Category Archives: General

Summer 2019 Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

The summer 2019 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Full details follow below.

“The professionalization of psychologists as court personnel: Consequences of the first institutional commitment law for the “feebleminded”,” by Ingrid G. Farreras. Abstract:

The first law providing for the permanent, involuntary institutionalization of “feeble?minded” individuals was passed in Illinois in 1915. This bill represented the first eugenic commitment law in the United States. Focusing on the consequences of this 1915 commitment law within the context of intelligence testing, eugenics, and the progressive movement, this paper will argue that the then newly devised Binet–Simon intelligence test facilitated the definition and classification of feeble?mindedness that validated feeble?mindedness theory, enabled the state to legitimize the eugenic diagnosis and institutionalization of feeble?minded individuals, and especially empowered psychologists to carve out a niche for themselves in the courtroom as “experts” when testifying as to the feeble?mindedness of individuals.

“1784: The Marquis de Puységur and the psychological turn in the west,” by Adam Crabtree. Abstract:

In 1970 Henri Ellenberger called attention to the previously unrecognized importance of Franz Anton Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” in the rise of psychodynamic psychology in the West. This article takes the next step of tracing the course of events that led to Puységur’s discovery of magnetic somnambulism and describing the tumultuous social and political climate into which it was introduced in 1784. Beginning from the secret and private publication of his first Mémoires, only a few copies of which remain today, the original core of his discovery is identified and the subsequent development of its implications are examined. Puysègur was initiated into his investigations by Mesmer’s system of physical healing, which bears some resemblance to the traditional healing approaches of the East. But Puységur took Mesmer’s ideas in an unexpected direction. In doing so, he accomplished a turn toward the psychological that remains one of the distinguishing features of Western culture.

“Psychology’s own mindfulness: Ellen Langer and the social politics of scientific interest in “active noticing”,” by Shayna Fox Lee. Abstract:

Ellen Langer’s mindfulness construct is presented as “indigenous” to disciplinary psychology. Langer’s early work laid the foundations for the research program she would come to call the psychology of possibility. Studying inattentive behavior (mindlessness) and intentionally reflective cognition (mindfulness) placed her work directly in line with the theoretical priorities of the 1970s and influenced the direction of research in several subdisciplines related to social cognition. Positioning Langer’s work at an intersection crossed by various discourse communities in psychology explains much of its influence within the discipline. However, its relevance is additionally related to a broader field of research and application also employing the terminology of mindfulness. While superficially synonymous, the majority of mindfulness research is distinguished from Langer’s due to differences in origination, definition, and goals. Comparative assessments are used as a lens through which to interrogate the social politics of mindfulness theories’ burgeoning success over the past half century.

“Documenting the multisensory and ephemeral: Navajo Chantway singers and the troubles of a “science” of ceremonialism,” by Adam Fulton Johnson. Abstract:

Even as American ethnology in the late?nineteenth century continued to accumulate data about indigenous groups for comparative study, the surgeon?turned?ethnographer Washington Matthews found standardized documentary methods constricting, unable to reflect the complexity of a community’s spiritual practices. Through studies of Navajo Indians in the 1880s and 90s, Matthews experimented with documentation techniques to capture the multisensorial and ephemeral elements of Navajo healing ceremonialism, such as the design of sandpaintings that were later destroyed as the rites concluded. Investigating his ethnographic strategies and his relationships with Navajo knowledge stewards, this article charts Matthews’ emerging conviction in social immersion and bonding with indigenous informants, tenets that predated the rise of cultural relativism in anthropology. The article argues that his experience among and tutelage from Navajo medicine “singers” reshaped Matthews’ documentary practices to emphasize the irreducibility of cultural facets to tabular columns, raising doubts about then?dominant theories of social evolution.

Reasonable men: Sexual harassment and norms of conduct in social psychology

Yours truly has a new piece (with Peter Hegarty) out in Feminism & Psychology on the history of sexual harassment in psychology. I hope you read it. It was an interesting journey to get it out into the world. (You can read more about that here.) Details below.

Update: The piece is now free to access via the publisher for 6 weeks.

Reasonable men: Sexual harassment and norms of conduct in social psychology,” by Jacy L. Young and Peter Hegarty. Abstract:

Sexual harassment has received unprecedented attention in recent years. Within academia, it has a particularly reflexive relationship with the human sciences in which sexual harassment can be both an object of research and a problematic behavior amongst those engaged in that research. This paper offers a partial history in which these two are brought together as a common object of social psychology’s culture of sexual harassment. Here we follow Haraway in using culture to capture the sense-making that psychologists do through and to the side of their formal knowledge production practices. Our history is multi-sited and draws together (1) the use of sexual harassment as an experimental technique, (2) feminist activism and research which made sexual harassment an object of knowledge in social psychology, and (3) oral history accounts of sexual harassment amongst social psychologists. By reading these contexts against each other, we provide a thick description of how sexual harassment initiates women and men into cultures of control in experimental social psychology and highlight the ethical-epistemological dilemma inherent in disciplinary practices.

Jane Addams’s Evolutionary Theorizing: Constructing “Democracy and Social Ethics”

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.

Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction
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
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

New Osiris: Presenting Futures Past

AHP readers may be interested in the most recent volume of Osiris edited by Amanda Rees and Iwan Rhys Morus and dedicated to “Presenting Futures Past.” Two contributions to the collection may be particularly relevant to readers:

Thought Transfer and Mind Control between Science and Fiction: Fedor Il’in’s The Valley of New Life (1928),” by Nikolai Krementsov. Abstract:

This essay makes a detailed analysis of the contents and contexts of a science fiction novel published in Moscow in 1928, and written by gynecologist Fedor Il’in (1873–1959) under the title The Valley of New Life. The analysis illuminates the process of the transformation of the specialized, and often quite arcane, scientific knowledge generated by biomedical research into an influential cultural resource that embodied acute societal anxieties (both hopes and fears) about the powers unleashed by the rapid development of the biomedical sciences. It explores the future scientific advances—bio- and psychotechnologies—portrayed in Il’in’s novel in light of contemporary research, and especially focuses on studies of telepathy. The essay depicts the “translation” of available scientific descriptions and explanations of telepathy into a highly metaphorical language of science fiction, and the resulting formation of a particular cultural resource embedded in such popular notions as “mental energy,” “thought transfer,” “radio-brain,” “nervous waves,” “psychic rays,” and “mind control.” It examines how and for what purposes this cultural resource was utilized by scientists, their patrons, and literati (journalists and writers) in Bolshevik Russia, Britain, and the United States.

Sleeping Science-Fictionally: Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fictions and Contemporary Sleep Research” by Martin Willis. Abstract:

In this article, I examine historical representations of sleep found in both medical and fictional narratives of the second half of the nineteenth century. I draw primarily on medical cases constructed as narratives for specialist medical periodicals, on the one hand, and on utopian fictions (or utopian science fictions, as they might also be called), on the other. I place these narratives in dialogue with my own ethnographic writing of experiences within a contemporary sleep laboratory. The aim of this unusual conflation of past and present, and of employing different methodological approaches to the study of a specific subject, is to understand sleep better, in the first instance, but also ultimately to examine how an interrogation of science fiction might be repurposed as an interrogation of the methodology of science fiction. Science fiction is a genre that draws upon the past to imagine a future. My article considers how reimagining such temporal disjunctions as critical practice might allow for new insights, both for future methodologies bridging the sciences and the humanities, and for specific objects of study, such as pathologies of sleep, or any other that has social, cultural, and scientific purchase.

How We Became Our Data: A Genealogy of the Informational Person

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.

Contents

Preface

Introduction: Informational Persons and Our Information Politics

Part I: Histories of Information

  1. Inputs
    “Human Bookkeeping”: The Informatics of Documentary Identity, 1913–1937
  2. Processes
    Algorithmic Personality: The Informatics of Psychological Traits, 1917–1937
  3. Outputs
    Segregating Data: The Informatics of Racialized Credit, 1923–1937

Part II: Powers of Formatting

  1. Diagnostics
    Toward a Political Theory for Informational Persons
  2. Redesign
    Data’s Turbulent Pasts and Future Paths