Forthcoming in HHS: Homosexual Aversion Therapy, Comte on Organism-Environment Relationships

Two forthcoming pieces in History of the Human Sciences may be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

Cold War Pavlov: Homosexual aversion therapy in the 1960s,” by Kate Davison. Abstract:

Homosexual aversion therapy enjoyed two brief but intense periods of clinical experimentation: between 1950 and 1962 in Czechoslovakia, and between 1962 and 1975 in the British Commonwealth. The specific context of its emergence was the geopolitical polarization of the Cold War and a parallel polarization within psychological medicine between Pavlovian and Freudian paradigms. In 1949, the Pavlovian paradigm became the guiding doctrine in the Communist bloc, characterized by a psychophysiological or materialist understanding of mental illness. It was taken up by therapists in Western countries who were critical of psychoanalysis and sought more ‘scientific’ diagnostic and therapeutic methods that focused on empirical evidence and treating actual symptoms. However, their attitude towards homosexuality often played a decisive role in how they used aversion therapy. Whereas Czechoslovakian researchers cautioned readers about low success rates and agitated for homosexual law reform in 1961, most of their anglophone counterparts selectively ignored or misrepresented the results of ‘the Prague experiment’, instead celebrating single-case ‘success’ stories in their effort to correct ‘abnormal’ sexual orientation. In histories of queer sexuality and its pathologization, the behaviourist paradigm remains almost entirely unmapped. This article provides the most detailed study to date of aversion therapy literature from both sides of the East/West border. In doing so, it contributes to the project not only of ‘decentring Western sexualities’, but of decentring Western sexological knowledge. Given its Pavlovian origins, the history of homosexual aversion therapy can be fully understood only in the context of Cold War transnational sexological knowledge exchange.

Organism and environment in Auguste Comte,” by Ryan McVeigh. Abstract:

This article focuses on Auguste Comte’s understanding of the organism–environment relationship. It makes three key claims therein: (a) Comte’s metaphysical position privileged materiality and relativized the intellect along two dimensions: one related to the biological organism, one related to the social environment; (b) this twofold materiality confounds attempts to reduce cognition to either nature or nurture, so Comte’s position has interesting parallels to the field of ‘epigenetics’, which sees the social environment as a causative factor in biology; and (c) although Comte ultimately diverged from the ‘postgenomic’ view in crucial ways, he remains a forerunner of the trend towards viewing the social and biological as entangled. Tending to these dimensions challenges the view that Comte is notable from a classical standpoint but ignorable from a contemporary one. It consequently invites renewed attention to his theoretical system.

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.