HoP: Special issue on the History of Power

The latest issue of History of Psychology is now available. (Abstracts below.)

  • Hegarty, P. (2007). Getting Dirty: Psychology’s History Of Power. History of Psychology, 10(2), 75-91.

This introduction to the special issue on the history of power forwards the anthropological concept of “purification” as a means of drawing together disparate histories of psychology that invoke notions of power. Drawing on the work of Mary Douglas, Bruno Latour, Michel Foucault, and Donna Haraway, I argue for a history of psychology that links the carving up of people up into their properly natural and enculturated parts with keeping people in their place, the purification of interpretation by scientific representation, the maintenance of the body politic of the discipline, and the role of psychology in making up power in modern nation states.

  • Shields, S. A. (2007). Passionate Men, Emotional Women: Psychology Constructs Gender Difference In The Late 19th Century. History of Psychology, 10(2), 92-110.

The author examines British and American scientific psychology’s portrayal of natural and ideal masculinity and femininity in the late 19th century to show how purported differences in emotion and reason were critical to explaining the evolutionary foundation of existing social hierarchies. Strong emotion was identified with heterosexual manliness and men’s purportedly better capacity to harness the power of emotion in the service of reason. “Feminine” emotion was portrayed as a comparatively ineffectual emotionality, a by-product of female reproductive physiology and evolutionary need to be attractive to men. The author argues that constructions of emotion by psychology served an important power maintenance function. A concluding section addresses the relevance of this history to the politics of emotion in everyday life, especially assertions of emotional legitimacy.

  • Pols, H. (2007). Psychological Knowledge In A Colonial Context: Theories On The Nature Of The “Native Mind” In The Former Dutch East Indies. History of Psychology, 10(2), 111-131.

This article analyzes the views of 3 Dutch physicians working in the former Dutch East Indies during the first part of the 20th century. These physicians based ideas about the nature of the normal indigenous psyche on both their analysis of Indonesian individuals suffering from mental illness and on casual observations that represented widely shared cultural stereotypes. On that basis, they advocated a psychological colonial policy, which was to be based on a scientific understanding of the psyche of the Indonesian people. Using these ideas, they advocated political repression, justified inequality and racism, and limited educational opportunities for Indonesians. Representatives of the Indonesian nationalist movement vigorously protested against these ideas.

  • Hegarty, P. (2007). From Genius Inverts To Gendered Intelligence: Lewis Terman And The Power Of The Norm. History of Psychology, 10(2), 132-155.

The histories of “intelligence” and “sexuality” have largely been narrated separately. In Lewis Terman’s work on individual differences, they intersect. Influenced by G. Stanley Hall, Terman initially described atypically accelerated development as problematic. Borrowing from Galton, Terman later positioned gifted children as nonaverage but ideal. Attention to the gifted effeminate subjects used to exemplify giftedness and gender nonconformity in Terman’s work shows the selective instantiation of nonaverageness as pathological a propos of effeminacy, and as ideal a propos of high intelligence. Throughout, high intelligence is conflated with health, masculinity, and heterosexuality. Terman’s research located marital sexual problems in women’s bodies, further undoing possibilities for evaluating heterosexual men’s practices as different from a normative position. Terman’s research modernized Galton’s imperialist vision of a society led by a male cognitive elite. Psychologists continue to traffic in his logic that values and inculcates intelligence only in the service of sexual and gender conformity.

  • Bunn, G. C. (2007). Spectacular Science: The Lie Detector’s Ambivalent Powers. History of Psychology, 10(2), 156-178.

Spectacular science is a mode of scientific inquiry that is created and sustained by popular culture. In this article, I provide evidence for this claim by examining the history of the lie detector. Throughout the 20th century, the technology was nurtured by newspaper and magazine articles, movies, comic books, television shows, and advertisements. Analysis of this rich archive reveals the instrument to be, on the one hand, an automatically functioning machine, the epitome of science. But on the other hand, the lie detector is also a totemistic object that requires the skills of a charismatic magician to work at all. Nevertheless, the instrument was untroubled by such apparent contradictions, because it operated according to a spectacular mode of governance.

  • Burman, E. (2007). Between Orientalism And Normalization: Cross-Cultural Lessons From Japan For A Critical History Of Psychology. History of Psychology, 10(2), 179-198.

Cross-cultural research performs a vital role within the confirmation of psychological “truths.” Its differentiations work simultaneously to establish their general applicability and the superiority of Anglo-U.S. ways of living and relating. Taking three examples of how “Japan” figures within English language psychological accounts (i.e., group/individual, shame/guilt societies, and attachment styles), I indicate how the apparent stability of these truths suppressed the violent history of their generation. Moreover, I suggest how resisting the assimilation of cultural specificity into a discourse of mere variation can challenge the hegemony of Anglo-U.S. psychology and reframe the vexed question of specificity versus universality.

  • Cassidy, A. (2007). The (Sexual) Politics Of Evolution: Popular Controversy In The Late 20th-Century United Kingdom. History of Psychology, 10(2), 199-226.

This article outlines the major threads of controversy around the emerging subject of evolutionary psychology in the U.K. mass media during the 1990s. Much of this controversy centered on the role of evolution in shaping human gender roles and sexualities, contributing to the subject’s mass appeal. This case is used to illustrate the argument that in theorizing about evolution and humans, “human nature” and “human origins” both provide a flexible resource for making arguments about how people do and should relate to one another and that such theorizing is therefore reflective of how power is held (and contested) in society. In the case of popular evolutionary psychology, shifts in the U.K. political landscape during the 1990s combined with changes in gender and sexual politics to create a situation where evolutionary theorizing about humans became more acceptable than it had been in the past. This was particularly true in left-liberal media, where a newfound compatibility between certain aspects of Darwinism and feminism created a very different space for debating gender, sexuality, and the role of human nature in today’s society.

About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.