Category Archives: General

New Exhibit: Melancholy: A New Anatomy

AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming exhibit at Oxford’s Bodleian Library: Melancholy: A New Anatomy. The exhibit runs 29 September 2021 – 20 March 2022, and a virtual exhibition opening will take place on YouTube September 28th. The exhibit is described as follows:

‘Who is not a Foole, who is free from Melancholy?’, asked Robert Burton, 400 years ago, and answered his own question: ‘all the world is mad, is melancholy, dotes’.

Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, first published in 1621, is a huge and innovative encyclopaedia of mental and emotional disorder, as understood in the late Renaissance.

A scholar and clergyman in Christ Church, Oxford, Burton was one of the early users of the Bodleian Library and left many of the books in his own substantial collection to the Bodleian.

The Anatomy examines the causes and symptoms of melancholy or, as we would call it today, depression. Its remedies range from good food and exercise, to laughter, reading, friends, and music. Its closing page recommends that the reader ‘be not solitary, be not idle’, and the distraction provided by reading the Anatomy itself is one suggested cure.

Four hundred years later – as our mental health faces many challenges – this exhibition revisits the Anatomy, using objects from the Bodleian Libraries to highlight common experiences and connections over time.

Curated by Oxford experts in mental health research and the humanities, the exhibition shows how Burton’s holistic and multifaceted conception of cure finds surprising echoes in contemporary psychiatry and prescriptions for mental health.

Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia

AHP readers may be interested in a new book by George Makari, Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia. The book is described as follows

A startling work of historical sleuthing and synthesis, Of Fear and Strangers reveals the forgotten histories of xenophobia—and what they mean for us today.

By 2016, it was impossible to ignore an international resurgence of xenophobia. What had happened? Looking for clues, psychiatrist and historian George Makari started out in search of the idea’s origins. To his astonishment, he discovered an unfolding series of never-told stories. While a fear and hatred of strangers may be ancient, he found that the notion of a dangerous bias called “xenophobia” arose not so long ago.

Coined by late-nineteenth-century doctors and political commentators and popularized by an eccentric stenographer, xenophobia emerged alongside Western nationalism, colonialism, mass migration, and genocide. Makari chronicles the concept’s rise, from its popularization and perverse misuse to its spread as an ethical principle in the wake of a series of calamites that culminated in the Holocaust, and its sudden reappearance in the twenty-first century. He investigates xenophobia’s evolution through the writings of figures such as Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus, and Richard Wright, and innovators like Walter Lippmann, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon. Weaving together history, philosophy, and psychology, Makari offers insights into varied, related ideas such as the conditioned response, the stereotype, projection, the Authoritarian Personality, the Other, and institutional bias.

Masterful, original, and elegantly written, Of Fear and Strangers offers us a unifying paradigm by which we might more clearly comprehend how irrational anxiety and contests over identity sweep up groups and lead to the dark headlines of division so prevalent today.

The (d)evolution of a technological species: A history and critique of ecopsychology’s constructions of science and technology

AHP readers will be interested in a new article in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Part of a forthcoming special issue, the piece is now available online: “The (d)evolution of a technological species: A history and critique of ecopsychology’s constructions of science and technology,” by Tal Davidson. Abstract:

In this paper, I aim to convey the history of ecopsychology’s changing conceptualizations of science and technology and their role in facilitating engagement with the ecology movement. To do so, I compare ecopsychology’s treatment of science and technology in two important publications: Gatherings, a non-peer-reviewed digital journal of the early 2000s that portrayed ecopsychology in humanistic, socially critical, and artistic terms; and Ecopsychology, a scholarly journal founded in 2009 that regarded ecopsychological questions as testable hypotheses, and distinguished itself from prior (“first generation”) ecopsychology on the basis of its embrace of technological progress and the scientific method. As a part of this shift, ecopsychologists of the “second generation” championed the notion that humans are a “Technological Species,” an ontological statement that naturalized the increasing sophistication of high technology as the result of inherent human drives, and established conceptual groundwork for studies that used consumer technology such as computers to mediate experiences of nature. In the final part of the paper, I critique the “Technological Species” proposition for obscuring the historical and material conditions that make the existence of consumer technology possible, such as the ecologically devastating mining of rare-earth metals on colonized land in Central and South America. I argue that, to be socially and ecologically accountable, ecopsychology should turn toward practices that help us make sense of consumer technology’s place in systems of colonialist and ecological violence, process our place within these systems as users of consumer technology, and build community less dependent on technology.

Summer issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología

The Summer issue of Revista de Historia de la Psicología is now online. Full titles, authors, and English abstracts follow below:

1. Psychology and Torture: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques in the Aftermath of the 9/11 Attacks

Antonio Álvarez-Cruz

In the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks in the USA, many suspects were arrested, kept in custody and interrogated by several US government agencies in order to obtain information about terrorist groups. Significant evidence indicates that some of the methods used, so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, included torture, and points to psychologists being involved in these practices. This article looks into this involvement as follows: firstly, the creation of the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams in detention centers such as Guantanamo; secondly, the variety of techniques employed to “enhance” interrogation, many of which had been designed, and even implemented by psychologists; thirdly, the successive efforts carried out by the American Psychological Association (APA) to respond to the public outcry provoked by their involvement in these practices; finally, motives for the widespread acceptability of torture, and motives that deny its effectiveness for obtaining relevant information.

2. Recuperando pioneras en la psicología española: El trabajo de atención a la infancia de Dolors Canals y Julia Coromines durante la guerra civil española. [Recovering female pioneers in Spanish psychology: Childcare work by Dolors Canals and Julia Coromines during the Spanish civil war]

Carmen García-Colmenares, María J. Monteagudo y Mauricio Chisvert

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Republican government launched childcare programs in emergency nurseries or shelters. Female authors such as Julia Coromines and Dolors Canals who assumed the management of these catalan war nurseries. For historiographical purposes, we have recovered their original publications on the subject, which have not yet been analyzed. Aspects regarding the organization of nurseries and early childhood tests used is studied. The distance from the conflict zone produced less emotional impact and in children under the age of two, the principal stressor was the situation of estrangement from the mother figure, which decreased as they could be cared for their mothers in war nurseries. We intend to position their studies within the international research that was developed between the First and Second World War regarding childcare during war, as well as to contribute to reconstructing the genealogy of female pioneers in Spanish psychology.

3. Didascalia (1970-1975) y su aportación a la investigación psicoeducativa española del tardofranquismo [Didascalia (1970-1975) and its contribution to Spanish psychoeducational research on late Francoism].

Francisco Pérez-Fernández, Francisco López-Muñoz y Miguel Ángel Pérez-Nieto

This work analyzes the editorial line of the education and psychopedagogy magazine Didascalia, published between 1970 and 1975, founded by Felipe Segovia Olmo. Possibly the first magazine in Spain with far-reaching training within the teaching profession. The publication, born at the same time as the educational reform of 1970, made a great effort to become a resource for the professionalization and modernization of teaching practice. Interested in the psychological and psychoeducational contributions of the moment, Didascalia becomes as a catalyst of the critical voices around the successive vicissitudes in the application of the legislative text. Methodologically, the article adheres to historical and bibliographic research techniques, following a documentary analysis approach. It concludes with a weighted assessment of the importance that Didascalia’s dissemination and critical task had at the time.

4. La Mente Infantil en la Colombia Teocrática (1881-1887) [The Child´s Mind in the Theocratic Colombia (1881-1887)] 

Gilberto Oviedo Palomá y Jacqueline Benavides Delgado

Colombia consolidated in 1886 a theocratic regime that gave power to the Catholic Church in the mental formation of childhood. The clergy spoke critically about the ideas of evolutionary psychology. He opposed the consideration of childhood as an evolutionary phenomenon, comparable with other biological beings, and defended its spiritual dimension. Religious morality became the ideal formative way to develop personal conscience and the thinking faculty. This article advanced a documentary review of primary state, ecclesiastical and journalistic sources, on the Catholic formation of the infantile soul in social institutions such as the family, the parish and education. The conclusions highlight the importance of the science-religion debate that surrounds the concept of psychological development and the social resistance that the theocratic country had to the secular and materialistic views of development psychology.

5. Walter Blumenfeld y la Sociedad Interamericana de Psicología [Walter Blumenfeld and the Interamerican Society of Psychology]

Ramón León

Walter Blumenfeld (1882-1967), a figure of great importance in the history of psychology in Peru in the 20th century, maintained an active epistolary work. His letters have been preserved in the personal file. In the present communication, the correspondence between him and the various directors of the Interamerican Society of Psychology (SIP), of which he was a member, is commented. In the conserved correspondence there is valuable information about the activities of Blumenfeld in Peru, psychology in that country, and the directors, projects and activities of the SIP.

‘A troublesome girl is pushed through’: Morality, biological determinism, resistance, resilience, and the Canadian child migration schemes, 1883–1939

A new open-access article in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers: “‘A troublesome girl is pushed through’: Morality, biological determinism, resistance, resilience, and the Canadian child migration schemes, 1883–1939,” by 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’.

Special Issue: Psychiatry as Social Medicine

A special issue of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry dedicated to “Psychiatry as Social Medicine” may interest AHP readers. Full details below.

“Introduction to Special Issue: Psychiatry as Social Medicine,” Anne Kveim Lie & Jeremy Greene. No Abstract.

“The Most Social of Maladies: Re-Thinking the History of Psychiatry From the Edges of Empire,” Claire Edington. Open Access. Abstract:

This paper argues that the colonial experience was never just “out there” but was a constitutive feature of the global development of psychiatry and, indeed, of social medicine itself. I show how regional knowledge about psychiatry, produced in scientific exchanges across colonial Southeast Asia over four decades and culminating with the 1937 Bandung Conference, became part of new international approaches to health care in rural areas, and later, in developing nations. In particular, I discuss how the embrace of the agricultural colony as a solution to the problem of asylum overcrowding occurred at the same moment that colonial public health experts and officials were moving away from expensive, technocratic fixes to address indigenous health needs. Yet in the search for alternatives to institutionalized care, including forms of family and community support, colonial psychiatrists were increasingly drawn into unpredictable and unwieldy networks of care and economy. Drawing on research from Vietnam, this paper decenters the asylum so as to recast the history of colonial and postcolonial psychiatry as integral to the history of social medicine and global health. The paper then returns to Bandung in 1955, the site of another famous meeting in the history of Third World solidarity, to consider how the embrace of the “Bandung spirit” may provide new avenues for decolonizing the history of colonial and postcolonial psychiatry.

“Transcultural Psychiatry: Cultural Difference, Universalism and Social Psychiatry in the Age of Decolonisation,” Ana Anti?. Open Access. Abstract:

n the spring of 1962, a series of alarming headlines greeted American newspaper readers. From “New York Living for Nuts Only” and “One in Five Here Mentally Fit” to “Scratch a New Yorker, and What Do You Find?” and “City Gets Mental Test, Results are Real Crazy,” the stories highlighted the shocking and, to some, incredible statistics that fewer than one in five (18.5%) Manhattanites had good mental health. Approximately a quarter of them had such bad mental health that they were effectively incapacitated, often unable to work or function socially. The headlines were gleaned from Mental Health in the Metropolis (1962), the first major output of the Midtown Manhattan Study, a large-scale, interdisciplinary project that surveyed the mental health of 1660 white Upper East Side residents between the ages of 20 and 59. One of the most significant social psychiatry projects to emerge following the Second World War, the Midtown Manhattan Study endeavored to “test the general hypothesis that biosocial and sociocultural factors leave imprints on mental health which are discernible when viewed from the panoramic perspective provided by a large population.” Despite initial media and academic interest, however, the Midtown Manhattan Study’s findings were soon forgotten, as American psychiatry turned its focus to individual—rather than population—psychopathology, and turned to the brain—rather than the environment—for explanations. Relying on archival sources, contemporary medical and social scientific literature, and oral history interviews, this article explains why the Midtown Manhattan Study failed to become more influential, concluding that its emphasis on the role of social isolation and poverty in mental illness should be taken more seriously today.

“Getting On in Gotham: The Midtown Manhattan Study and Putting the “Social” in Psychiatry,” Matthew Smith. Open Access. Abstract:

n the spring of 1962, a series of alarming headlines greeted American newspaper readers. From “New York Living for Nuts Only” and “One in Five Here Mentally Fit” to “Scratch a New Yorker, and What Do You Find?” and “City Gets Mental Test, Results are Real Crazy,” the stories highlighted the shocking and, to some, incredible statistics that fewer than one in five (18.5%) Manhattanites had good mental health. Approximately a quarter of them had such bad mental health that they were effectively incapacitated, often unable to work or function socially. The headlines were gleaned from Mental Health in the Metropolis (1962), the first major output of the Midtown Manhattan Study, a large-scale, interdisciplinary project that surveyed the mental health of 1660 white Upper East Side residents between the ages of 20 and 59. One of the most significant social psychiatry projects to emerge following the Second World War, the Midtown Manhattan Study endeavored to “test the general hypothesis that biosocial and sociocultural factors leave imprints on mental health which are discernible when viewed from the panoramic perspective provided by a large population.” Despite initial media and academic interest, however, the Midtown Manhattan Study’s findings were soon forgotten, as American psychiatry turned its focus to individual—rather than population—psychopathology, and turned to the brain—rather than the environment—for explanations. Relying on archival sources, contemporary medical and social scientific literature, and oral history interviews, this article explains why the Midtown Manhattan Study failed to become more influential, concluding that its emphasis on the role of social isolation and poverty in mental illness should be taken more seriously today.

“Assembling Adjustment: Parergasia, Paper Technologies, and the Revision of Recovery,” Michael N. Healey. Abstract:

Drawing from research on ‘paper technologies’ conducted by medical historians Volker Hess and Andrew Mendelsohn, among others, this article explores how Adolf Meyer (1866–1950) and his staff at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic used customized punch cards to develop an alternative conceptualization of schizophrenia: ‘parergasia.’ It begins by examining ‘dementia praecox,’ the conceptual precursor to both schizophrenia and parergasia, to explain how earlier paper technologies used to track patients transferred to asylums generated prognostic assumptions that precluded deinstitutionalization and community-based care. It then describes how Meyer’s staff modified these technologies to define parergasia in opposition to dementia praecox and other diagnoses that resulted in prolonged hospitalization, primarily by conducting follow-up studies on discharged patients that correlated outcomes with various social factors. After demonstrating how the standardized forms used in these studies limited the possible metrics of recovery, it concludes by suggesting how Meyer’s research influenced leaders of the community mental health movement, and prefigured later trends in psychiatric services.

“Psychosis Without Meaning: Creating Modern Clinical Psychiatry, 1950 to 1980,” Joel T. Braslow. Open Access. Abstract:

Over the last fifty years, American psychiatrists have embraced psychotropic drugs as their primary treatment intervention. This has especially been the case in their treatment of patients suffering from psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. This focus has led to an increasing disregard for patients’ subjective lived-experiences, life histories, and social contexts. This transformation of American psychiatry occurred abruptly beginning in the late 1960s and 1970s. My essay looks the ways these major transformations played themselves out in everyday clinical practices of state hospital psychiatrists from 1950 to 1980. Using clinical case records from California state hospitals, I chronicle the ways institutional and ideological forces shaped the clinical care of patients with psychotic disorders. I show there was an abrupt rupture in the late 1960s, where psychiatrists’ concerns about the subjective and social were replaced by a clinical vision focused on a narrow set of drug-responsive signs and symptoms. Major political, economic, and ideological shifts occurred in American life and social policy that provided the context for this increasingly pharmacocentric clinical psychiatry, a clinical perspective that has largely blinded psychiatrists to their patients’ social and psychological suffering.

“Society as Cause and Cure: The Norms of Transgender Social Medicine,” Ketil Slagstad. Open Access. Abstract:

This article analyzes how trans health was negotiated on the margins of psychiatry from the late 1970s and early 1980s. In this period, a new model of medical transition was established for trans people in Norway. Psychiatrists and other medical doctors as well as psychologists and social workers with a special interest and training in social medicine created a new diagnostic and therapeutic regime in which the social aspects of transitioning took center stage. The article situates this regime in a long Norwegian tradition of social medicine, including the important political role of social medicine in the creation of the postwar welfare state and its scope of addressing and changing the societal structures involved in disease. By using archival material, medical records and oral history interviews with former patients and health professionals, I demonstrate how social aspects not only underpinned diagnostic evaluations but were an integral component of the entire therapeutic regime. Sex reassignment became an integrative way of imagining and practicing psychiatry as social medicine. The article specifically unpacks the social element of these diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in trans medicine. Because the locus of intervention and treatment remained the individual, an approach with subversive potential ended up reproducing the norms that caused illness in the first place: “the social” became a conformist tool to help the patient integrate, adjust to and transform the pathology-producing forces of society.

“Before and After Prozac: Psychiatry as Medicine, and the Historiography of Depression,” Jonathan Sadowsky. Abstract:

This article examines the historiography of depression, with an eye to illuminating wider issues in the social study of psychiatry and depression. It argues that the advent of Prozac caused notable shifts in how scholars in the looked at depression. Far from solidifying the medical status of depression and psychiatry’s treatment of it, the spread of pill-oriented depression treatment strengthened social researchers’ emphasis on psychiatry’s social nature. The article further argues that a depiction of psychiatry as mainly a social phenomenon both unduly diminishes its status as medicine, and implicitly underestimates the social in the rest of medicine. This matters if people can benefit from psychiatric treatment. Put another way, if people taking psychiatric medications are indeed ill, and taking medicines that can help them, social analysis should acknowledge this, even as it rightly investigates psychiatry as embedded in social and cultural contexts, as all of medicine is. Doing so means treating psychiatry, whatever its limitations, as a kind of medicine, not as a special case.

“Concluding Remarks,” Arthur Kleinman. No Abstract.

HSS Editorial Office Practicum program: Call for Applications

AHP readers may be interested in a practicum opportunity in the Isis editorial office. Full details below.

The HSS Editorial Office invites graduate students and early career scholars to apply for our Editorial Practicum program.

Over the course of an eight-week term of study, attendees will shadow the co-editors of Isis and take part in the life of the journal. This online practicum will involve approximately four hours of scheduled time per week. The curriculum will feature discussion sessions and practical work on manuscript review, mentorship, and editorial craft. Depending on their background, participants may also have the option of preparing a book review for publication.

We anticipate that the Editorial Practicum will appeal to scholars interested in knowing more about the world of academic publishing generally, and in particular the history of science field as represented in Isis. This year’s program will be conducted via Zoom from October 11 to December 17, 2021. There will be one or two meetings per week, with a cohort of up to six participants.

To apply, please send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and contact information for two references to isisjournal@history.msstate.edu. The deadline for applications is September 24. We will inform applicants of our decision by September 30.

Adolphe Quetelet and the legacy of the “average man” in psychology

AHP readers will be interested in a new online first article in History of Psychology: “Adolphe Quetelet and the legacy of the “average man” in psychology,” Tafreshi, Donna. Abstract:

Adolphe Quetelet was a Belgian polymath who aimed to advance aggregate-level statistical tools as a unifying framework for all scientific disciplines. In doing so, Quetelet adopted the astronomer’s Law of Error (i.e., the normal distribution curve) and applied it to the study of moral and social phenomena in developing his notion of physique sociale (social physics). Quetelet further focused his attention on l’homme moyen (the average man) and, as such, argued that the average value of a distribution should be of primary concern in the study of human attributes. In the present article, I examine the influences that these ideas had on the methodological practices of late 19th- and early 20th- century psychologists. I illustrate how the dominant methodological approach implemented by psychologists in the early 20th century was deeply rooted in the demography of Quetelet’s social statistics. In particular, I argue that psychologists’ adoption of the Neo-Galtonian model of research was successful because it embraced Quetelet’s determinism, emphasis on average values, and grouping of distributions based on type.

 “A backdrop for psychotherapy”: Carl R. Rogers, psychological testing, and the psycho-educational clinic at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1924–1935)

A new online first article in History of Psychology will interest AHP readers: ““A backdrop for psychotherapy”: Carl R. Rogers, psychological testing, and the psycho-educational clinic at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1924–1935),” Fierro, Catriel. Abstract:

Carl Rogers’ work in clinical psychology and psychotherapy has been as influential as it is vast and varied. However, as a topic of historical inquiry Rogers’ approach to clinical psychology is beset by historiographical lacunae. Especially vague have been Rogers’ own reflections about his student years (1925–1928) at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Rogers claimed that he received the “backdrop” for the development of his approach to psychotherapy at the College. However, most historical literature has overlooked Rogers’ early years by focusing on his later work. This article aims to shed light on Rogers’ initial academic education by delving into his backdrop idea. I explore Rogers’ early years at Columbia by using his retroactive appraisals as a conduit for reconstructing his first formal institutional context—Columbia’s highly active but short-lived psycho-educational clinic. By drawing on several archival sources and unpublished materials, I will argue that the College’s intellectual and institutional climate fostered Rogers’ appreciation of experiential and cognitive learning while stimulating his intellectual independence as a clinical psychologist. The clinic put him in contact with real children, trained him in psychological tests, offered concrete professional role models, and pointed him toward his lifelong concern with human individuality. This contextual reading of Rogers’ education allows for a deeper, more informed understanding of both his academic origins and his immediate intellectual context amid American clinical psychology during the interwar years.

Georges Politzer’s “brilliant errors”: Concrete psychology in France (1930–1980)

A piece online first at History of Psychology will interest AHP readers: “Georges Politzer’s “brilliant errors”: Concrete psychology in France (1930–1980),” Bianco, Giuseppe. Abstract:

The present article assesses the hidden importance of Georges Politzer’s (1903–1942) work in the development of French philosophy and psychology. After sketching his biography and isolating the most important concepts developed in his book Critique of the Foundations of Psychology (1928), this article proceeds by dividing his reception into four distinct moments, the features of which derive from the interconnected mutations of the scientific field in its relation with the transformation of the political field. In the first moment, the publication of the Critique, Politzer’s most important work, played an essential role in introducing psychoanalysis into philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry, and in sketching the path of a possible encounter between psychoanalysis and Marxism. In the second moment, during the 1940s and the 1950s, following Politzer’s Marxist auto-critique, French communists widely rejected psychoanalysis as a dangerous ideology. In the third moment, during the 1960s in a context marked by structuralism, both the psychoanalysts and the Marxists addressed to Politzer’s humanism a new, theoretical, critique. Finally, at the end of the 1960s and even more after May 1968, Politzer’s works were republished and reevaluated, and new transformations taking place in the intellectual and political field during the 1970s contributed to a better understanding of Politzer’s essential role in French philosophy, psychology, and psychoanalysis.