Forthcoming in HHS: Mothering on film, Brain-Based Parenting, Social Research in Portugal

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

Mothering in the frame: Cinematic microanalysis and the pathogenic mother, 1945–67,” Katie Joice. Abstract:

This article examines the use of cinematic microanalysis to capture, decompose, and interpret mother–infant interaction in the decades following the Second World War. Focusing on the films and writings of Margaret Mead, Ray Birdwhistell, René Spitz, and Sylvia Brody, it examines the intellectual culture, and visual methodologies, that transformed ‘pathogenic’ mothering into an observable process. In turn, it argues that the significance assigned to the ‘small behaviours’ of mothers provided an epistemological foundation for the nascent discipline of infant psychiatry. This research draws attention to two new areas of enquiry within the history of emotions and the history of psychiatry in the post-war period: preoccupation with emotional absence and affectlessness, and their personal and cultural meanings; and the empirical search for the origin point, and early chronology, of mental illness.

Neurobiological limits and the somatic significance of love: Caregivers’ engagements with neuroscience in Scottish parenting programmes,” Tineke Broer, Martyn Pickersgill, Sarah Cunningham-Burley. Abstract:

While parents have long received guidance on how to raise children, a relatively new element of this involves explicit references to infant brain development, drawing on brain scans and neuroscientific knowledge. Sometimes called ‘brain-based parenting’, this has been criticised from within sociological and policy circles alike. However, the engagement of parents themselves with neuroscientific concepts is far less researched. Drawing on 22 interviews with parents/carers of children (mostly aged 0–7) living in Scotland, this article examines how they account for their (non-)use of concepts and understandings relating to neuroscience. Three normative tropes were salient: information about children’s processing speed, evidence about deprived Romanian orphans in the 1990s, and ideas relating to whether or not children should ‘self-settle’ when falling asleep. We interrogate how parents reflexively weigh and judge such understandings and ideas. In some cases, neuroscientific knowledge was enrolled by parents in ways that supported biologically reductionist models of childhood agency. This reductionism commonly had generative effects, enjoining new care practices and producing particular parent and infant subjectivities. Notably, parents do not uncritically adopt or accept (sometimes reductionist) neurobiological and/or psychological knowledge; rather, they reflect on whether and when it is applicable to and relevant for raising their children. Thus, our respondents draw on everyday epistemologies of parenting to negotiate brain-based understandings of infant development and behaviour, and invest meaning in these in ways that cannot be fully anticipated (or appreciated) within straightforward celebrations or critiques of the content of parenting programmes drawing on neuropsychological ideas.

Continuity through change: State social research and sociology in Portugal,” Frederico Ágoas. Abstract:

This article examines the development of empirical social research in Portugal over about a century and its relation to the early institutionalization of sociology at the tail end of that period. Relying on new empirical data, coupled with a critical reading of the main sources on the topic, it brings to light some epistemic invariants in a disparate body of research, acknowledging the initial persistence of Le Play-inspired as well as properly Le Playsian research methods. Furthermore, it identifies the general continuation of a substantial concern with the (physical and then moral) condition of rural and industrial workers, leading to a disclosure of the political-economic and governmental roots of the social research in question. From a historical sociology perspective, the article explores the relation between state governmentalization and authoritarian rule, on the one hand, and the development of the social sciences, on the other. From a history of science perspective, it acknowledges the continuous use of the same research methods to carry out seemingly incommensurable social research programmes and the later pursuit of a properly sociological research programme that fell back on conflicting methodological and theoretical approaches. In broader terms, the article aims to put forward a historical sociology of theoretical approaches, research methods, and scientific concepts that will hopefully contribute to a clearer understanding of their respective fields of application.

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.