AHP readers may be interested in a new book on the history of cultural anthropology focused on Franz Boas and his women students. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century is described by the publisher as follows:
A dazzling group portrait of Franz Boas, the founder of cultural anthropology, and his circle of women scientists, who upended American notions of race, gender, and sexuality in the 1920s and 1930s–a sweeping chronicle of how our society began to question the basic ways we understand other cultures and ourselves.
At the end of the 19th century, everyone knew that people were defined by their race and sex and were fated by birth and biology to be more or less intelligent, able, nurturing, or warlike. But one rogue researcher looked at the data and decided everyone was wrong. Franz Boas was the very image of a mad scientist: a wild-haired immigrant with a thick German accent. By the 1920s he was also the foundational thinker and public face of a new school of thought at Columbia University called cultural anthropology. He proposed that cultures did not exist on a continuum from primitive to advanced. Instead, every society solves the same basic problems–from childrearing to how to live well–with its own set of rules, beliefs, and taboos.
Boas’s students were some of the century’s intellectual stars: Margaret Mead, the outspoken field researcher whose Coming of Age in Samoa is one of the most widely read works of social science of all time; Ruth Benedict, the great love of Mead’s life, whose research shaped post-Second World War Japan; Ella Deloria, the Dakota Sioux activist who preserved the traditions of Native Americans of the Great Plains; and Zora Neale Hurston, whose studies under Boas fed directly into her now-classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Together, they mapped vanishing civilizations from the Arctic to the South Pacific and overturned the relationship between biology and behavior. Their work reshaped how we think of women and men, normalcy and deviance, and re-created our place in a world of many cultures and value systems.
Gods of the Upper Air is a page-turning narrative of radical ideas and adventurous lives, a history rich in scandal, romance, and rivalry, and a genesis story of the fluid conceptions of identity that define our present moment.
AHP readers may be interested in Marilyn Fischer’s recently published Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing “Democracy and Social Ethics.” The book is described as follows:
In Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing, Marilyn Fischer advances the bold and original claim that Addams’s reasoning in her first book, Democracy and Social Ethics, is thoroughly evolutionary. While Democracy and Social Ethics, a foundational text of classical American pragmatism, is praised for advancing a sensitive and sophisticated method of ethical deliberation, Fischer is the first to explore its intellectual roots.
Examining essays Addams wrote in the 1890s and showing how they were revised for Democracy and Social Ethics, Fischer draws from philosophy, history, literature, rhetoric, and more to uncover the array of social evolutionary thought Addams engaged with in her texts—from British socialist writings on the evolution of democracy to British and German anthropological accounts of the evolution of morality. By excavating Addams’s evolutionary reasoning and rhetorical strategies, Fischer reveals the depth, subtlety, and richness of Addams’s thought.
List of Illustrations
1 An Evolving Democracy
2 An Evolutionary Method of Ethical Deliberation
3 From Feudalism to Association
4 The City’s Moral Geology
5 Educating Immigrants
6 Science and the Social Settlement
7 Constructing Democracy and Social Ethics
AHP readers interested in data and constructions of personhood will be interested philosopher Colin Koopman’s just-published book How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person. The book is described as follows:
We are now acutely aware, as if all of the sudden, that data matters enormously to how we live. How did information come to be so integral to what we can do? How did we become people who effortlessly present our lives in social media profiles and who are meticulously recorded in state surveillance dossiers and online marketing databases? What is the story behind data coming to matter so much to who we are?
In How We Became Our Data, Colin Koopman excavates early moments of our rapidly accelerating data-tracking technologies and their consequences for how we think of and express our selfhood today. Koopman explores the emergence of mass-scale record keeping systems like birth certificates and social security numbers, as well as new data techniques for categorizing personality traits, measuring intelligence, and even racializing subjects. This all culminates in what Koopman calls the “informational person” and the “informational power” we are now subject to. The recent explosion of digital technologies that are turning us into a series of algorithmic data points is shown to have a deeper and more turbulent past than we commonly think. Blending philosophy, history, political theory, and media theory in conversation with thinkers like Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, and Friedrich Kittler, Koopman presents an illuminating perspective on how we have come to think of our personhood—and how we can resist its erosion.
Introduction: Informational Persons and Our Information Politics
Part I: Histories of Information
“Human Bookkeeping”: The Informatics of Documentary Identity, 1913–1937
Algorithmic Personality: The Informatics of Psychological Traits, 1917–1937
Segregating Data: The Informatics of Racialized Credit, 1923–1937
Part II: Powers of Formatting
Toward a Political Theory for Informational Persons
Data’s Turbulent Pasts and Future Paths
AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming book exploring David Rosenhan’s “On being sane in insane places.” Susannah Cahalan’s The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness will be released in November 2019. The book is described as follows:
For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness-how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people — sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society — went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry’s labels. Forced to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan’s watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.
But, as Cahalan’s explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?
Forthcoming from Routledge is Katherine Hubbard’s Queer Ink: A Blotted History Towards Liberation. The book is described as follows:
This historical interdisciplinary book contextualises the Rorschach ink blot test and embeds it within feminist action and queer liberation.
What do you see when you look at an ink blot? The Rorschach ink blot test is one of the most famous psychological tests and it has a surprisingly queer history. In mapping this history, this book explores how this test, once used to detect and diagnose ‘homosexuality’, was later used by some psychologists and activists to fight for gay liberation. In this book the author uses the test in yet another way, as a lens through which we can reveal a queer feminist history of Psychology. By looking closely at the lives and work of some women psychologists and activists it becomes clear that their work was influenced by their own, often queer, lives. By tracing the lives and actions of women who used, were tested with, or influenced by, the Rorschach, a new kind of understanding of gay and lesbian history in Britain is revealed.
Pushing at the borders between Psychology, Sociology, and activism, the book utilises the Rorschach to show how influential the social world is on scientific practice. This is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the history of sexuality and Psychology.