New JHBS: Sensory Deprivation, USDA Research, and More

The autumn 2013 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are three all new articles. The history of John Zubek’s (left) sensory deprivation research is explored in an article by Mical Raz, while Andrew Jewett discusses the social science involvement in United States Department of Agriculture research in the 1930s. A further article details the relationship between British sociology and colonialism in the mid-twentieth century. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Alone Again: John Zubek and the Troubled History of Sensory Deprivation Research,” by Mical Raz. The abstract reads,

In the 1950s, sensory deprivation research emerged as an influential new field for behavioral science researchers, supported by the intelligence community. Within a few years, deprivation research had become ubiquitous; images of sensory deprivation were invoked to explain a wide range of phenomena, from religious revelations to the very structure of psychoanalysis. Yet within a decade and a half, this field of research became implicated in cases of torture and abuse. This article examines the history of University of Manitoba psychologist John Zubek, who remained one of the final researchers still conducting sensory deprivation research in the 1970s. It raises questions on how might it be possible to successfully and cautiously perform controversial research.

“The Social Sciences, Philosophy, and the Cultural Turn in the 1930s USDA,” by Andrew Jewett. The abstract reads,

One of the more unusual attempts by the American state to mobilize academic expertise unfolded in the late 1930s, when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hired scholars in the “culture and personality” fields and philosophy to aid its efforts to promote economic, social, and cultural change in the countryside. USDA progressives also reached out to disciplinary scholars in other ways as they sought to institute a deliberative mode of planning in local communities and to remake the curricula of the land-grant colleges in support of that project. These USDA initiatives and scholars’ responses reveal that scientific knowledge was mobilized in the 1930s not just for the instrumental purpose of regulating economic behavior but also to explain and legitimate federal programs and to inform ambitious projects for cultural change. At the USDA, as at many other sites between the wars, scientific thinkers turned to the social sciences and philosophy in order to understand and then change the public mind.

“A Child of the Empire: British Sociology and Colonialism, 1940s–1960s,” by George Steinmetz. The abstract reads,

British sociology was established as an academic discipline between 1945 and 1965, just as the British Empire was gearing up for a new phase of developmental colonialism backed by the social and other sciences. Many parts of the emerging sociological discipline became entangled with colonialism. Key themes and methods in sociology and the staff of sociology departments emerged from this colonial context. Historians have tended to place postwar British sociology in the context of expanding higher education and the welfare state, and have overlooked this colonial constellation. The article reconstructs this forgotten moment of disciplinary founding and explores three of the factors that promoted colonial sociology: the Colonial Social Science Research Council, the so-called Asquith universities, and the social research institutes in the colonies; and the involvement of sociologists from the London School of Economics in training colonial officials.

Reviewed Books

Thomas A. Kohut. A German Generation: An Experiential History of the Twentieth Century.

Frank C. P. van der Horst. John Bowlby—From Psychoanalysis to Ethology: Unraveling the Roots of Attachment Theory.

Raymond E. Fancher & Alexandra Rutherford. Pioneers of Psychology.

Chris Renwick. British Sociology’s Lost Biological Roots: A History of Futures Past.

Diana Wyndham. Norman Haire and the Study of Sex.

Angus Burgin. The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression.

Nicolas Guilhot (Ed.). The Invention of International Relations Theory: Realism, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the 1954 Conference on Theory.

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.