New Isis: Open Access Section on Amorous Matching, the “Mediterranean race”, and More

The December 2021 issue of Isis is now online. A number of articles in this issue may interest AHP readers:

“Mediterraneanizing Europe: The Project of Subaltern Race and the Postimperial Search for Hybridity,” Marina Mogilner. Abstract:

This essay explores the predicament of subaltern self-racializing in terms of European political and scientific modernity by tracing attempts to reconsider and appropriate the “Mediterranean race” concept on behalf of new and underrecognized nationalisms. The essay develops a perspective that brings together the least obvious global “coauthors” of the counternarrative of the “Mediterranean race”—such as Russian Zionism, turn-of-the-century Italian nationalism, and W. E. B. Du Bois’s “Negritude” nationalism—which were equally engaged in self-racializing and claiming the status of archetypal Europeanness. Jewish self-racializing, in particular, which is usually interpreted as a response to racial anti-Semitism or as an expression of self-hatred, is treated here as a paradigmatic case of subaltern nationalism and subaltern science. Ultimately, the essay explores the hybridizing potential and politics of comparison embedded in the “Mediterranean race” counternarrative that continue to inspire historical and cultural revisionism today.

How Western Science Corrupts Class Consciousness: East Germany’s Presence at IIASA
Till Düppe
Full Text

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, was founded during the period of détente in 1972 to bring scientists from East and West together to research shared problems and thus to build a “bridge” between the two opposed systems. The underlying image of knowledge at the institute was in stark contrast to the intellectual culture established in East Germany. Contributing to our understanding of the history of Cold War knowledge transfer, this essay reconstructs East Germany’s ambivalent and complex role at IIASA. Even if participation was considered important for displaying East German science, the essay argues that East Germany’s contribution was caught up in the perception of the Western scholar as a class enemy. It illustrates this by examining the best-documented case: that of Harry Maier, a social scientist who spent two years at IIASA between 1978 and 1980 and then, in 1986, used a conference visit to escape from East Germany.


Special open-access section

“Introduction: Epistemologies of the Match,” Hansun Hsiung and Elena Serrano. Abstract:

Algorithmically driven online dating platforms today promise the ability to sort through relevant data and identify one’s ideal amorous matches effectively. Yet the appeal of technological and scientific solutions to the messy problem of finding partners is hardly new. This introduction to the Focus section “It’s a Match!” argues that the history of amorous matching has long been part and parcel of the history of science, in particular the social sciences. Taking matching as an “applied science of social harmony,” the authors argue that concern over more reliable techniques for determining the suitability of partners has formed an essential part of both the maintenance of social order and the shaping of subjectivities, enabling discourses of informed choice and the rational management of the passions, while also reinforcing and subverting structures of age, gender, race, and sexuality.

“Are the Stars Aligned? Matchmaking and Astrology in Early Modern Italy,” Monica Azzolini. Abstract:

This essay examines how early moderns used birth horoscopes (genitures) to assess the compatibility of prospective spouses before marriage. Astrologers could probe the horoscope of an individual to investigate his or her present and future physical and moral qualities or compare charts to reveal the personal compatibility of a couple and help establish the best time to consummate their marriage. These practices aimed at ensuring a fruitful marriage and the harmony and happiness of the couple and their families. Focusing on a few key examples, the essay outlines both the astrological theories and the social politics that propelled astrological matching, suggesting that its appeal lay in the promise of informed choice while also preserving free will. Finally, the author suggests ways in which astrological practices and the use of vast amounts of astronomical data share affinities with data-driven matching in our own time.

“A Feminist Physiology: B. J. Feijoo (1676–1764) and His Advice for Those in Love,” Elena Serrano. Abstract:

This essay analyzes how the Benedictine monk Benito Jerónimo Feijoo (1676–1764), one of the most popular Spanish natural philosophers in Europe and America, discussed amorous attraction. In an attempt to reconcile Catholic dogma with empirical knowledge, Feijoo explained the origin of love as the result of wave-like interactions between sensual stimulus, imagination, nerve fibers, and the heart. His physiological model considered men and women to be equal in their internal constituents, which had important consequences for a possible science of matching. First, a possible match could only be known by a physical encounter; second, love bonds could be controlled by training the imagination; third, a harmonious society with happy marriages required accepting the intellectual equality of the sexes. The essay suggests how our knowledge about the nature of emotions influences the way we imagine an ideal society, as it is ultimately about the forces that attract and separate people, as well as the mechanisms to control them.

“From Harmony to eHarmony: Charles Fourier, Social Science, and the Management of Love,” Hansun Hsiung. Abstract:

This essay examines techniques of amorous matching in the work of the “utopian socialist” Charles Fourier (1772–1837), recovering the practices and the institutions he proposed for the management of love, as well as his political arguments for their centrality in a perfected society. In doing so, it argues more broadly for the need to position the management of love at the origin of early social science. Much as early defenses of capitalism had at their core a discourse of the passions, so too was Fourier’s socialism invested in exploring how problems of political economy were those of passional economy. To rectify the latter, Fourier attempted to articulate both a mathematical system—a calcul des passions—and a centralized information system for the gathering and sorting of personal data. The recovery of his vision thus has the potential to inform critically a radical politics of algorithmic matching through Big Data—the province today not of utopian socialism but of online dating apps.

“Cranial Compatibility: Phrenology, Measurement, and Marriage Assessment,” Carla Bittel. Abstract:

This essay examines phrenological tools as instruments of matchmaking and focuses on the personal ad as a site for producing and exchanging knowledge about individuals. It shows how cranial measurement produced character profiles for the purpose of judging suitable marriage partners and how users integrated those profiles into personal advertisements published in the Water-Cure Journal. A popular but contested science of the mind, phrenology maintained that one could truly know others and oneself through measuring “organs” of the mind via protrusions on the skull. While much has been written about phrenology, less attention has been paid to its focus on marriage and mating and to how users enrolled phrenology to find and judge the viability of a mate. Focused on the American context in the 1850s, this essay will show that notions of race and gender, heredity, and marital “relations” were embedded in the shorthand of phrenological measurements and personal ads.

“Love Is a Problem of Knowledge,” Dan Bouk. Abstract:

Faced with the complicated problem of matching people, matchmakers over the last few centuries have sought for, experimented with, and embraced various intellectual tools that promised to help. This commentary on the preceding essays in the Focus section “It’s a Match!” discusses the tools for matchmaking developed from fields like astrology or phrenology and their social implications. The essay closes with a meditation on the continuities evident in efforts to predict and match possible lovers using apps and algorithms today.

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.