The regional survey movement and popular autoethnography in early 20th-century Britain

AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece and winner of the 2022 History of the Human Sciences Early Career Prize: “The regional survey movement and popular autoethnography in early 20th-century Britain,” Harry Parker. Abstract:

This article’s subject is the theory and practice of ‘regional survey’, the method of social and environmental study associated with Scottish thinker Patrick Geddes (1854–1932). Despite being overlooked or dismissed in most accounts of early 20th-century social science, regional survey had a wide influence on the development of the nascent disciplines of anthropology, sociology, and human geography. Emerging from late 19th-century field biology, the regional survey came to typify a methodological moment in the natural and social sciences that favoured the holistic analysis of geographically delimited areas. By the interwar period, the kinds of projects that went under its name can clearly be seen as forerunners of the post-Second World War tradition of community studies. Additionally, in its self-presentation as a civic, participatory exercise, the regional survey can be read as a form of popular autoethnography that contrasts with other, more familiar social-scientific ventures in the first half of the 20th century, and defies the dichotomy between ‘gentlemanly’ and ‘technical’ modes of social science. As a result, this article argues, the regional survey provides an alternative point of departure for thinking about the origins and development of the modern social sciences in Britain.

Censorship at the American Psychological Association

AHP readers will be interested in a piece at Counterpunch, “Censorship at the American Psychological Association,” which explores a troubling case of censorship at the journal History of Psychology.

As Roy Eidelson writes,

… a manuscript can become ensnared by behind-the-scenes maneuvering and decision-making that have little to do with the merits of the article itself. In such cases, non-scholarly considerations supersede the well-established guideposts of impartial peer review and unbiased evaluation of a submission’s worthiness for publication. That was apparently the unfortunate fate of “A Military/Intelligence Operational Perspective on the American Psychological Association’s Weaponization of Psychology Post-9/11.” This article’s circuitous journey bears recounting here as a cautionary tale for the profession and for the APA.

Read the full piece here.

ETC Online Research Seminar on Madness in Premodern and Early Cultures

The Early Text Cultures research group based at the University of Oxford is delighted to announce our research seminar in Trinity Term (April – June 2023), will be on ‘Madness in Premodern and Early Cultures’. Sessions one and two will take place online on Wednesdays from 14:00-15:00 (UK Time). The third session comprises two talks and will begin at the earlier time of 11:00, concluding at 13:00. 

Humans experiencing mental distress have been attested throughout all regions and time periods. However, when discussing these experiences, our lexicon is often bound to modern psychological and medical jargon such as ‘illness’, ‘disorder’ and ‘mental health’. Yet Madness was – and can be – conceived of in a plethora of different ways. Disability Studies, Anti-psychiatry and the burgeoning discipline of Mad Studies offer new useful paradigms with which to conceptualise Madness in the modern age, but how should we discuss Mad people in history?

This series seeks to explore presentations of Madness from early and pre-modern time periods. From the widespread practice of trephination in numerous cultures of North Africa and South America, to medieval models for understanding mental distress in Foucault’s seminal Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (1961), Madness is a key theme within pre-modern studies. This series hopes to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing about new lenses with which to engage with texts.

The sessions will be held online, on Wednesday 2-3 pm (UK Time). Please note that the third session comprises two talks and will begin at 11 am, ending at 1 pm. The first session will be on Wednesday 24 May. Dr Alex Johnston (Oxford) will speak about ‘Divine Possession and Language in Homer and Sophocles’.

Please register here to receive Zoom links on the day of each session.


Week 5, 24 May

Alex Johnston (Oxford): Divine Possession and Language in Homer and Sophocles

Week 6, 31 May

Avital Rom (Cambridge): Messy Minds: The Epistemology of Madness in Ancient China

Week 9, 21 June (please note this session will begin at the earlier time of 11:00 and run until 13:00)

Toby Brandon (Northumbria) and Guest (TBD): Introducing Mad Studies

Natasha Downs (Edinburgh): A Mad-positive reading of Japanese Translations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Sounding Acoustic Precision: Tuning Forks and Cast Steel’s Nineteenth-Century Euro-American

A new piece in a special Focus section dedicated to “Supplied Knowledge: Resouce Regimes, Materials, and Epistemic Tools” in the June 2023 issue of Isis will interest AHP readers: “Sounding Acoustic Precision: Tuning Forks and Cast Steel’s Nineteenth-Century Euro-American Networks,” Fanny Gribenski and David Pantalony. Abstract:

A great variety of tuning forks survive in collections around the world, from departments of physics, phonetics, and psychology to medical settings, conservatories, and museum collections. Their ubiquity speaks to their iconic status, while their diversity points to the multifaceted cultures of materiality that shaped and formed around these objects. This essay traces the complex supply chains of nineteenth-century tuning forks, from the gathering and processing of iron ore and crucible steel, to their sites of manufacture, to their various uses. By probing further into these nodes of supply and use, the essay uncovers a chain of values and contingencies that reveal the interdependencies between extracting, commercial, scientific, and artistic practices of the past.

The crisis of modern society: Richard Titmuss and Emile Durkheim

AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences: “The crisis of modern society: Richard Titmuss and Emile Durkheim,” John Stewart. Abstract:

This article examines the influence of Emile Durkheim’s sociology on Richard Titmuss, founder of the academic field of social policy. While operating in different environments and historical eras, they shared concerns about modernity’s impact on contemporary societies, heightened by their experiences of living in periods of considerable political and socio-economic upheaval. Their social thought embraced crucial complementarities, and understanding these adds a previously under-explored dimension to Titmuss’s influential analyses of Britain’s post-war ‘welfare state’.

Reception of experimental pedagogy and psychology in Chile. Analysis of the intellectual influences of Wilhelm Mann, 1904–1915

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: “Reception of experimental pedagogy and psychology in Chile. Analysis of the intellectual influences of Wilhelm Mann, 1904–1915,” Juan David Millán, Gonzalo Salas. Abstract:

This article provides a detailed analysis of the intellectual research project of Wilhelm Mann, one of the pioneers of experimental and educational psychology in Chile. Mann’s work has been the object of so little analysis that his intellectual influences and networks are not clearly known. We analyzed 338 intratext citations from 22 works by Wilhelm Mann published during the period 1904–1915. As a result, we obtained a mapping of his cooperation networks and used a quantitative approach to study the authors who most influenced his career, among whom were William Stern, Herbert Spencer, Wilhelm Wundt, Alfred Binet, and Ernst Meumann. Mann was closely connected to the international and contemporary advances and discussions of his time, despite the lack of infrastructure and difficulties in communication. Mann was the first psychologist to develop a long-term project in Chile that aimed to measure the individualities of Chilean students and their intellectual development.

The book history of Rona M. Fields’s A Society on the Run (1973): A case study in the alleged suppression of psychological research on Northern Ireland

A new open-access piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers: “The book history of Rona M. Fields’s A Society on the Run (1973): A case study in the alleged suppression of psychological research on Northern Ireland,” Gavin Miller. Abstract:

The US psychologist Rona M. Field’s book A Society on the Run (1973) offered a psychological account of the nature and effects of the Northern Irish Troubles at their peak in the early 1970s. The book was withdrawn shortly after publication by its publisher, Penguin Books Limited, and never reissued. Fields alleged publicly that the book had been suppressed by the British state, a claim that has often been treated uncritically. Local Northern Irish psychologists suggested that the book was taken off the market because of its scientific deficiencies. Rigorous book-historical investigation using Penguin editorial fields reveals, however, that what might appear to be a case of state suppression, or an instance of disciplinary boundary work, can be explained instead by the commercial interests and professional standards of a publisher keen to preserve its reputation for quality and reliability.

The moral economy of diversity: How the epistemic value of diversity transforms late modern knowledge cultures

A new piece in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers: “The moral economy of diversity: How the epistemic value of diversity transforms late modern knowledge cultures,” Nicolas Langlitz and Clemente de Althaus. Abstract:

We may well be witnessing a decisive event in the history of knowledge as diversity is becoming one of the premier values of late modern societies. We seek to preserve and foster biodiversity, neurodiversity, racial diversity, ethnic diversity, gender diversity, linguistic diversity, cultural diversity, and perspectival diversity. Perspectival diversity has become the passage point through which other forms of diversity must pass to become epistemically consequential. This article examines how two of its varieties, viewpoint diversity and educational diversity, have come to transform the moral economy of science. Both aim at multiplying perspectives on a given subject, but their political subtexts differ markedly. The valorization of educational diversity followed a US Supreme Court decision in 1978 that enabled universities to advance social justice, if they justified race-conscious admissions in terms of the pedagogic benefits of a more diverse student body for all. By contrast, the proponents of viewpoint diversity aim at the reform of scientific knowledge production and distribution rather than the reallocation of status and power among different social groups. We examine the political epistemology of viewpoint diversity by analyzing a controversy between social psychologists who, amid the American culture wars of the 2010s, debated how to rein in their political biases in a scientific field supposedly lacking political diversity. Out of this scientific controversy grew Heterodox Academy, an activist organization promoting viewpoint diversity in higher education. By relating and comparing viewpoint and educational diversity, we clarify what is at stake epistemically in the US-centric moral economy of diversity

May 2023 History of Psychology

The May 2023 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Titles, authors, and abstracts below.

““That imperfect instrument”: Galton’s whistle, Bierce’s damned thing, and the phenomenon of superior nonhuman sensory range,” Burton, Gregory. Abstract:

When the Galton whistle was introduced in the 1870s, it was the first demonstration many had encountered of the phenomenon that nonhumans sometimes exceed humans in sensory range, for example perceiving ultraviolet light and ultrasonic signals. While some empirical research had explored this possibility beforehand, this area of perceptual research progressed slowly. A horror short story by Ambrose Bierce in 1893, “The Damned Thing,” used the concept of superior nonhuman sensory range as a twist ending, seemingly anticipating scientific discoveries to come or at least understanding the implications of the early findings well in advance of the field. This article analyzes Bierce’s possible sources, with Bierce representing the general educated nonscientist and providing insights into the spread of this concept into public and scientific awareness.

““Down with fascism, up with science”: Activist psychologists in the U.S., 1932–1941,” Free to read. Harris, Ben. Abstract:

At the height of the Depression, more psychologists in the U.S. were awarded degrees than could find jobs. Master’s level graduates were particularly affected, holding positions that were tenuous, and they rejected second-class membership offered by the American Psychological Association. In response to this employment crisis, two Columbia University MA graduates created The Psychological Exchange, a journal that offered graduates and established colleagues a forum for news, job ads, and for discussing the expansion of psychology to address problems of the Depression. This article describes the Exchange and its unique window into psychologists debating how to reshape their field. In 1934, it was used by young Marxists to launch The Psychologists’ League, which agitated for colleagues who lost their jobs, tried to make research socially relevant, and connected with movements for the “social reconstruction” of society. It raised the consciousness of its members and sympathizers by linking to worldwide antifascist struggles while fighting antisemitism and nativism at home. While previous accounts make the League seem a spontaneous eruption, this article shows how members of the Communist Party created it, then controlled its agenda and activities. During the Stalin-Hitler pact they followed Stalin’s anti-war ideology and the League became a shell organization. Its members, nonetheless, creatively mixed psychological concepts and political ideology, drawing in colleagues through discussion groups, demonstrations, and social events. Sources for this work include unpublished correspondence, a diary, and Federal Bureau of Investigation files that reveal more complex lives than previously portrayed.

“Charlotte Bühler and her emigration to the United States: A clarifying note regarding the loss of a professorship at Fordham University,” Schneider, Wolfgang; Stock, Armin. Abstract:

Although Charlotte Bühler (1893–1974) was one of the most prominent female psychologists during the first half of the last century, she never received a full professorship in a psychology department. In this paper, we discuss possible reasons for this failure and focus on problems related to an offer from Fordham University in 1938 that never materialized. Our analysis based on unpublished documents indicates that Charlotte Bühler provided incorrect reasons for the failure in her autobiography. Moreover, we found no evidence that Karl Bühler ever received an offer from Fordham University. Overall, our reconstruction of events indicates that Charlotte Bühler came very close to her goal of receiving a full professorship at a research university, but unfavorable political developments and her suboptimal decisions were involved in the unfortunate outcome.

“The diffusion of Bruner’s psychological research in China and its impact,” Wang, Jing; Huo, Yongquan. Abstract:

Jerome S. Bruner (1915–2016) is a legendary figure in psychology and one of the most influential psychologists and educators of this era. His research interests were diverse, and his achievements were impressive. Although Bruner’s contributions are significant, no studies have been undertaken to investigate the value and impact of his theories outside the United States, to the detriment of scholarship. To fill this research gap, this article analyzes Chinese research on Bruner’s work to determine the influence of such research in China. Through a systematic historical investigation and theoretical interpretation, this article indicates the different stages of transmission, outstanding contributions, and future development path of Bruner’s influence on Chinese psychology. This serves to expand the field of research psychology. Promoting the diversified integration of psychology and obtaining an in-depth understanding of the frontier issues that this international psychologist was concerned with has important academic significance for the future development of Chinese psychology.

News & Notes

“Notes from the archives: Margaret Floy Washburn and her cats,” Mitchell, Rebecca; Harris, Ben. Abstract:

Margaret Floy Washburn was one of the leading psychologists of her generation, whose most important work was The Animal Mind (Goodman, 1980). As E. G. Boring noted, that text “reflected her own love of animals and her intense interest in their behavior” (1971, p. 547). What about the role of animals in Washburn’s personal life?

“Giving the history of psychology away in behavior analysis,” Morris, Edward K.; Morris, Cody. Abstract:

Based on a symposium at the 2018 meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI; E. K. Morris, 2018), the December 2022 issue of Perspectives on Behavior Science (PoBS)—ABAI’s house journal—published a special section on teaching the history of behavior analysis. It was inspired by George Miller’s (1969) urging that psychologists promote human welfare by discovering how “to give psychology away” (p. 1074). The special section of PoBS urged readers to promote the history of behavior analysis by giving it away. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Völkerpsychologie as a field science: José Miguel de Barandiarán and Basque ethnology

AHP readers will be interested in a new open-access piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: “Völkerpsychologie as a field science: José Miguel de Barandiarán and Basque ethnology,” by Aitor Anduaga. Abstract:

José Miguel de Barandiarán considered the central figure of Basque anthropology, played a prominent role in the Basque people’s cultural rescue (material and spiritual). His dual status as an ethnologist and priest prepared him to study collective mentalities and rural societies. However, the scientific approach of the Völkerpsychologie (roughly translated as ethnic psychology), as proposed by Wilhelm Wundt, greatly influenced him and aroused broad interests of ethnological and sociological–religious concerns. This essay examines the scope and depth of Wundt’s influence on Barandiarán, and suggests that, by combining the techniques of folklore with those of ethnography, Barandiarán stamped Basque anthropology with a unique defining quality in Europe.