All posts by Jacy Young

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.

Beyond intersubjectivity in olfactory psychophysics

A set of two articles in the most recent issue of Social Studies of Science may interest AHP readers:

Beyond intersubjectivity in olfactory psychophysics I: Troubles with the Subject,” by Morana Ala?. Abstract:

This article provides an experience-oriented relational account that goes beyond a human control of the world. Rather than working with the notion of intersubjectivity (commonly evoked in sensory STS, and still conserving the subject/object opposition), the article reports on how the sense of smell affords a rethinking of our relationship with the world. It does so by challenging the assumption of olfactory ineffability as it turns to a place whose inhabitants speak about smell as a part of their everyday affairs: a laboratory of olfactory psychophysics. There, we attend to a multimodal, embodied language that participates in preparing, running and analyzing scientific experiments. While Western languages are short on specialized vocabulary for expressing olfactory qualities and it feels difficult to talk about smell, laboratory events manifest smell language in its enmeshing with the sensory realm and the world. Noticing these ties destabilizes the idea of agential subject, highlighting instead our pre-intentional sensibility, in its connection with the world. A sister article on ‘troubles with the Object’ (Ala?, 2020) continues to argue that the notion of intersubjectivity is overly narrow, highlighting our immersion in the world (rather than assuming our dominance of it).

Beyond intersubjectivity in olfactory psychophysics II: Troubles with the Object,” by Morana Ala?. Abstract:

This article takes advantage of the sense of smell’s peculiar spatiality to reflect on how we may render our engagement with the world other than through manipulating well-defined objects. The lived spatiality associated with olfaction is not reducible to the known parameters of ‘distant observation’ and ‘reaching toward’, familiar from the visual and tactile modalities. Instead, olfactory spatiality is one of immersion: Odors ask us to give up our dominance while we continue to be involved. The article attends to this immersive quality of the sense of smell by tracing multimodal, embodied qualities of mundane events in a laboratory of olfactory psychophysics, also considering the spatial organization of laboratory chambers, and how researchers fashion their bodies while they recognize the frailty of their enterprise. To engage these complexities, the article illustrates an exercise in experimenting with re-production, re-enactment and re-experiencing. While the exercise functions as a reflection on how to orient a laboratory study to non-ocular dimensions of science, the article, in parallel, enquires into semiotic articulations of smell experiences. By pointing out how smell language, rather than being ‘mute’, speaks the spatial quality of our olfactory experiences, it concludes the argument against the olfactory ineffability, initiated in the sister essay on ‘troubles with the Subject’.

Chinese philosophy has long known that mental health is communal

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in Psyche: “Chinese philosophy has long known that mental health is communal.” Alexus McLeod writes

…an emphasis on the individual can lead us to neglect communal approaches to treatment. Often overlooked are the ways in which social norms, cultural beliefs and communal attitudes contribute to mental illness. Ancient Chinese scholars understood this well.

These thinkers recognised a number of mental and behavioural disorders as illnesses (bing), which were categorised and discussed in the earliest-known medical text in China, the Huangdi Neijing Lingshu Jing (the oldest parts of which date to the 4th century BCE). This text describes a number of mental illnesses, most prominently dian, marked by ‘unhappiness, headache, red eyes and a troubled mind’, and kuang, marked by ‘manic forgetfulness, flying into rages’ and ‘wild activity’, among other symptoms. Early Chinese medical scholars understood such mental illnesses to have a number of contributing causes, including overabundance of emotion, failure to control desires, the depletion of ‘vital energy’ from the organs – and the community to which one belongs.

“Most Unusual” Beauty Contests: Nordic Photographic Competitions and the Construction of a Public for German Race Science, 1926–1935

AHP readers will be interested in a recent piece in the latest issue of Isis: ““Most Unusual” Beauty Contests: Nordic Photographic Competitions and the Construction of a Public for German Race Science, 1926–1935,” by Andrew D. Evans. Abstract:

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, professional anthropologists and prominent race scientists in Germany served as judges in a series of mail-in photographic competitions designed to identify the most representative examples of the so-called Nordic race. This essay examines the interactions between judges and audience in three of these contests. Race scientists and entrants collaborated to construct a vision of the Nordic race as primarily male and middle and upper class. More important, the contests served to configure the very categories of “science” and “lay public” for the new discipline of race science (Rassenkunde), setting them in an unequal relationship to each other. Race scientists portrayed their audience as the entire German people, or Volk, which they represented as desperately in need of racial knowledge that only experts in Rassenkunde could provide. Rather than breaking down divisions between race scientists and the public, the collaborative process of the contests served to construct those very categories.

Special Issue: Measurement, Self-tracking and the History of Science

A special issue of History of Science dedicated to “Measurement, Self-tracking and the History of Science” will be of interest to AHP readers. Full details below.

“Measurement, self-tracking and the history of science: An introduction,” Fenneke Sysling. Abstract:

This article introduces the papers contained in this special issue and explores a new field of interest in the history of science: that of measurement and self-making. In this special issue, we aim to show that a focus on self-tracking and individualized measurement provides insight into the ways technologies of quantification, when applied to individual bodies and selves, have introduced new notions of autonomy, responsibility, citizenship, and the possibility of self-improvement and life-course decisions. This introduction is an exploratory history of measurement and self-making, and it provides a discussion of self-tracking in the past as part of the genealogy of present-day digital self-tracking technologies. It concludes that a focus on measurement and self-making highlights the relationship between measurement and morality, the making of the ideal of an autonomous self, capable of improvement, and the relationship between autonomy and surveillance.

“Monitoring the self: François-Marc-Louis Naville and his moral tables,” Harro Maas. Abstract:

This paper examines the self-measurement and self-tracking practices of a turn-of-the-nineteenth-century Genevese pastor and pedagogical innovator, François-Marc-Louis Naville, who extensively used Benjamin Franklin’s tools of moral calculation and a lesser known tool, Marc-Antoine Jullien’s moral thermometer, to set a direction to his life and to monitor and improve his moral character. My contribution sheds light on how technologies of quantification molded notions of personal responsibility and character within an emerging utilitarian context. I situate Naville’s use of these tools within his work as a pastor in a parish of the (then occupied) Republic of Geneva and within the Genevese and Swiss pedagogical reform movement of the early nineteenth century. I provide a detailed examination of how Naville used and adapted Franklin’s and Jullien’s tools of moral accounting for his own moral and religious purposes. Time, God’s most precious gift to man, served Naville as the ultimate measure of his moral worth.

““Why do we measure mankind?” Marketing anthropometry in late-Victorian Britain,” Elise Smith. Abstract:

In the late nineteenth century, British anthropometrists attempted to normalize the practice of measuring bodies as they sought to collate data about the health and racial makeup of their fellow citizens. As the country’s leading anthropometrists, Francis Galton and Charles Roberts worked to overcome suspicion about their motives and tried to establish the value of recording physical dimensions from their subjects’ perspective. For Galton, the father of the eugenics movement, the attainment of objective self-knowledge figured alongside the ranking of one’s physique and faculties against established norms. The competitive tests at Galton’s anthropometric laboratory were meant to help subjects identify their strengths and weaknesses, ultimately revealing their level of eugenic fitness. Roberts, on the other hand, saw the particular value of anthropometric data in informing economic and social policy, but capitalized on parents’ interest in their children’s growth rates to encourage regular monitoring of their physical development. While both Galton and Roberts hoped that individuals would ultimately furnish experts with their anthropometric data to analyze, they both understood that the public would need to have explained the practical purposes of such studies and to familiarize themselves with their methods. This article argues that while anthropometry did not become a fully domestic practice in this period, it became a more visible one, paving the way for individuals to take an interest in metrical evaluations of their bodies in the coming years.

“Biometrics and citizenship: Measuring diabetes in the United States in the interwar years,” Arleen Marcia Tuchman. Abstract:

In 1936, the journalist Hannah Lees published “Two Million Tightrope Walkers,” drawing attention to the significant number of people in the United States estimated to have diabetes. Focusing on how people with diabetes should live, she emphasized the importance of recording the exact values of everything they ate and avoiding all “riotous living” lest they be unable to keep careful measurements of calories, insulin, and sleep. Employing two meanings of measured – as counted and as moderate – Lees was doing more than communicating how someone might control their disease; she was also calling for a “controlled and self-reliant citizenry.” Indeed, Lees insisted that diabetics who followed a regime of measurement “make a good deal better citizens than the average.” Drawing on the writings of Lees and other social commentators, I explore the link between biometrics, citizenship, and diabetes in the United States in the interwar years. In particular, I look at how this disease came to symbolize both the regimes of discipline thought to be necessary in a society moving to consumption as its economic motor, and the fears of what could happen if consumption ran amok. Biometrics, I argue, offered clinicians and patients a potent tool for measuring deviance and, potentially, for restoring a person to the “norm.”

“Guidance counseling in the mid-twentieth century United States: Measurement, grouping, and the making of the intelligent self,” Jim Wynter Porter. Abstract:

This article investigates National Defense Education Act and National Defense Education Act-related calls in the late 1950s for the training of guidance counselors, an emergent profession that was to play an instrumental role in both the measuring and placement of students in schools by “intelligence” or academic “ability”. In analyzing this mid-century push for more guidance counseling in schools, this article will first explore a foundational argument for the fairness of intelligence testing made by Educational Testing Service psychometrician William Turnbull in 1951, and then later taken up and employed by other National Defense Education Act-era advocates of testing and grouping. Secondly, this analysis will proceed to National Defense Education Act expert testimony, examining here assertions of the necessity of guidance counseling in schools, and an emergent and shared vision articulating the role guidance counseling was supposed to play in school life. A pattern or structure to this vision emerges here. According to its advocates, guidance counseling would not only inform the self-understanding of the measured individual, but it would also work to condition the ideology of individual intelligence across numerous layers of social life around the student: through peer group, through teachers and school administrators, and finally through home, family, and the wider community.

“Weighing on us all? Quantification and cultural responses to obesity in NHS Britain,” Roberta Bivins. Abstract:

How do cultures of self-quantification intersect with the modern state, particularly in relation to medical provision and health promotion? Here I explore the ways in which British practices and representations of body weight and weight management ignored or interacted with the National Health Service between 1948 and 2004. Through the lens of overweight, I examine health citizenship in the context of universal health provision funded from general taxation, and track attitudes toward “overweight” once its health implications and medical costs affected a public service as well as individual bodies and households. Looking at professional and popular discourses of overweight and obesity, I map the persistence of a highly individual culture of dietary and weight self-management in postwar Britain, and assess the degree to which it was challenged by a new measure of “obesity” – the body mass index – and by visions of an NHS burdened and even threatened by the increasing overweight of the citizens it was created to serve.

Folded Files, Unfolding Narratives: Psycho-Pedagogical Observation in the Belgian Juvenile Reformatories, 1912–1945

AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in History of Education: “Folded Files, Unfolding Narratives: Psycho-Pedagogical Observation in the Belgian Juvenile Reformatories, 1912–1945,” by Sarah Van Ruyskensvelde & Laura Nys. Abstract:

The establishment of the Central Observation Institute in Mol in 1913 marks the introduction of scientific expertise in Belgium’s youth delinquency policy. The child at risk was subjected to a series of observations, resulting in an observation report (‘waarnemingsverslag’) that contained the psychological, moral and physical characteristics of the delinquent child, and suggested strategies for its re-education. This article focuses foremost on the technologies of observation in the first half of the twentieth century. In contrast to earlier research, the observation report is not used as a ‘key to the past’ but the article aims to historicise the observation report in its own right. Using M’charek’s concept of ‘folded object’, the process of truth being created in the observation report is discussed, paying attention to the various actors at work in the reformatory and examining the dynamic relationships between the observation institution and the juvenile reformatories in the production and use of observation files.

The potency of the butterfly: The reception of Richard B. Goldschmidt’s animal experiments in German sexology around 1920

AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming piece in History of the Human Sciences: “The potency of the butterfly: The reception of Richard B. Goldschmidt’s animal experiments in German sexology around 1920,” by Ina Linge. Abstract:

This article considers the sexual politics of animal evidence in the context of German sexology around 1920. In the 1910s, the German-Jewish geneticist Richard B. Goldschmidt conducted experiments on the moth Lymantria dispar, and discovered individuals that were no longer clearly identifiable as male or female. When he published an article tentatively arguing that his research on ‘intersex butterflies’ could be used to inform concurrent debates about human homosexuality, he triggered a flurry of responses from Berlin-based sexologists. In this article, I examine how a number of well-known sexologists affiliated with Magnus Hirschfeld, his Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, and later his Institute of Sexology attempted to incorporate Goldschmidt’s experiments into their sexological work between 1917 and 1923. Intersex butterflies were used to discuss issues at the heart of German sexology: the legal debate about the criminalisation of homosexuality under paragraph 175; the scientific methodology of sexology, caught between psychiatric, biological, and sociological approaches to the study of sexual and gender diversity; and the status of sexology as natural science, able to contribute knowledge about the sexual Konstitution of the organism. This article thus shows that butterfly experiments function as important and politically charged evidence for a discussion at the heart of the sexological project of those involved in the founding of the Institute of Sexology: the question of the nature and naturalness of homosexuality (and sexual intermediacy more broadly) and its political consequences. In doing so, this article makes a case for paying attention to non-human actors in the history of sexology.

Revista de Historia de la Psicología: Histories of Psychology in Ecuador, Columbia, Argentina, and Chile

The June 2020 issues of Revista de Historia de la Psicología is now online. Full details below.

“José Luis Pinillos, Profesor de Relaciones Humanas [José Luis Pinillos, Professor of Human Relations],” by Helio Carpintero. (Article written in Spanish). Abstract:

Dentro de la evolución intelectual que se descubre en la obra de José Luis Pinillos, el trabajo examina su etapa de profesor de Recursos Humanos en la Escuela de Organización Industrial de Madrid durante los años 1950-60, y lo relaciona con la dimensión humanista de su psicología. En el trabajo se destacan unos comentarios suyos en torno a un grave problema social, de reconversión laboral, en donde todos los factores relativos al destino de los trabajadores afectados reciben un tratamiento comprensivo y humanista, con recomendaciones para una salida en que tuvieran en cuenta los motivos graves que afectaban a los trabajadores en sus reivindicaciones, y que una empresa atenta a los valores de la persona humana no podía desconocer.

Within the intellectual evolution that is discovered in the work of José Luis Pinillos, this work examines his time as Professor of Human Relations, at the School of Industrial Organization, Madrid during the years 1950-60, and relates it to the humanist dimension of his psychology. In this work, some of his comments about a serious social problem, labour reconversion, stand out, where all the factors related to the fate of the affected workers received a comprehensive and humanistic treatment, with recommendations for a way out that would take into account the serious reasons that affected workers in their claims, and that a company that respects the values of the human person could not be unaware.

““Más Allá de las Aptitudes”: Administración Científica, Redes Empresariales y Circulación de Saberes Psi sobre el Mundo del Trabajo en Chile (1956-1970) [“Beyond the Skills”: Scientific Administration, Business Networks and Circulation of Psy knowledge on the World of Work in Chile (1956-1970)], by Jorge Esteban Benítez Saavedra. (Article written in Spanish). Abstract:

El presente artículo analiza los Saberes Psi que acompañaron el desarrollo del Movimiento de Administración Científica en Chile. Para ello se recurrió especialmente a las publicaciones de la revista Empresa, boletín editado por el Instituto de Administración Racional de Empresas (ICARE), además de documentos gubernamentales y académicos. El análisis se orientó a identificar las redes y problemáticas en torno a las que se movilizaron los discursos psicológicos sobre el trabajo entre 1956 y 1970; develando el importante rol que jugaron en ello los gremios empresariales y los centros intelectuales norteamericanos. Finalmente, se concluye que el estudio de las “aptitudes” resultó insuficiente para responder a los problemas derivados del deterioro de la subjetividad obrera, incorporando nuevos saberes que apelaron a la psicologización del espacio de trabajo como forma de garantizar la cooperación obrero-patronal y que obligaron a redefinir las bases programáticas de la psicología industrial que se venía desarrollando en Chile.

This article analyzes the Psi knowledge that accompanied the development of the Scientific Management Movement in Chile. For this purpose, the publications of the magazine Empresa, a bulletin edited by the Institute of Rational Business Administration (ICARE), were used, as well as government and academic documents. The analysis was oriented to identify the networks and problems around which the psychological discourses on work were mobilized between 1956 and 1970; revealing the important role played by the business associations and the American intellectual centers. Finally, it is concluded that the study of “skills” was insufficient to respond to the problems arising from the deterioration of worker subjectivity, incorporating new knowledge that appealed to the psychologization of the work space as a way of guaranteeing worker-employer cooperation and that forced to redefine the programmatic bases of industrial psychology that had been developing in Chile.

“La Psicología del desarrollo y los proyectos educativos en Colombia (1930-1950) [Developmental Psychology and Educational Projects in Colombia (1930-1950)],” by Rebeca Puche-Navarro, Julio César Ossa, and Elda Cerchiaro Ceballos. (Article written in Spanish). Abstract,

Se trabaja la hipótesis según la cual la emergencia de la psicología del desarrollo en Colombia responde a las exigencias de los procesos educativos. Exigencias muy sensibles a los cambios sociopolíticos que vivió la sociedad colombiana en las décadas del treinta y cuarenta del siglo XX. Se parte de una revisión del itinerario que inicia con el reconocimiento social de la infancia, el aparataje metodológico construido para el estudio del niño y otros aportes más específicos que van a jugar un papel fundamental en el establecimiento de la disciplina. En la segunda parte se analiza el papel de la psicología del desarrollo en la formalización del primer plan de estudios de psicología y la conceptualización sobre una psicología del niño que Mercedes Rodrigo (1891-1982) dejó plasmada en ese primer plan de estudios que nunca se implementó.

The hypothesis of this paper is that the emergence of developmental psychology in Colombia responds to the demands of educational processes. These demands are very sensitive to the socio-political changes that Colombian society experienced in the 1930s and 1940s. We start from a revision of the itinerary that begins with the social recognition of childhood, the methodological apparatus built for the study of the child and other more specific contributions that will play a fundamental role in the establishment of discipline. In the second part, we analyze the role of developmental psychology in the formalization of the first psychology curriculum. We also explore the conceptualization of a child psychology that Mercedes Rodrigo (1891-1982) left in that first curriculum that was never implemented.

“Itinerarios de la psicoterapia en Argentina (1962-1985) [Itineraries of Psychoterapy in Argentine (1962-1985)],” by Marcela Borinsky. (Article written in Spanish). Abstract:

La historia de la psicoterapia se articula con la historia de las diferentes profesiones que compitieron por el dominio del saber experto en distintas coyunturas temporales y geográficas. El objetivo del artículo es identificar algunas líneas de fuerza que confluyeron en la definición del perfil clínico del psicólogo argentino como aporte a una historia de las psicoterapias. Fruto de la combinación de un psicoanálisis en expansión, las ciencias sociales, los nuevos discursos y las transformaciones en el terreno de la salud mental emerge, entre el psicoanalista y el psiquiatra, un nuevo tipo de profesional: el psicólogo que reivindicaría para sí el derecho a la psicoterapia. Nos proponemos analizar la configuración del campo a comienzos de la década del ’60 para entender el deslizamiento que se produjo desde la hegemonía médica inicial a la consolidación del psicólogo como nuevo especialista en la década del ’80.

The history of psychotherapy is related to the history of different professions that disputed the control of expert knowledge in different places and circumstances. The objective of the article is to identify some axes that converged in the definition of the clinical orientation of the Argentinian psychologist as a contribution to a history of psychotherapies. The combination of an expanding psychoanalysis, social sciences, new discourses and transformations in the field of mental health led to the arrival of a new type of professional, between the psychoanalyst and the psychiatrist, the psychologist. We propose to analyze the configuration of the field at the beginning of the 1960s to understand the changes that happened from the initial medical hegemony to the consolidation of the psychologist as a new specialist in the 1980s.

“La Psicología en Ecuador: la Universidad de Cuenca (1952-2008) [Psychology in Ecuador: the University of Cuenca (1952-2008)],” by Claudio López-Calle, Cristina Cedillo-Quizhpe y William Ortiz-Ochoa. (Article written in Spanish). Abstract:

El objetivo del estudio fue describir el desarrollo histórico de la psicología en la Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador. El diseño fue una investigación analítica de tipo histórico que es una forma de investigación cualitativa. Los resultados muestran que desde 1952 hasta 1977 la psicología estuvo presente en forma de cátedras en la Facultad de Filosofía, Letras y Ciencias de la Educación; en 1977 se creó el primer plan de estudios en psicología; entre 1977 y 2008 todas las ofertas académicas fueron en psicología educativa con diferentes énfasis; desde 1983 salieron los primeros graduados y la mayoría fueron mujeres; existieron pocos eventos y publicaciones académicas en el periodo estudiado. El primer plan de estudios en psicología en la Universidad de Cuenca marcó un hito en el desarrollo histórico de la psicología en la ciudad de Cuenca y la región.

The aim of the study was to describe the historical development of psychology at the University of Cuenca. This study was an analytical research (historical study) that is a type of qualitative research. The results show that from 1952 to 1977 psychology was present as chairs at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Educational Science; in 1977 the first curriculum in psychology was created; between 1977 and 2008 all academic offers were in educational psychology with different emphasis; since 1983 the first graduates came out and the majority were women; there were few academic events and publications in the period studied. The first curriculum in psychology at the University of Cuenca marked a milestone in the historical development of psychology in the city of Cuenca and the region.

PhD scholarship opportunity in Theory & History of Psychology, University of Groningen

A PhD scholarship opportunity in Theory & History of Psychology is available at the University of Groningen. More details below and full details here.

The Theory and History of Psychology department at the University of Groningen is seeking to recruit a talented student for research leading to the PhD. The student is expected to develop her/his research under the direction of Prof. Dr. Annette Mülberger (promotor), together with Dr. Jeremy Burman or Dr. Stephan Schleim (as co-promotor). The student will conduct original historical research, report results via peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, and ultimately deliver a PhD thesis related to one of the three topics indicated below. The PhD student will receive a four-year scholarship and, thereby, enrol in the Graduate School of the Behavioural and Social Sciences

Topic 1: Intelligence and meritocracy: Testing in the 20th century

Intelligence testing is a crucial field of research in our contemporary society, and a common social and professional practice. Despite this, it remains controversial: on the one hand it represents a widely accepted tool for psychological assessment, but on the other hand it also reinforces histories of social discrimination. It imposes social order and, paradoxically, has become a crucial tool of governance in democratic and meritocratic societies. And testing is becoming ever more entrenched: during the 20th century, there has been an exponential increase in new tests designed to measure different kinds of “intelligence” (variously defined) linked to different cognitive and social variables with different goals and ends. At the same time, however, psychologists have also repeatedly lamented the lack of conceptual consensus and critical (overall) analysis.

Until now, four basic kinds of research have been conducted: a) the development and validation of new tests and assessments that are sold on the market and used for assessments and research; b) studies of differences between individuals and groups; c) theories about intelligence and different related cognitive capacities; and d) methodological reappraisals of previous testing, exposing mistakes in past analyses or applying new statistical methods to derive new insights (without examining the underlying assumptions). Broadly speaking, these different projects have also become siloed: there is not much dialogue between these lines of work. They persist, in isolation, because they serve different societal or professional interests.

Possible research questions on the theme: how was intelligence conceptualized, operationalized, and measured in different places and institutions? Which other psychological traits, attitudes, skills, or variables were tested alongside intelligence? Why did different tests or test-types become popular or prestigious in different times and places? How were these tests and testing activities legitimized by testers, and for what purposes were the tests conducted? What methodological problems did they face? Were there successful replications? What happened afterward to those who were tested? Which psychological theories or implicit ideas about mental life can be deduced from the testing itself and how do these connect to mainstream conceptualizations in psychology? Under what conditions was testing conceived to be a good idea? What meta-theories justified their beliefs? How has “merit” been differently conceived?

Topic 2: Human-kinds: Differential psychology and typologies

Francis Galton is widely known as the father of “eugenics,” and is also often presented as the founder of “differential” psychology: the science of human (psychological) differences. For such studies, researchers assumed as the starting point “natural” differences such as race, gender, age, social class, physiology, and the like. Then they compared the resulting measurements between “natural” groups in order to see if there were differences in reaction time, perception threshold, language skills, attitudes, thinking styles, etc. In other cases, after testing a great number of subjects, researchers deduced from the data certain patterns and within-group differences; distinguishing between the quick and the slow, the intelligent and the “retarded,” “geniuses” and “morons,” etc. These kinds of categorizations—and the overarching goal of constructing typologies of human kinds representing the differences that could power evolutionary change—continue to this day, although using different language and usually without explicitly eugenicist goals.

Biotypology, for example, was presented as a science of the individual and used morphological, physiological, and psychological assessments to determine human types. Influential typologies were developed by Ernst Kretschmer (1888-1964), Nicola Pende (1880-1970), and Erich Jaensch (1883-1940). Their followers often embraced a holistic view of the organism, and connected psychological traits to bodily constitution, social class, and cultural and anthropological conditions. These practices became very popular in the 1930s in Europe, the Americas (especially Argentina and Brazil), and beyond. Other more contemporary examples of typological thinking include constitutional medicine and theories about personality types, sometimes presented as diagnostics, that are used to this day by psychologists, physicians, and educators.

Possible research questions on the theme: To whom and why were psychological typologies appealing? Were they scientific, or based only on popular wisdom? What kind of debates surrounded their implementation in different national and institutional settings? For what purposes were they used? What consequences did such classifications have for individuals?

Topic 3: Psychology under Franco: Between neo-Scholasticism and foreign appropriations

After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), progressive psychologists such as E. Mira went into exile while others such as J. Mallart decided to stay. As a result, the intellectual landscape underwent a dramatic change. The institutional landscape also changed, especially after the new regime solidified its power: it took over the schools, research centres, and universities. In order to foster the state religion—a very conservative Roman Catholicism—the government also required that a neo-scholastic view be taught in philosophy and psychology. Together, these changes constitute a rupture; a broad external change that can be investigated for its impact on the psychological science of the time.

The interest of Catholics in modern science was sparked by Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879), which called for a restoration of Christian philosophy and particularly of a reengagement with Thomism. Scholarship by Cardinal Désiré Mercier at the University of Louvain represents an important landmark in this progressive form of scholasticism. As did the founding of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, in Milan, by psychologist Agostino Gemelli in 1921. Following a call by the Vatican to seek out the “harmony” between science and faith, scholars in Spain working in the 1940s and 1950s also promoted neo-scholastic psychology. (Recognizable leaders of this movement included the Jesuit Fernando Maria Palmés and Manuel Barbado Viejo.)

At the same time, while neo-scholasticism flourished, there was also an attempt made by psychologists to strengthen connections with foreign psychologists. Two European psychologists were of central importance in the orientation and institutionalisation of psychology in Spain in the period between 1950 and 1970: A. Michotte and J. Piaget. Although this connection is well known among historians of psychology, there is still much research to do related to the political, religious, and scientific motives and influences involved.

Possible research questions on the theme: To what extent was psychology after the Civil War different from or similar to the situation before the War? Which national and international networks did Spanish scholars establish and participate in during the Franco era? What role did Michotte and Piaget play in that setting? What was the intersection between the religious and scientific contexts, and to what extent did this influence their psychological research? How did Spanish psychologists try to combine and legitimize research in modern (experimental, positivist, applied) psychology and connect this with a Catholic (moral) worldview?

The PhD candidate should:
• have a master’s degree
• have a bachelor or master’s degree in psychology, history, history of science or sociology of science
• have some experience working with historical methods and source materials
• be fluent in English (both oral and written)
• be willing to work in Groningen, in an international and interdisciplinary environment

Full details can be found here.

The ghost factories: Histories of automata and artificial life

AHP readers will be interested in a recent historiographic essay “The ghost factories: histories of automata and artificial life” by Edward Jones-Imhotep (free access). As Jones-Imhotep writes in History of Technology,

Imagine a factory. On the shop floor stands a single worker – a young girl. Surrounding her are the hulking frames of weaving looms, four of them, in riotous mechanical action. The girl doesn’t operate the machines. Instead, they operate themselves. The fabric, more perfect and uniform than human hands can manage, ‘weaves itself’. The girl’s job, her only job, is to watch the machines, making sure nothing threatens their work. She cleans the silk, she mends a broken thread, she reloads an empty shuttle. To do this, she stops the machine by pressing a single button, located on one of their four corners. When she’s finished, she presses the button again and the mechanism shudders back to life, exactly where it left off.

That vision – a ghost factory – appeared in the November 1745 edition of the Mercure de France. It advertised the latest invention of Jacques de Vaucanson, tenth child of a Grenoble glove-maker and high wizard of mid-eighteenth century automation. Among the automata makers of his time, Vaucanson was unrivaled. The detail and sophistication of his automata – defecating ducks, tambourine- and flute-playing androids – dazzled his audiences and defined the approach to automata for generations to come. His talents were clearly portable. The techniques he employed and the visions he conjured cut across the spheres of courtly leisure, proto-industrial labor, and Enlightenment governance. Frederick the Great courted him. Voltaire sang his praises. Louis XIV proposed sending him to Guyana to source rubber for a mechanical model of the human circulatory system. Arguably though, Vaucanson’s greatest and most lasting feat involved none these accolades. Instead, his real legacy was to popularize a way of talking about machines. At the heart of all his work, including his spectral account of factory production, was a set of erasures – physical and rhetorical – that made the illusion of automation possible. Where were the artisans who built these automated machines? Who spun the threads that ‘wove themselves’ into impossibly fine fabric? Where were the Chinese and North African and West Indian laborers who gathered the silk and cotton from far-flung trading posts and colonies? It’s only at the end of his striking account that Vaucanson revealed the hidden organic forces powering his automated looms: a horse, moving water, a man, an eight-year old child. Vaucanson didn’t invent this opportunistically porous way of talking about automation and machinic self-action; at least not single-handedly. It was a collective enterprise. Historically, automata of all kinds – from androids to factory machines to our own autonomous technologies – have relied on this type of disappearing trick. And they’re still playing it.