Special Issue on Social Borrowings and Biological Appropriations

Several articles in the October 2020 issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences may be of interest to AHP readers. The articles are part of a Special Issue on Social Borrowings and Biological Appropriations Guest Edited By Christopher Donohue.

Social borrowings and biological appropriations: Special issue introduction,”
Christopher Donohue. First paragraph extract:

The historical origin of this special issue dates back to a conference entitled “Biological Concepts, Models, and Metaphors in Social and Human Sciences” held at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities (IGITI), Higher School of Economics in Moscow in October 2015. The goal of special issue (drawn from the conference aims) is two-fold: to provide a forum for intellectual exchange and to break down perceived academic and other barriers in terms of subject, historiography, geography, discipline, and methodology. The original conveners of the conference (myself, Professor Alexandr Dmitriev, and Professor Irina M. Savelieva of the IGITI) thought that artificial barriers existed between the histories of the biological and the social sciences, between overly abstract and methodological approaches, and between narrowly specific case studies and wider themes. Hence these papers seek to address these key gaps in the literature and seek to serve to bridge existing lacuna, for instance between literature which is overly specialized or time-period specific; between history of science and intellectual history; between history of the social and the behavioral sciences and the history of biology, genetics, and eugenics; and between science and ideas in so-called ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ Europe.

Transfer of Lamarckisms and emerging ‘scientific’ psychologies: 19th – early 20th centuries Britain and France,” Snait B.Gissis. Abstract:

The paper argues that transfer of assumptions, concepts, models and metaphors from a variety of Lamarckisms played a significant role in the endeavors to constitute psychology as a scientific discipline. It deals with such efforts in the second half of the nineteenth century and until early twentieth century in Britain and in France.

The paper discusses works by Herbert Spencer, John Hughlings-Jackson, Théodule Ribot and Sigmund Freud. It argues that certain crucial facets of their work as discipline-founders could and should be looked upon as resulting from such transfer of/from Lamarckisms. Specifically it looks at the constitutive roles of notions of hierarchical order, parallelism, self, memory and collectivity.

Race science in Czechoslovakia: Serving segregation in the name of the nation,” VictoriaShmidt. No abstract provided.

Inhibition and metaphor of top-down organization,” Roger Smith. Abstract:

The paper discusses the metaphorical nature and meaning of a concept, inhibition, ubiquitous in physiological, psychological and everyday descriptions of the controlling organization of human conduct. There are three parts. The first reviews the established argument in the theory of knowledge that metaphor is not ‘merely’ figure of speech but intrinsic to language use. The middle section provides an introduction to the history of inhibition as a concept in nervous physiology and in psychology. This emphasizes the conjoined descriptive and normative character the concept has had, integrating science and the ordinary person’s understanding of the achievement of top-down control in organized systems. The last section introduces a different dimension to the history and logic of control, pointing out that ‘economic’, as opposed to hierarchical, models of control also exist. The conclusion asserts the flexible, particular character of metaphor, encompassing mental and bodily realms – and hence the importance of historical work for its comprehension.

Issues of biopolitics of reproduction in post-war Greece,” Alexandra Barmpouti. Abstract:

The Greek biopolitics of reproduction during the post-war period was determined by the demographic figures. Instead of a rise in births, Greece experienced a constant downward trajectory of the birth rate throughout the second half of the twentieth century. The country also witnessed population instability due to the massive immigration in the 1960s and the wave of repatriation in the next decade. The article explores the state’s biopolitics in order to achieve demographic equilibrium by adopting a pronatalist perspective. The construction of biopolitics was influenced by the consecutive wars of the first half of the century resulting in the denial of any means suspected of reducing the birth rate, such as contraception and abortion. In parallel, the article investigates the attempts of a group of eugenicists to impose to the state authorities their own views on reproduction control. The key debates were birth control and abortion because these issues of reproduction were entangled with major social fermentations caused by urbanization, modernization, eugenics, and feminism. The Constitution of 1974 was instrumental in changing the biopolitics of reproduction by introducing equal rights to men and women. It provoked a series of legal transformations with regard to marriage, family, and reproduction.

Subversive affinities: Embracing soviet science in late 1940s Romania,” Marius Turda. Abstract:

This article discusses the appropriation of Soviet science in Romania during the late 1940s. To achieve this, I discuss various publications on biology, anthropology, heredity and genetics. In a climate of major political change, following the end of the Second World War, all scientific fields in Romania were gradually subjected to political pressures to adapt and change according to a new ideological context. Yet the adoption of Soviet science during the late 1940s was not a straightforward process of scientific acculturation. Whilst the deference to Soviet authors remained consistent through most of Romanian scientific literature at the time, what is perhaps less visible is the attempt to refashion Romanian science itself in order to serve the country’s new political imaginary and social transformation. Some Romanian biologists and physicians embraced Soviet scientific theories as a demonstration of their loyalty to the newly established regime. Others, however, were remained committed to local and Western scientific traditions they deemed essential to the survival of their discipline. A critical reassessment of the late 1940s is essential to an understanding of these dissensions as well as of the overall political and institutional constraints shaping the development of a new politics of science in communist Romania.

Resurecting raciology? Genetic ethnology and pre-1945 anthropological race classification,” Richard McMahon. Abstract:

This article places the current high-profile and controversial scientific project that I call ‘genetic ethnology’ within the same two-century tradition of biologically classifying modern peoples as pre-1945 race anthropology. Similarities in how these two biological projects have combined political and scientific agendas raise questions about the liberalism of genetics and stimulate concerns that genetic constructions of human difference might revive a politics of hate, division and hierarchy. The present article however goes beyond existing work that links modern genetics with race anthropology. It systematically compares their many similar practices and organisational features, showing that both projects were political-scientific syntheses. Studying how the origins, geography, filiations, ‘travels and encounters of our ancestors’ affect ‘current genetic variation’, both seem to have responded to a continuous public demand for biologists to explain the histories of politically significant peoples and give them a scientific basis. I challenge habitual contrasts between apolitical scientific genetics and racist pseudoscience and use race anthropology as a parable for how, in the era of Brexit and Trump, right-wing identity politics might infect genetic ethnology. I argue however that although biology-based identities carry risks of essentialism and determinism, the practices and organisation of classification pose greater political dangers.

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.