February 2022 History of Human Sciences

The February 2022 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now available. Full titles, authors, and abstracts are below.

“Madness, virtue, and ecology: A classical Indian approach to psychiatric disturbance,” Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad. Abstract:

The Caraka Sa?hit? (ca. first century BCE–third century CE), the first classical Indian medical compendium, covers a wide variety of pharmacological and therapeutic treatment, while also sketching out a philosophical anthropology of the human subject who is the patient of the physicians for whom this text was composed. In this article, I outline some of the relevant aspects of this anthropology – in particular, its understanding of ‘mind’ and other elements that constitute the subject – before exploring two ways in which it approaches ‘psychiatric’ disorder: one as ‘mental illness’ (m?nasa-roga), the other as ‘madness’ (unm?da). I focus on two aspects of this approach. One concerns the moral relationship between the virtuous and the well life, or the moral and the medical dimensions of a patient’s subjectivity. The other is about the phenomenological relationship between the patient and the ecology within which the patient’s disturbance occurs. The aetiology of and responses to such disturbances helps us think more carefully about the very contours of subjectivity, about who we are and how we should understand ourselves. I locate this interpretation within a larger programme on the interpretation of the whole human being, which I have elsewhere called ‘ecological phenomenology’.

“‘Flash houses’: Public houses and geographies of moral contagion in 19th-century London,” Eleanor Bland. Abstract:

‘Flash houses’, a distinctive type of public house associated with criminal activity, are a shadowy and little-studied aspect of early 19th-century London. This article situates flash houses within a wide perspective, arguing that the discourses on flash houses were part of concerns about the threat of the urban environment to the moral character of its inhabitants. The article draws on an original synthesis of a range of sources that refer to flash houses, including contemporary literature, newspapers, court documents, and government papers. It demonstrates that flash houses were part of both popular intrigue about the perceived ‘criminal underworld’ and official concerns about the collusion between police officers and suspected offenders, since police officers allegedly frequented flash houses to gather criminal information. A detailed examination of this term reveals anxieties about the state of the metropolis, poverty, and criminality that were central to the early 19th-century consciousness. However, the discussion of flash houses in this context also demonstrates a powerful connection in contemporary minds between the physical spaces of the city and the risks that they posed to inhabitants’ morals. While associations between the physical environment and morality have been drawn throughout history, flash houses represent a paradigmatic moment in this dialogue. This is because different moral concerns coalesced around the discourse on flash houses: anxieties about the criminal underworld, the potential for moral degradation of young people who frequented these spaces, and the corruption of police officers through contact with known or suspected offenders.

“An ‘ingenious system of practical contacts’: Historical origins and development of the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1922–36),” Catriel Fierro. Abstract:

During the first two decades of the 20th century, the expansion of private foundations and philanthropic initiatives in the United States converged with a comprehensive, nationwide agenda of progressive education and post-war social reconstruction that situated childhood at its core. From 1924 to 1928, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial was the main foundation behind the aggressive, systematic funding of the child development movement in North America. A pioneering institution, the Institute of Child Welfare Research, established in 1924 at Columbia’s Teachers College, was the first Rockefeller-funded programme of its kind at an American university. The Institute was influential in helping set up a nationwide network of child welfare institutes at other universities. Twelve years later, it would also be the first of those institutes to close. Nonetheless, the Institute’s context, emergence, and development have been overlooked or misrepresented by previous scholarship, which calls for a new, critical historical analysis. By drawing on a number of archival sources and unpublished materials, this paper offers a critical reconstruction of the Institute’s internal, often unstable history, emphasizing its origins, members, and administrative changes. I argue that the demise of the Institute should be understood in the context of both the revision of philanthropic policies in the late 1920s and the Institute’s singular emphasis on teaching and training over research. The resulting narrative allows for a deeper, more informed understanding of both the Institute’s origins and its eventual folding.

“‘A troublesome girl is pushed through’: Morality, biological determinism, resistance, resilience, and the Canadian child migration schemes, 1883–1939,” Wendy Sims-Schouten. Abstract:

This article critically analyses correspondence and decisions regarding children/young people who were included in the Canadian child migration schemes that ran between 1883 and 1939, and those who were deemed ‘undeserving’ and outside the scope of the schemes. Drawing on critical realist ontology, a metatheory that centralises the causal non-linear dynamics and generative mechanisms in the individual, the cultural sphere, and wider society, the research starts from the premise that the principle of ‘less or more eligibility’ lies at the heart of the British welfare system, both now and historically. Through analysing case files and correspondence relating to children sent to Canada via the Waifs and Strays Society and Fegan Homes, I shed light on the complex interplay between morality, biological determinism, resistance, and resilience in decisions around which children should be included or excluded. I argue that it was the complex interplay and nuance between the moral/immoral, desirable/undesirable, degenerate, and capable/incapable child that guided practice with vulnerable children in the late 1800s. In judgements around ‘deservedness’, related stigmas around poverty and ‘bad’ behaviour were rife. Within this, the child was punished for his/her ‘immoral tendencies’ and ‘inherited traits’, with little regard for the underlying reasons (e.g. abuse and neglect) for their (abnormal) behaviour and ‘mental deficiencies’.

“Not merely the absence of disease: A genealogy of the WHO’s positive health definition,” Lars Thorup Larsen. Abstract:

The 1948 constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. It was a bold and revolutionary health idea to gain international consensus in a period characterized by fervent anti-communism. This article explores the genealogy of the health definition and demonstrates how it was possible to expand the scope of health, redefine it as ‘well-being’, and overcome ideological resistance to progressive and international health approaches. The first part of the article demonstrates how the health definition was composed through a trajectory of draft ideas from scholars in the history of medicine, as well as political actors working to promote national health insurance. The definition was authored by League of Nations veteran Raymond Gautier, but secretly drew heavily on medical historian Henry E. Sigerist’s controversial book Socialized Medicine in the Soviet Union (1937). The second part analyses how it was possible to resist the ideological pushback against the WHO and secure US ratification. The WHO’s progressive constitution was not simply a deviation from dominant health ideas, but a direct outcome of the entrenched health conflict. The genealogy is based on original archival material from international organizations and US government archives. The article contributes to understandings of the political controversies surrounding the WHO and to scholarship on understandings of health. It also illustrates how influential health ideas cross the boundaries between politics and health sciences, as well as the boundaries between domestic health policy and global health.

“The emergence of the idea of ‘the welfare state’ in British political discourse,” David Garland. Abstract:

This article traces the emergence of the term welfare state in British political discourse and describes competing efforts to define its meaning. It presents a genealogy of the concept’s emergence and its subsequent integration into various political scripts, tracing the struggles that sought to name, define, and narrate what welfare state would be taken to mean. It shows that the concept emerged only after the core programmes to which it referred had already been enacted into law and that the referents and meaning of the concept were never generally agreed upon – not even at the moment of its formation in the late 1940s. During the 1950s, the welfare state concept was being framed in three distinct senses: (a) the welfare state as a set of social security programmes; (b) the welfare state as a socio-economic system; and (c) the welfare state as a new kind of state. Each of these usages was deployed by opposing political actors – though with different scope, meaning, value, and implication. The article argues that the welfare state concept did not operate as a representation reflecting a separate, already-constituted reality. Rather, the use of the concept in the political and economic arguments of the period – and in later disputes about the nature of the Labour government’s post-war achievements – was always thoroughly rhetorical and constitutive, its users aiming to shape the transformations and outcomes that they claimed merely to describe.

“From cohort to community: The emotional work of birthday cards in the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, 1946–2018,” Hannah J. Elizabeth, Daisy Payling. Abstract:

The Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD) is Britain’s longest-running birth cohort study. From their birth in 1946 until the present day, its research participants, or study members, have filled out questionnaires and completed cognitive or physical examinations every few years. Among other outcomes, the findings of these studies have framed how we understand health inequalities. Throughout the decades and multiple follow-up studies, each year the study members have received a birthday card from the survey staff. Although the birthday cards were originally produced in 1962 as a method to record changes of address at a time when the adolescent study members were potentially leaving school and home, they have become more than that with time. The cards mark, and have helped create, an ongoing evolving relationship between the NSHD and the surveyed study members, eventually coming to represent a relationship between the study members themselves. This article uses the birthday cards alongside archival material from the NSHD and oral history interviews with survey staff to trace the history of the growing awareness of importance of emotion within British social science research communities over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries. It documents changing attitudes to science’s dependence on research participants, their well-being, and the collaborative nature of scientific research. The article deploys an intertextual approach to reading these texts alongside an attention to emotional communities drawing on the work of Barbara Rosenwein.

“Discourses on im/migrants, ethnic minorities, and infectious disease: Fifty years of tuberculosis reporting in the United Kingdom,” Penelope Scott, Hella von Unger. Abstract:

Ethnicity and im/migrant classification systems and their constituent categories have a long history in the construction of public health knowledge on tuberculosis in the United Kingdom. This article critically examines the categories employed and the epidemiological discourses on TB, im/migrants, and ethnic minorities in health reporting between 1965 and 2015. We employ a Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse Analysis to trace the continuities and changes in the categories used and in the discursive construction of im/migrants, ethnic minorities, and TB. These continuities and disjunctures are analysed within their socio-historical context to demonstrate the historical contingency of epidemiological knowledge production. We outline two historical phases in knowledge construction. The first coincides with the period of decolonisation, which witnessed a change in discursive identity ascriptions from ‘immigrants’ to ‘ethnic groups’ in health reporting as the ‘other’. The second commenced after 1991, when the adoption of the census ethnicity categories as a standard in the collection of population statistics entrenched ethnicity categories in health reporting. We argue the health reporting discourse reveals that the ‘new’ public health exhibits continuities with the ‘old’ by targeting the immigrant ‘other’ through biosecuritisation practices. We contend that these categories originated within a postcolonial paradigm and that increasing immigration and new forms of mobility are creating the preconditions for new discourses on identity construction that have implications for the current collaborative TB strategy.

“Race in post-war science: The Swiss case in a global context,” Pascal Germann. Abstract:

The historiography on the concept of race in the post-war sciences has focused predominantly on the UNESCO campaign against scientific racism and on the Anglo-American research community. By way of contrast, this article highlights the history of the concept of race from a thus far unexplored angle: from Swiss research centres and their global interconnections with racial researchers around the world. The article investigates how the acceptance, resonance, and prestige of racial research changed during the post-war years. It analyses what resources could be mobilised that enabled researchers to carry out and continue scientific studies in the field of racial research or even to expand them and link them to new contexts. From this perspective, the article looks at the dynamics, openness, and contingency of the European post-war period, which was less stable, anti-racist, and spiritually renewed than retrospective success stories often suggest. The pronounced internationality of Swiss racial science and its close entanglement with the booming field of human genetics in the early 1950s point to the ambiguities of the period’s political and scientific development. I argue that the impact of post-war anti-racism on science was more limited than is frequently assumed: it did not drain the market for racial knowledge on a continent that clung to imperialism and was still shaped by racist violence. Only from the mid 1950s onwards did a series of unforeseen events and contingent shifts curtail the importance of the race concept in various sectors of the human sciences.

“A code for care and control: The PIN as an operator of interoperability in the Nordic welfare state,” Marja Alastalo, Ilpo Helén. Abstract:

Many states make use of personal identity numbers (PINs) to govern people living in their territory and jurisdiction, but only a few rely on an all-purpose PIN used throughout the public and private sectors. This article examines the all-purpose PIN in Finland as a political technology that brings people to the sphere of public welfare services and subjects them to governance by public authorities and expert institutions. Drawing on documentary materials and interviews, it unpacks the history and uses of the PIN as an elementary building block of the Nordic welfare state, and its emerging uses in the post-welfare data economy. The article suggests that, although the PIN is capable of individualizing, identifying, and addressing individuals, its most important and widely embraced feature is the extent to which it enables interoperability among public authorities, private businesses, and their data repositories. Interoperability, together with advances in computing and information technology, has made the PIN a facilitator of public administration, state knowledge production, and everyday life. More recently, in the post-welfare data economy, interoperability has rendered the PIN a national asset in all the Nordic countries, providing a great advantage to biomedical research, innovation business, and healthcare.

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.