New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The February 2013 issue of the History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are a number of all new articles that address topics that range from Latour, Péguy, and the history of science to the instincts of insects and boundary work in social psychology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The materiality of things? Bruno Latour, Charles Péguy and the history of science,” by Henning Schmidgen. The abstract reads,

This article sheds new light on Bruno Latour’s sociology of science and technology by looking at his early study of the French writer, philosopher and editor Charles Péguy (1873–1914). In the early 1970s, Latour engaged in a comparative study of Péguy’s Clio and the four gospels of the New Testament. His 1973 contribution to a Péguy colloquium (published in 1977) offers rich insights into his interest in questions of time, history, tradition and translation. Inspired by Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of difference, Latour reads Clio as spelling out and illustrating the following argument: ‘Repetition is a machine to produce differences with identity’. However, in contrast to Deleuze’s work (together with Félix Guattari) on the materiality of machines, or assemblages [agencements], Latour emphasizes the semiotic aspects of the repetition/difference process. As in Péguy, the main model for this process is the Roman Catholic tradition of religious events. The article argues that it is this reading of Péguy and Latour’s early interest in biblical exegesis that inspired much of Latour’s later work. In Laboratory Life (Latour and Woolgar, 1979) and The Pasteurization of France (1988) in particular, problems of exegesis and tradition provide important stimuli for the analysis of scientific texts. In this context, Latour gradually transforms the question of tradition into the problem of reference. In a first step, he shifts the event that is transmitted and translated from the temporal dimension (i.e. the past) to the spatial (i.e. from one part of the laboratory to another). It is only in a second step that Latour resituates scientific events in time. As facts they are ‘constructed’ but nevertheless ‘irreducible’. They result, according to Latour, from the tradition of the future. As a consequence, the Latourian approach to science distances itself from the materialism of Deleuze and other innovative theoreticians.

“Oikonomia in the age of empires,” by Dotan Leshem. The abstract reads,

The article reviews the uses of the term ‘oikonomia’ in Greek-speaking antiquity and illustrates how the term was used in all spheres of human existence and in various arts and sciences, usually denoting the prudent dispensation of the field resources. In this era the arts and sciences also received their own economies, and the term oikonomia, designating in most cases the prudent management of resources, appears in political theory, military strategy, law, finance, medicine, literary criticism, architecture, music, history and rhetoric. Among all the spheres, arts and sciences that were economized, the story of oikonomia in the field of rhetoric is at the center of this article’s attention. As shown, the concept of oikonomia took an intermediate form between the realm of thought – that is, the domain of philosophy – and the realm of public speech – the domain of politics.

“Adam Ferguson and ethnocentrism in the science of man,” by Craig Smith. The abstract reads,

The Scottish moral philosopher Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) is recognized as one of the founding fathers of sociology and social science more generally. This article examines his early ruminations on what has come to be seen as one of the most pressing methodological concerns for social science: the problem of ethnocentrism. The article explores Ferguson’s attempts to deal with this problem and his attempt to plot the relationship between empirical research, theory formation and normative moral judgement. It argues that Ferguson was well aware of the danger of cultural bias and that his understanding of moral science is marked by a concern that empirical and normative judgements are freed from the danger of such bias.

“Insects, instincts and boundary work in early social psychology,” by Diane M. Rodgers. The abstract reads,

Insects factored as ‘symbols of instinct’, necessary as a rhetorical device in the boundary work of early social psychology. They were symbolically used to draw a dividing line between humans and animals, clarifying views on instinct and consciousness. These debates were also waged to determine if social psychology was a subfield of sociology or psychology. The exchange between psychologist James Mark Baldwin and sociologist Charles Abram Ellwood exemplifies this particular aspect of boundary work. After providing a general background of the debates, I turn specifically to the writings of Baldwin and Ellwood between 1890 and 1936, tracing the use of insects as ‘symbols of instinct’.

“Between the vertical and the horizontal: Time and space in archaeology,” by Cristián Simonetti. The abstract reads,

Archaeology, like most sciences that rely on stratigraphic excavation for studying the past, tends to conceptualize this past as lying deep underneath the ground. Accordingly, chronologies tend to be depicted as a movement from bottom to top, which contrast with sciences that illustrate the passage of time horizontally. By paying attention to the development of the visual language of disciplines that follow stratigraphy, I show how chronologies get entangled with other temporalities, particularly those of writing. Relying on recent ethnographic work with archaeologists, the analysis reveals that excavation emerges as a double vertical movement of downward destruction and upward reconstruction that coincides with a systematic dissociation of time and space that has important effects for the understanding of the formation of sites. I conclude by looking at some of the implications of this dissociation for contemporary theoretical discussions, particularly those that emerged after the phenomenological push to horizontalize the discipline. Challenging this dissociation, I argue that the conceptualization of time in science should be understood as a process that depends on the body and unfolds in movement.

“The mind is a brittle object: The abortion law and therapeutic legitimation,” by Merethe Flatseth and Ole Jacob Madsen. The abstract reads,

This article takes a historical look at abortion in Norway, especially the parliamentary debates and the legislation on selective abortion. By using metaphor theory and discourse analysis we disclose that mental health issues came into practice as a legitimate cause for selective abortion for women in Norway from the 1960s and recur in more recent debates about important amendments in 1996 and 2003. In order to abort, women must simultaneously adopt a psychological means of self-representation. The history of the discourse on selective abortion in Norway thus illustrates the often ambiguous relationship between reproductive policy and ‘psy’. The analysis also shows that a therapeutic discourse today creates a framework of meaning for all political parties in Norway in the questions regarding abortion, including the Christian Democratic Party traditionally committed to religious motifs. This particular part of the history of abortion in Norway suggests that the psy-sciences and a therapeutic outlook on the self and society came into being in Norway from the 1960s, marking a defining moral shift from the previous religious and moral reasoning to a therapeutic ethos.

Review Articles

“Capitalism and criticism: Weber on economic history,” by Christopher Adair-Toteff. No abstract provided.
“Memory and the psychologists,” by Alan Collins. No abstract provided.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.