New JHBS: Mine Detection Dogs, Memory Improvement, Robert Owen, & the Street Corner Society

The winter 2014 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles describing the development of mine detector dogs during World War Two, late-nineteenth century advice on improving natural memory, parallels between debates over Robert Owen’s role in the history of sociology and contemporary sociology, and the roots of sociologist William Foote Whyte’s Street Corner Society. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“In Dogs We Trust? Intersubjectivity, Response-Able Relations, and the Making of Mine Detector Dogs,” by Robert G. W. Kirk. The abstract reads,

The utility of the dog as a mine detector has divided the mine clearance community since dogs were first used for this purpose during the Second World War. This paper adopts a historical perspective to investigate how, why, and to what consequence, the use of minedogs remains contested despite decades of research into their abilities. It explores the changing factors that have made it possible to think that dogs could, or could not, serve as reliable detectors of landmines over time. Beginning with an analysis of the wartime context that shaped the creation of minedogs, the paper then examines two contemporaneous investigations undertaken in the 1950s. The first, a British investigation pursued by the anatomist Solly Zuckerman, concluded that dogs could never be the mine hunter’s best friend. The second, an American study led by the parapsychologist J. B. Rhine, suggested dogs were potentially useful for mine clearance. Drawing on literature from science studies and the emerging subdiscipline of “animal studies,” it is argued that cross-species intersubjectivity played a significant role in determining these different positions. The conceptual landscapes of Zuckerman and Rhine’s disciplinary backgrounds are shown to have produced distinct approaches to managing cross-species relations, thus explaining how diverse opinions on minedog can coexist. In conclusion, it is shown that the way one structures relationships between humans and animals has profound impact on the knowledge and labor subsequently produced, a process that cannot be separated from ethical consequence.

“Advice for Improving Memory: Exercising, Strengthening, and Cultivating Natural Memory, 1860–1910,” by Alan F. Collins. The abstract reads,

The idea that human memory can be improved appears to be as ancient as the concept of memory itself. For centuries, authors have promised that using artificial mnemonical systems can improve remembering. However, in the late nineteenth century many authors of memory improvement texts emphasized the importance of enhancing natural memory as opposed to developing artificial memory systems. In doing so, they portrayed natural memory as something analogous to other body functions and parts, such as muscles, and promoted a metaphorical view of memory that did not rely wholly on the more familiar root metaphors of storage and inscription. At the same time, they stressed that natural memory could be reconciled with moral purposes, especially through notions of exercise, training, and discipline. This article explores these ideas and how they chimed with Victorian concerns about free will, the education of the young, moral imperatives around self-improvement, and the increasing interest in science and especially a science of the mind.

“Robert Owen in the History of the Social Sciences: Three Presentist Views,” by Adomas P?ras. The abstract reads,

This paper argues that the present-day disagreements over the right course for sociology and its public role are reflected and paralleled in contemporary historiography of Robert Owen, British social reformer and a self-described social scientist. Historical accounts, written from the perspectives of public sociology, “pure science” sociology, and anti-Marxism, interpret Owen’s historical role in mutually antithetical and self-serving ways. Contrasting the three presentist accounts, I engage in an analysis of “techniques of presentism”—history-structuring concepts, such as “disciplinary founder” and “disciplinary prehistory,” that allow presentist authors to get their effects. Along the way, I elaborate Peter Baehr’s classification of sociology’s founders.

“William Foote Whyte, Street Corner Society and Social Organization,” by Oscar Andersson. The abstract reads,

Social scientists have mostly taken it for granted that William Foote Whyte’s sociological classic Street Corner Society (SCS, 1943) belongs to the Chicago school of sociology’s research tradition or that it is a relatively independent study which cannot be placed in any specific research tradition. Social science research has usually overlooked the fact that William Foote Whyte was educated in social anthropology at Harvard University, and was mainly influenced by Conrad M. Arensberg and W. Lloyd Warner. What I want to show, based on archival research, is that SCS cannot easily be said either to belong to the Chicago school’s urban sociology or to be an independent study in departmental and idea-historical terms. Instead, the work should be seen as part of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown’s and W. Lloyd Warner’s comparative research projects in social anthropology.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.