Forthcoming in HHS: Hormones, Cognitive Enhancement, Handedness, ‘Normal’

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

‘The Revolution is to the human mind what the African sun is to vegetation’: Revolution, heat, and the normal school project,” Caroline Warman. Abstract:

This article focuses on a slightly earlier period in its investigation of the meanings of and associations with the term normal than Cryle and Stephens have done in their recent book. It looks at the establishment and rapid demise of the Ecole normale (normal school) in Paris in 1794–5, founded on the same model as a school for the manufacture of arms that had operated in spring 1794, and suggests that this model was not only responsible for some of the problems the Ecole normale experienced, setting up unachievable expectations of rapid efficacy, but also had an impact on what its name was assumed to mean. Moving between, on the one hand, an analysis of explicit (and opposing) definitions of what the term normal meant, and, on the other, an account of how the Ecole normale was set up and what it was set up to do, this paper agrees with Cryle and Stephens that the term was ‘formed in controversy’, and fills in the intellectual and philosophical context from which the notion of the statistical norm would emerge.

Types, norms, and normalisation: Hormone research and treatments in Italy, Argentina, and Brazil, c. 1900–50,” Chiara Beccalossi. Abstract:

Displacing the physiological model that had held sway in 19th-century medical thinking, early 20th-century hormone research promoted an understanding of the body and sexual desires in which variations in sex characteristics and non-reproductive sexual behaviours such as homosexuality were attributed to anomalies in the internal secretions produced by the testes or the ovaries. Biotypology, a new brand of medical science conceived and led by the Italian endocrinologist Nicola Pende, employed hormone research to study human types and hormone treatments to normalise individuals who did not conform to accepted medical norms. Latin American medical doctors, eugenicists, and sexologists took up biotypology with enthusiasm. This article considers the case studies of Italy, Argentina, and Brazil, and analyses the work of medical doctors who adopted a biotypological mode of reasoning and employed to various extents hormone therapies in their practice. By focusing on hormone therapies that aimed to normalise secondary sexual characteristics and the sexual instinct, the article suggests that while the existence of normality was contested to the point that a number of medical scientists argued that no such thing existed, the pursuit of normality was carried out in very practical terms through the new medical technologies hormone research had introduced.

Limitless? Imaginaries of cognitive enhancement and the labouring body,” Brian P. Bloomfield, Karen Dale. Abstract:

This article seeks to situate pharmacological cognitive enhancement as part of a broader relationship between cultural understandings of the body-brain and the political economy. It is the body of the worker that forms the intersection of this relationship and through which it comes to be enacted and experienced. In this article, we investigate the imaginaries that both inform and are reproduced by representations of pharmacological cognitive enhancement, drawing on cultural sources such as newspaper articles and films, policy documents, and pharmaceutical marketing material to illustrate our argument. Through analysis of these diverse cultural sources, we argue that the use of pharmaceuticals has come to be seen not only as a way to manage our brains, but through this as a means to manage our productive selves, and thereby to better manage the economy. We develop three analytical themes. First, we consider the cultural representations of the brain in connection with the idea of plasticity – captured most graphically in images of morphing – and the representation of enhancement as a desirable, inevitable, and almost painless process in which the mind-brain realizes its full potential and asserts its will over matter. Following this, we explore the social value accorded to productive employment and the contemporary (biopolitical) ethos of working on or managing oneself, particularly in respect of improving one’s productive performance through cognitive enhancement. Developing this, we elaborate a third theme by looking at the moulding of the worker’s productive body-brain in relation to the demands of the economic system.

An even-handed debate? The sexed/gendered controversy over laterality genes in British psychology, 1970s–1990s,” Tabea Cornel. Abstract:

This article provides insight into the entwinement of the allegedly neutral category of handedness with questions of sex/gender, reproduction, dis/ability, and scientific authority. In the 1860s, Paul Broca suggested that the speech centre sat in the left brain hemisphere in most humans, and that right-handedness stemmed from this asymmetry. One century later, British psychologists Marian Annett and Chris McManus proposed biologically unconfirmed theories of how handedness and brain asymmetry were passed on in families. Their idea to integrate chance into genetic models of handedness was novel, and so was their use of computerized statistics to parse out the incidence of handedness genotypes and phenotypes. Notwithstanding significant conceptual and methodological overlaps, McManus and Annett did not collaborate and proposed competing theories. I analyse the sexed/gendered dimensions of their controversy by drawing on published literature, unpublished documents, and oral history interviews. I first attend to the epistemological importance of sex/gender. Both psychologists published several iterations of their models, which increasingly relied on questions of sex/gender and reproduction. Annett additionally linked handedness with stereotypically gendered cognitive abilities. Second, I argue that using masculine-coded computer technologies contributed to Annett’s professional marginalization whereas similar methods endowed McManus with surplus authority. Finally, I show that Annett’s complicity in stabilizing sociocultural hierarchies within her theory mirrored her personal experience of marginalization based on sex/gender, age, education, and lack of institutional affiliation. This analysis exemplifies the entanglement of cognitive and social factors in scientific controversies and adds to the literature on 20th-century British women psychologists.

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.