New HHS: Brainwashing, Scientific Expertise and the Politics of Emotion, & More!

The July 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore cinematic representations of brainwashing, scientific expertise and the politics of emotion, and more. Full details below.

“Brainwashing the cybernetic spectator: The Ipcress File, 1960s cinematic spectacle and the sciences of mind,” by Marcia Holmes. Abstract:

This article argues that the mid-1960s saw a dramatic shift in how ‘brainwashing’ was popularly imagined, reflecting Anglo-American developments in the sciences of mind as well as shifts in mass media culture. The 1965 British film The Ipcress File (dir. Sidney J. Furie, starr. Michael Caine) provides a rich case for exploring these interconnections between mind control, mind science and media, as it exemplifies the era’s innovations for depicting ‘brainwashing’ on screen: the film’s protagonist is subjected to flashing lights and electronic music, pulsating to the ‘rhythm of brainwaves’. This article describes the making of The Ipcress File’s brainwashing sequence and shows how its quest for cinematic spectacle drew on developments in cybernetic science, multimedia design and modernist architecture (developments that were also influencing the 1960s psychedelic counter-culture). I argue that often interposed between the disparate endeavours of 1960s mind control, psychological science and media was a vision of the human mind as a ‘cybernetic spectator’: a subject who scrutinizes how media and other demands on her sensory perception can affect consciousness, and seeks to consciously participate in this mental conditioning and guide its effects.

“Scientific expertise and the politics of emotions in the 1902 trial of Giuseppe Musolino,” by Daphne Rozenblatt. Abstract:

In 1902, the Calabrian brigand Giuseppe Musolino was tried on several counts of murder and many crimes of lesser magnitude. While the tale of the brigand’s 1898 false conviction, imprisonment, escape and then revenge sparked a national debate about the political and cultural meaning of brigandage, the trial came to focus on Musolino’s emotional state at the time of his crimes. Was he a cold-blooded and calculating killer who manipulated southerners into believing he was a folk hero? Or was he an angry, passionate and insane murderer victimized by his own feelings? Both jurists and scientists weighed in to determine his culpability. By turning a political question of banditry or brigandage into a psychological question of morbid or criminal emotions, the trial politicized the criminal character. This article examines the perspectives on emotions that shaped Musolino’s trial, and how psychiatric knowledge came to challenge legal notions of insanity and culpability. It argues that the determination of emotions as motives served to de-legitimize the rationale and political motives of the defendant, in turn politicizing his emotions and character. At the same time, the cause of Musolino’s crime and his culpability represented the failures of national unification and the ongoing tensions between the North and South of Italy. The introduction of psychiatric expertise into the criminal court pushed judgement and punishment to examine increasingly who a person was as opposed to what that person had done. The court’s definition of who a person ‘was’, was a matter of how that person felt.

“The generation of the GDR: Economists at the Humboldt University of Berlin caught between loyalty and relevance,” by  Till Düppe. Abstract:

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was in existence for 41 years. A single generation spent its whole professional life there – namely those born in the early 1930s who carried this state’s hopes. With Karl Mannheim’s notion of generations as a unit in the sociology of knowledge in mind, this article describes this generation’s typical experiences from the point of view of a particularly telling group: economists at the Humboldt University of Berlin. I present their socialization in Nazi Germany, their formative years in the aftermath of the Second World War that led to their choice of a politically driven profession, their studies during the first years of the GDR, when Stalinism was still the dominating dogma, and their commitment to a state career when writing their dissertations and habilitations. Ready to shoulder Honecker’s regime, their daily lives as professors were characterized by continuing attempts to reform teaching and research. In 1989 the ultimate reform transpired, and it encompassed the end of the state as well as of their professional careers. This narrative historicizes, on an experiential level, a tension often noted in GDR research, that between the ideological and productive functions of knowledge in socialism, that is, between loyalty and relevance.

“Gregory Bateson and Eric Voegelin: Silent dialogues across the human sciences,” by Bjørn Thomassen. Abstract:

This article argues that two important thinkers of the 20th century, Gregory Bateson (1904–80) and Eric Voegelin (1901–85), developed a set of ideas that are of importance to the history of the human sciences. The article also argues that their ideas are, in essential ways, comparable and display similarities that have not yet been discussed within the larger history of the human sciences. The aim of the article is to show how the diagnostic terms provided by Bateson and Voegelin complement each other toward an understanding of underlying tensions and social pathologies of contemporary civilization.

“Philosophy and science in Adam Smith’s ‘History of Astronomy’: A metaphysico-scientific view,” by  Kwangsu Kim. Abstract:

This article casts light on the intimate relationship between metaphysics and science in Adam Smith’s thought. Understanding this relationship can help in resolving an enduring dispute or misreading concerning the status and role of natural theology and the ‘invisible hand’ doctrine. In Smith’s scientific realism, ontological issues are necessary prerequisites for scientific inquiry, and metaphysical ideas thus play an organizing and regulatory role. Smith also recognized the importance of scientifically informed metaphysics in science’s historical development. In this sense, for Smith, the metaphysico-scientific link (i.e. metaphysically coherent conjecture), was a basic criterion of scientific validation by Inference to the Best Explanation. Furthermore, Smith’s comments implicitly suggest that in scientific progress there is a dialectic between metaphysics and science. These themes are illustrated primarily through his writings on the history of astronomy.

Review Article: “Science–anthropology–literature: The dynamics of intellectual fields,” by Tony Bennett

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.