationale for innovative researchers to reflect on the boundaries that separate their discipline from Sociology; the interdisciplinarity required to address theoretical concepts underlying the discipline (such as imitation and distinction); and the relevance of these contemporary classics to understand phenomena that occur in an increasingly networked social world.

  1. Una mujer como cualquier otra. Desarrollos sobre la violencia contra las mujeres en la psicología argentina (1983-1994) [A woman like any other. Developments on violence against women in Argentine psychology (1983-1994)] (Article written in Spanish)

Mariela González Oddera

En el presente trabajo se aborda la tematización que tuvo lugar desde la psicología argentina sobre el tópico de la violencia contra las mujeres durante el período 1983-1994, teniendo en cuenta la categoría de uso prevalente: mujer golpeada. Se reflexiona, asimismo, sobre la modalidad en la que esta tematización se configuró en el ámbito disciplinar, donde hubo un esfuerzo explícito de diferenciación respecto a propuestas teóricas existentes. La perspectiva teórica elegida para dar cuenta de estos objetivos aborda las relaciones entre psicología y orden social e incluye los aportes de la historia reciente. Se reconstruye cómo las teorizaciones psicológicas argentinas se inscribieron en una genealogía feminista de reflexión y recepcionaron fundamentalmente un modelo teóricotécnico de la psicología norteamericana sobre la mujer golpeada. Al mismo tiempo, esta propuesta se diferenció de la semantización y el abordaje extendidos hasta el momento en el país, derivados del marco teórico psicoanalítico.

This paper addresses the thematization that took place in Argentine psychology about violence against women during the period 1983-1994, taking into account the prevailing category used: battered woman. This paper also ponders the modality in which this thematization was configured in the disciplinary field, where there was an explicit effort to differentiate the new proposal from existing theorizations. The theoretical perspective chosen addresses the relationships between psychology and social order and includes contributions from recent history. It is reconstructed how psychological theorizations were inscribed in a feminist genealogy and had received a theoretical-technical model of the American psychology on battered women. At the same time, this proposal differed from the semantization and the approach extended in our country, derived from the psychoanalytic theoretical framework.

  1. Enrique Pichon Rivière y la recepción del psicoanálisis lacaniano en Argentina [Enrique Pichon Rivière and the reception of lacanian psychoanalysis in Argentina] (Article written in Spanish)

Jesuán Agrazar, Julieta De Battista y Luis Sanfelippo

El presente artículo interroga el papel que Enrique Pichon Rivière pudo haber tenido en la recepción de las ideas de Lacan en Argentina. Se parte, someramente, de la historia mayormente conocida al respecto, la que se centra en la figura de Oscar Masotta, para dirigirse luego a las convergencias y divergencias que podrían encontrarse entre Pichon y Lacan, de modo particular en lo tocante a la clínica de las psicosis. Si bien la política y el surrealismo de Pichon pudieron colaborar en la recepción de Lacan en el país, algunos elementos de su clínica operaron quizás como terreno fértil sobre el que se apoyara una recepción de conceptos como el Otro, lo real, el objeto, alienación y separación de Lacan. La metodología empleada toma elementos de la historia crítica y se basa fundamentalmente en la consulta de fuentes primarias y secundarias escritas.

This article questions the role that Enrique Pichon Rivière may have had in the reception of Lacan’s ideas in Argentina. It begins with the most well-known story in this regard, which focuses on the figure of Oscar Masotta, to then address the convergences and divergences that could be found between Pichon and Lacan, particularly with regard to the clinic of psychosis. Although Pichon’s politics and surrealism could collaborate in Lacan’s reception in the country, some elements of his clinic perhaps operated as fertile ground on which to support a reception of concepts such as the Other, the real, the object, alienation and separation from Lacan. The methodology used takes elements from critical history and is fundamentally based on consulting primary and secondary written sources.

  1. In Memoriam Víctor García-Hoz Rosales. (Article written in Spanish)

Javier Bandrés

Víctor García-Hoz Rosales, profesor jubilado de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid falleció el domingo 14 de noviembre de este año 2021. Ofrecemos dos obituarios firmados por Juan José Aparicio y Ricardo Pellón y una selección de imágenes de Víctor en cursos y reuniones científicas. Luis Aguado, catedrático de la Universidad Complutense, escribía hace poco: “Con sus conocimientos, su entusiasmo y su actitud personal, Víctor tuvo sobre mí un fuerte impacto. Despertó mi curiosidad por la investigación y por una explicación de la conducta que en aquel momento resultaba casi revolucionaria. Además, su compromiso social y su especial forma de ser contribuyeron a que Victor fuese para mi una de mis mayores influencias como estudiante y futuro psicólogo”. Probablemente muchos profesores españoles que ocupan actualmente posiciones académicas distinguidas se sentirán identificados en las palabras del profesor Aguado.

Víctor García-Hoz Rosales, retired professor at the Complutense University of Madrid, passed away in Madrid on Sunday, November 14, 2021. We offer two obituaries by professors Juan José Aparicio and Ricardo Pellón and a selection of images of Víctor on the occasion of courses and meetings. Luis Aguado, a professor at the Complutense University, recently wrote: “With his knowledge, his enthusiasm and his personal attitude, Víctor had a strong impact on me. It piqued my curiosity for research and for an explanation of behavior that at the time was almost revolutionary. In addition, his social commitment and his special way of being contributed to Víctor being one of my greatest influences as a student and future psychologist”. Probably many Spanish professors who currently occupy relevant academic positions will identify themselves with the comments of Professor Aguado.

Purkyne’s Opistophone: the hearing ‘Deaf’, auditory attention and organic subjectivity in Prague psychophysical experiments, ca 1850s

AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece in Annals of Science: “Purkyne’s Opistophone: the hearing ‘Deaf’, auditory attention and organic subjectivity in Prague psychophysical experiments, ca 1850s,” by Anna Kvicalova. Abstract:

The paper examines the little-known experiments in audition performed by the prominent experimental physiologist Jan Purkyne in Prague in the 1850s. Purkyne’s original research on spatial hearing and auditory attention is studied against the backdrop of the nineteenth century research on binaural audition and the nascent field of psychophysics. The article revolves around an acoustic research instrument of Purkyne’s own making, the opistophone, in which hearing became both an object of investigation and an instrument of scientific inquiry. It argues that Purkyne’s understanding of auditory attention, which combined acoustic stimulation, physiological conditions, and sensory training, preceded a similar approach to hearing in psychophysical debates in the second half of the nineteenth century. Purkyne was the first scholar to experimentally investigate intracranial sounds, which he studied in his experiments with the inmates of the Prague Institute of Deaf-Mutes. This research on intracranial hearing was part of Purkyne’s study of so-called organic subjectivity, in which subjective hearing experience was interpreted as the result of the interaction between individual perception and objective acoustic phenomena.

‘A landmark in psychiatric progress’? The role of evidence in the rise and fall of insulin coma therapy

A new open-access article in History of Psychiatry may interest AHP readers: “‘A landmark in psychiatric progress’? The role of evidence in the rise and fall of insulin coma therapy,” Robert Freudenthal and Joanna Moncrieff. Abstract:

This paper examines the evidence behind the use and decline of insulin coma therapy as a treatment for schizophrenia and how this was viewed by the psychiatric profession. The paper demonstrates that, from the time of its introduction, there was considerable debate regarding the evidence for insulin treatment, and scepticism about its purported benefits. The randomized trials conducted in the 1950s were the result, rather than the origins, of this debate. Although insulin treatment was subsequently abandoned, it was still regarded as a historic moment in the modernization of psychiatry. Then, as now, evidence does not speak for itself, and insulin continued to be incorporated into the story of psychiatric progress even after it was shown to be ineffective.

Artificial Intelligence from Colonial India: Race, Statistics, and Facial Recognition in the Global South

A new article in Science, Technology, & Human Values may interest AHP readers: “Artificial Intelligence from Colonial India: Race, Statistics, and Facial Recognition in the Global South” by Simon Michael Taylor, Kalervo N. Gulson, and Duncan McDuie-Ra. Abstract:

This article examines the history of a similarity measure—the Mahalanobis Distance Function—and its movement from colonial India into contemporary artificial intelligence technologies, including facial recognition, and its reapplication into postcolonial India. The article identifies how the creation of the Distance Function was connected to the colonial “problem” of caste and ethnic classification for British bureaucracy in 1920-1930s India. This article demonstrates that the Distance Function is a statistical method, originating to make anthropometric caste distinctions in India, that became both a technical standard and a mobile racialized technique, utilized in machine learning applications. The creation of the Distance Function as a measure of “similitude” at a particular period of colonial state-making helped to model wider categories of classification which have proliferated in facial recognition technology. Overall, we highlight how a measurement function that operates in recognition technologies today can be traced across time and space to other racialized contexts.

The Goldwater Rule: A bastion of a bygone era?

A new open-access article in History of Psychiatry may interest AHP readers: “The Goldwater Rule: A bastion of a bygone era?” by Aoibheann McLoughlin. Abstract:

In tandem with the changing political landscape in recent years, interest in the Goldwater Rule has re-emerged within psychiatric discourse. Initiated in 1973, the Goldwater Rule is an ethical code specific to psychiatry created by the American Psychiatric Association in response to events surrounding the USA presidential election of 1964, in which the integrity of the psychiatric profession was challenged. Current detractors view the rule as an antiquated entity which obfuscates psychiatric pragmatism and progression. Proponents underscore its role in maintaining both respectful objectivity and diagnostic integrity within the psychiatric assessment process. This essay aims to explore the origin of the rule, and critique its applicability to modern-day psychiatric practice.

Pain and Shock in America: Politics, Advocacy, and the Controversial Treatment of People with Disabilities

AHP readers may be interested in a new book Pain and Shock in America: Politics, Advocacy, and the Controversial Treatment of People with Disabilities by Jan Nisbet with Contributions by Nancy R. Weiss. The book is described as follows:

The first book to be written on the Judge Rotenberg Center and their use of painful interventions to control the behavior of children and adults with disabilities.

For more than forty years, professionals in the field of disability studies have engaged in debates over the use of aversive interventions (such as electric shock) like the ones used at the Judge Rotenberg Center. Advocates and lawyers have filed complaints and lawsuits to both use them and ban them, scientists have written hundreds of articles for and against them, and people with disabilities have lost their lives and, some would say, lived their lives because of them. There are families who believe deeply in the need to use aversives to control their children’s behavior. There are others who believe the techniques used are torture. All of these families have children who have been excluded from numerous educational and treatment programs because of their behaviors. For most of the families, placement at the Judge Rotenberg Center is the last resort.

This book is a historical case study of the Judge Rotenberg Center, named after the judge who ruled in favor of keeping its doors open to use aversive interventions. It chronicles and analyzes the events and people involved for over forty years that contributed to the inability of the state of Massachusetts to stop the use of electric shock, and other severe forms of punishment on children and adults with disabilities. It is a long story, sad and tragic, complex, filled with intrigue and questions about society and its ability to protect and support its most vulnerable citizens.