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.

Talcott Parsons on building personality system theory via psychoanalysis

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: “Talcott Parsons on building personality system theory via psychoanalysis,” by A. Javier Treviño. Abstract:

This article examines Talcott Parsons’s efforts at building the theory of personality system as a special case of his general theory of action and places those efforts in historical context. I demonstrate how, during the middle decades of the twentieth century, Parsons employed elements of classic Freudian thought to advance a new appreciation of the personality system and its relations to other action systems. I begin with an overview of the reception of psychoanalysis at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, the Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Harvard Department of Social Relations, showing how Parsons’s thinking on the personality system cannot be understood apart from his association with these three institutions. I then turn to how Parsons endeavored to integrate his particular brand of sociology with his own interpretation of Freud’s writings to explain how the personality system functions and develops. I conclude by showing that while Parsons’s involvements with psychoanalysis became more intermittent after the mid-1950s, to the end of his life he remained steadfast in his enthusiasm for Freud’s theory of personality. In short, Parsons always believed that for sociological theory to progress, it needed to engage with psychoanalysis.

Attempted suicide in older people in New South Wales, Australia, 1870–1908

A new open-access piece in History of Psychiatry may interest AHP readers: “Attempted suicide in older people in New South Wales, Australia, 1870–1908,” Brian Draper. Abstract:

This study examines attempted suicide in older people between 1870 and 1908 in (NSW), Australia. Statistical Registers of NSW indicate persons aged 60+ had disproportionately high rates of apprehension (10.9%) and conviction (13.0%) for attempted suicide. Newspaper reports of 110 suicide attempts in older people indicate that alcohol misuse, poor health, depression, being tired of living, financial problems, relationship difficulties, loss events and insanity were the main issues. Most were treated compassionately with medical care and support, albeit sometimes in a gaol setting. Medical casebooks of persons aged 60+ years with suicide attempts (n = 49) or suicidal ideation (n = 43) admitted to hospitals for the insane indicated that over 75% were psychotic and 50% had melancholia.

Understanding understanding in psychiatry

A new piece in History of Psychiatry may interest AHP readers: “Understanding understanding in psychiatry,” by Joseph Gough. Abstract:

Originally put forward to defend history from the encroachment of physics, the distinction between understanding and explanation was built into the foundations of Karl Jaspers’ ‘phenomenological’ psychiatry, and it is revised, used and defended by many still working in that tradition. On the face of it, this is rather curious. I examine what this notion of ‘understanding’ amounts to, why it entered and remains influential in psychiatry, and what insights for contemporary psychiatry are buried in the notion. I argue that it is unhelpfully associated with the view that the mental is epistemologically and methodologically autonomous, but that it nevertheless highlights an important lacuna in many views of psychiatry and the scientific study of humans more generally.

From Galton’s Pride to Du Bois’s Pursuit: The Formats of Data-Driven Inequality

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in Theory, Culture & Society: “From Galton’s Pride to Du Bois’s Pursuit: The Formats of Data-Driven Inequality,” Colin Koopman. Abstract:

Data increasingly drive our lives. Often presented as a new trajectory, the deep immersion of our lives in data has a history that is well over a century old. By revisiting the work of early pioneers of what would today be called data science, we can bring into view both assumptions that fund our data-driven moment as well as alternative relations to data. I here excavate insights by contrasting a seemingly unlikely pair of early data technologists, Francis Galton and W.E.B. Du Bois. Galton, well known for his contributions to eugenics, was first and foremost a tinkering technician of measure. There are numerous domains of science over which Galtonian conceptions retain considerable influence, presumably without his pride in racial inequality. A more viable, because more egalitarian, alternative for the present can be found in the early data work of Du Bois.

Mental recovery, citizenship roles, and the Mental After-Care Association, 1879–1928

A new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Mental recovery, citizenship roles, and the Mental After-Care Association, 1879–1928,” Hannah Blythe. Abstract:

This article argues for the importance of studying life after mental illness. A significant proportion of people who experience mental illness recover, but the experience continues to affect their lives. Historical examination of the birth of mental after-care through the Mental After-Care Association (MACA) highlights the challenges faced by those who were discharged recovered from English and Welsh lunatic asylums between 1879 and 1928. This research demonstrates the relationship between ideas regarding psychiatric recovery and citizenship. Throughout the period, certification of insanity for institutional treatment stripped patients of the status and rights of citizenship. Discharge on account of recovery restored a patient’s legal access to citizenship, yet suspicions about their right and ability to particate in society lingered. The MACA designed after-care to facilitate restoration to full citizenship. The MACA was a product of the active citizenship movement, according to which, one’s right to identify as a citizen depended on the performance of certain duties to the community. These duties varied according to socio-economic position and sex, meaning that each individual was prescribed a gendered personal citizenship role. MACA personnel saw their endeavours as part of their own citizenship roles, and designed their treatments accordingly. The MACA used a patient’s assumption of a citizenship role to indicate recovery, and believed that supporting the performance of that role had mentally healing effects for patients who had been discharged recovered. MACA workers thus imbued the psychiatric innovation of after-care with the liberal political and social values of active citizenship

Drugging France: Mind-Altering Medicine in the Long Nineteenth Century

AHP readers may be interested in the new book: Drugging France: Mind-Altering Medicine in the Long Nineteenth Century by Sara E. Black. The book is described as follows:

In the nineteenth century, drug consumption permeated French society to produce a new norm: the chemical enhancement of modern life. French citizens empowered themselves by seeking pharmaceutical relief for their suffering and engaging in self-medication. Doctors and pharmacists, meanwhile, fashioned themselves as gatekeepers to these potent drugs, claiming that their expertise could shield the public from accidental harm. Despite these efforts, the unanticipated phenomenon of addiction laid bare both the embodied nature of the modern self and the inherent instability of the notions of individual free will and responsibility.

Drugging France explores the history of mind-altering drugs in medical practice between 1840 and 1920, highlighting the intricate medical histories of opium, morphine, ether, chloroform, cocaine, and hashish. While most drug histories focus on how drugs became regulated and criminalized as dangerous addictive substances, Sara Black instead traces the spread of these drugs through French society, demonstrating how new therapeutic norms and practices of drug consumption transformed the lives of French citizens as they came to expect and even demand pharmaceutical solutions to their pain. Through self-experimentation, doctors developed new knowledge about these drugs, transforming exotic botanical substances and unpredictable chemicals into reliable pharmaceutical commodities that would act on the mind and body to modify pain, sensation, and consciousness.

From the pharmacy counter to the boudoir, from the courtroom to the operating theatre, from the battlefield to the birthing chamber, Drugging France explores how everyday encounters with drugs reconfigured how people experienced their own minds and bodies.

Table of Contents

Figures vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 3
Psychotropic Pharmaceuticals 17
Self-Experimentation 64
Drugging the Mind 117
Sex and Drugs 184
Economies of Pain 230
Conclusion 281
Notes 285
Bibliography 349
Index 377

Kinaesthesia in the Psychology, Philosophy and Culture of Human Experience

AHP readers will be interested in a new book by Roger Smith: Kinaesthesia in the Psychology, Philosophy and Culture of Human Experience. The book is described as follows:

This accessible book explores the nature and importance of kinaesthesia, considering how action, agency and movement intertwine and are fundamental in feeling embodied in the world.

Bringing together psychological, philosophical and cultural perspectives, the book examines the subjective feeling of movement in a cross-disciplinary manner. It discusses kinaesthesia through the framework of embodied cognition and outlines how contemporary discussion in psychology and phenomenology can inform our understanding of everyday experience. The book also sketches a framework for full appreciation of the sense of movement in performance and cultural life, discussing how a sense of movement is central to one’s agency. It is composed in four ‘movements’, aiming to achieve a connected and original argument for why movement matters, an argument exemplified in dance. The first movement explains the science of kinaesthesia and the history of the concept to a discussion of current thought informed by phenomenology and embodied cognition, the second quiet movement reflects on the psychological and philosophical dimensions of the sense of movement, the third movement turns to the culture of movement in dance and walking, and the fourth rests with the pleasures of movement, and emphasizes the social dimensions of movement in gesture and agency.

This wide-ranging book is a must-read for all those interested in the psychology of movement, embodied cognition, performance studies and the interaction between psychology and dance. It will also be of interest to students and practitioners of embodied movement and dance practice therapies.

Table of Contents


List of illustrations

Part 1. First movement: theme and variations

1. Being alive

2. What is the sense of movement?

3. Kinaesthesia appears on the map of science

Part 2. Second movement: andante

4. The feel for reality

5. Phenomenology and embodiment

6. Movement and time

Part 3. Third movement: minuet and trio

7. Free dance

8. Walking

9. The dance of life

Part 4. Fourth movement: allegro

10. Gesture

11 .Agency

12. Finale – con brio

References and selected reading


Empathy: a case study in the historical epistemology of psychiatry

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in History of Psychiatry: “Empathy: a case study in the historical epistemology of psychiatry,” by Ivana S Marková. Abstract:

The hybrid constitution of psychiatry carries important implications for understanding the discipline and the legitimacy of its research approaches. One implication concerns the central role of concepts in forming the knowledge base of psychiatry. Because of this, it is vital to explore the structures and interrelationships of concepts through their historical constitution. Using this approach to compare concepts of empathy as articulated by R Vischer, T Lipps and E Stein shows that, despite overlap, the concepts vary in structure, in meaning and in the aspect of reality they capture. This suggests that the concept of empathy carries an unstable ontology and epistemology. In turn, this carries implications for the concept itself, for psychiatry and for research approaches in this field.

Nervous Systems: Brain Science in the Early Cold War

A new book by Andreas Killen will interest AHP readers: Nervous Systems: Brain Science in the Early Cold War. The book is described as follows:

In this eye-opening chronicle of scientific research on the brain in the early Cold War era, the acclaimed historian Andreas Killen traces the complex circumstances surrounding the genesis of our present-day fascination with this organ.

The 1950s were a transformative, even revolutionary decade in the history of brain science. Using new techniques for probing brain activity and function, researchers in neurosurgery, psychiatry, and psychology achieved dramatic breakthroughs in the treatment of illnesses like epilepsy and schizophrenia, as well as the understanding of such faculties as memory and perception. Memory was the site of particularly startling discoveries. As one researcher wrote to another in the middle of that decade, “Memory was the sleeping beauty of the brain—and now she is awake.” Collectively, these advances prefigured the emergence of the field of neuroscience at the end of the twentieth century.

But the 1950s also marked the beginning of the Cold War and a period of transformative social change across Western society. These developments resulted in unease and paranoia. Mysterious new afflictions—none more mystifying than “brainwashing”—also appeared at this time. Faced with the discovery that, as one leading psychiatrist put it, “the human personality is not as stable as we often assume,” many researchers in the sciences of brain and behavior joined the effort to understand these conditions. They devised ingenious and sometimes transgressive experimental methods for studying and proposing countermeasures to the problem of Communist mind control. Some of these procedures took on a strange life of their own, escaping the confines of the research lab to become part of 1960s counterculture. Much later, in the early 2000s, they resurfaced in the War on Terror.

These stories, often told separately, are brought together by the historian Andreas Killen in this chronicle of the brain’s mid-twentieth-century emergence as both a new research frontier and an organ whose integrity and capacities—especially that of memory—were imagined as uniquely imperiled in the 1950s. Nervous Systems explores the anxious context in which the mid-century sciences of the brain took shape and reveals the deeply ambivalent history that lies behind our contemporary understanding of this organ.

Contrary to reason: Documentary film-making and alternative psychotherapies

A new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers: “Contrary to reason: Documentary film-making and alternative psychotherapies,” Des O’Rawe. Abstract:

This article explores how post-war documentary film-makers negotiated complex social, formal, and autobiographical issues associated with representing mental illness and its treatments, and the extent to which their respective approaches helped to challenge conventional attitudes to alternative psychotherapies – especially within the context of advances in new documentary film-making technologies, alongside a wider culture of social activism. Focussing on A Look at Madness (Regard sur la folie; Mario Ruspoli, 1962, France) and Now Do You Get It Why I Am Crying? (Begrijpt u nu waarom ik huil?; Louis van Gasteren, 1969, Netherlands), the article discusses how the collaborative, democratic aims of cinéma direct coincided with the ethos of institutional psychotherapy, and compares this with the relations between the documentary form and the subject of LSD-assisted psychotherapeutic techniques in Van Gasteren’s film.