New HoP: The Future of the History of Psychology Revisited

Kurt Danziger

The August 2016 issue of History of Psychology is now available. Articles in this special issue, guest edited by Adrian Brock, revisit the issues raised by Kurt Danziger in his 1994 article “Does the History of Psychology Have a Future?” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The future of the history of psychology revisited,” by Adrian C. Brock. The abstract reads,

In 1994, Kurt Danziger published an article in Theory & Psychology with the title, “Does the history of psychology have a future?” The article attracted a great deal of controversy and is now listed on the journal’s website as one of the most cited articles in its history. After providing a synopsis of Danziger’s article, I discuss some of the issues that emerged from the controversy that followed its publication. I also ask whether the position of the history of psychology has changed in the intervening years. We are already in the future that Danziger discussed, even if it is only the near future, and the situation may look different from here. After pointing out that Danziger himself has changed his views on this subject, I suggest that it does look different. The editorial ends with an introduction to the articles in the special issue and some reflections on the importance of understanding the context in which historians of psychology work.

“The history specialist in psychology: From avocation to professionalization,” by Marissa E. Barnes and Scott Greer. The abstract reads,

This article focuses on the history of psychology as a core area in the field of psychology. Does the discipline recognize the contributions of historical research, or does the history of psychology only serve a pedagogical function in the discipline? Our concerns center on the relationship (or lack thereof) between pedagogy and research in the academy. This stems from the fact that historical research is not viewed as contributing to the advancement of the field both professionally and pedagogically. We summarize the pedagogical function that the history of psychology serves in the academic discipline, as well as its status for professionalism in psychology. Moving from the U.S. and Canadian context, we address the status of the history and philosophy of psychology within Britain and Ireland. This comparative analysis allows us to remark more broadly on the issue of professionalism for psychologists as it pertains to the requirement of the history of psychology for advancement in the field (from undergraduate student to practitioner in the field). We also discuss the issue of professionalism for historians of psychology. Specifically, what does it mean to identify as a historian of psychology, and what challenges emerge from specializing in this area? We conclude with remarks suggesting that strength in this area is derived from a combination of both teaching and research activities. We suggest that the development of a stronger community among historical researchers (despite epistemological differences) may be a way forward, and suggest where future work might head on these topics.

“A digital future for the history of psychology?,” by Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads,

This article discusses the role that digital approaches to the history of psychology are likely to play in the near future. A tentative hierarchy of digital methods is proposed. A few examples are briefly described: a digital repository, a simple visualization using ready-made online database and tools, and more complex visualizations requiring the assembly of the database and, possibly, the analytic tools by the researcher. The relationship of digital history to the old “New Economic History” (Cliometrics) is considered. The question of whether digital history and traditional history need be at odds or, instead, might complement each other is woven throughout. The rapidly expanding territory of digital humanistic research outside of psychology is briefly discussed. Finally, the challenging current employment trends in history and the humanities more broadly are considered, along with the role that digital skills might play in mitigating those factors for prospective academic workers.

“Psychology in South Africa and the end of history,” by Wahbie Long. The abstract reads,

Shortly before the end of apartheid rule in South Africa, Kurt Danziger (1994) asked whether the history of psychology had a future. In the 21 years that have since elapsed, the question retains its original significance. In this article, the state of the field in postapartheid South Africa is examined. Several key trends are identified, including a declining historical consciousness and a revival of Whig historiography. It is argued that the resulting lack of a critical history of postapartheid psychology is in keeping with the unassailability of the equivalent period in official state discourse. In view of an emerging consensus that the country is on the brink of another political watershed, it is suggested that the revival of the field may yet be possible. This will require a turn to histories of the present with a focus on the growing problem of co-option.

“The future of the history of psychology in Argentina and Brazil,” by Hugo Klappenbach and Ana Maria Jacó-Vilela. The abstract reads,

This article analyzes the development of the history of psychology in Argentina and Brazil, beginning with the emergence of the history of psychology at the beginning of the 20th century. The paper analyzes that such old historical reconstructions were written by the same authors or institutions that were introducing Psychology in the two countries. That is, the older historical productions in the field of psychology were Whig biased. An analysis of the last 30 years of history of psychology is also provided. The article describes institutional developments, including archives, journals, scientific meetings, and teaching of history of psychology in academic settings. Main groups devoted to history of psychology, both in Argentina and Brazil are described. Finally, it offers some thoughts on the future of history of psychology in the 2 countries. A comparative study between Argentina and Brazil allows to understand strengths and weakness related to institutionalization of History of Psychology.

“Overcoming our mutual isolation: How historians and psychologists can work together,” by Nadine Weidman. The abstract reads,

The history of psychology is one of those unusual academic fields pursued by two different groups of scholars in two different institutional locations: psychologist–historians and historians of science. In this concluding reflection on the special issue, I argue for a new kind of relationship between these two professional groups. Neither their consolidation nor their mutual isolation is the best way forward for our small and neglected field. Instead, I imagine a future in which the difference between our professional locations narrows but does not disappear, in which communication and mutual understanding broaden and intensify, but in which the two groups maintain their distinct identities. Because mutual isolation does not serve anyone’s interests well, I discuss two ways in which further integration of the two groups might take shape.

“Society for the History of Psychology news,” Edited by Shayna Fox Lee. The abstract reads,

Provides a brief summary of news for the Society for the History of Psychology. Includes information for the development of a National Museum of Psychology as well as the Exhibit of Psychological Instruments at the School of Psychology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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.