Category Archives: General

Demons of the mind: The ‘psy’ sciences and film in the long 1960s

A new introductory open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Demons of the mind: The ‘psy’ sciences and film in the long 1960s,” by Tim Snelson, William R. Macauley. Abstract:

This introduction provides context for a collection of articles that came out of a research symposium held at the Science Museum’s Dana Research Centre in 2018 for the ‘Demons of Mind: the Interactions of the ‘Psy’ Sciences and Cinema in the Sixties’ project. Across a range of events and research outputs, Demons of the Mind sought to map the multifarious interventions and influences of the ‘psy’ sciences (psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis) on film culture in the long 1960s. The articles that follow discuss, in order: critical engagement with theories of child development in 1960s British science fiction; the ‘horrors’ of contemporary psychiatry and neuroscience portrayed in the Hollywood blockbuster The Exorcist (1973); British social realist filmmakers’ alliances with proponents of ‘anti-psychiatry’; experimental filmmaker Jane Arden’s coalescence of radical psychiatry and radical feminist techniques in her ‘psychodrama’ The Other Side of the Underneath (1973); and the deployment of film technologies by ‘psy’ professionals during the post-war period to capture and interpret mother-infant interaction.

JHBS Special Issue: Histories and Cultures of Mental Health in Modern East Asia

The summer issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is a special issue on Histories and Cultures of Mental Health in Modern East Asia. Guest edited by Emily Baum and Howard Chiang, the issue includes the following:

“Histories and cultures of mental health in Modern East Asia: New directions,” Emily Baum, Howard Chiang. No abstract.

“Castration fever: On trans, China, and psychoanalysis,” Howard Chiang. Abstract.

This essay considers the evolution of the author’s research over the last 15 years in which the treatment of castration as a historical problem holds promise for bridging disparate scholarly fields and paradigms. In particular, by tracing the shift in the author’s intellectual focus from the science of sex change to the history of transcultural psychoanalysis, some insights are offered in regard to the intertwined politics of transness, Chineseness, and the unconscious. Though psychoanalysis may appear as a subject far removed from the eunuchs of ancient China, this essay highlights some of the methodological stakes that have saturated the historical study of both topics. These reflections can serve as a touchstone for thinking beyond disciplinary norms and conventions, especially in Chinese studies and the history of science.

“Of visceral/somatic practices in healing,” Li Zhang. No abstract.

“Battling coronavirus and mental illness in South Korea,” Theodore Jun Yoo. No abstract.

“Limits of empathy: The dementia t?jisha movement in Japan,” Junko Kitanaka. Abstract:

How can we imagine someone’s experience of illness—even extreme cases, like, for example, psychosis—to the extent that we begin to empathize as if the experience were nearly our own? Based on 5 years of archival research and anthropological fieldwork, I investigate how different forms of understanding and empathy have emerged through the work of people living with dementia (dementia t?jishas), some of who have advocated for the cause in Japan. I show how those with dementia used to be regarded as incommensurable beings, who were sometimes romanticized as having a transcendental power, and how those who care for them have changed their perspectives as they began to see dementia t?jisha as possible versions of their future selves. I also describe the rise of the t?jisha movement and the ways in which it has raised questions about the limits of empathy and instead asserted rights as a basis of understanding. In doing so, dementia t?jisha may be questioning the very foundation of Japanese society, highly invested as it is in the virtue of empathy for maintaining social relations.

“Bonds of time and space: Divination and the psychiatric encounter,” Emily Baum. Abstract:

This essay examines the intersections between divination and psychiatry in the context of modern Chinese history. Throughout the 20th century, subsequent political regimes attempted to drive an ontological wedge between psychiatry, which was deemed scientific, and divination, which was deemed superstitious. While the dichotomy between science and superstition remains a powerful ideology today, it belies the use of divination as a psychotherapeutic tool. Occult practices such as fortune telling and shamanism complement the application of technical psychiatric skills by serving a crucial moral and interpersonal function, one that has important implications for the practice of mental healthcare both within and beyond Asia.

“Between drift and confinement: What can the study of “lunatics” in Hong Kong contribute to the historiography mental health in East Asia?” Harry Yi-Jui. Abstract:

In this essay, the author reflects on his past and current research in transnational history psychiatry and the history of lunatics in Hong Kong, attempting to develop an alternative narrative in the unique free port between the East and the West concerning the conventional colonial historiography of psychiatry. He emphasizes that, in Hong Kong, the historiography of psychiatry should broaden its focus and not limited to the role of mental asylums, for modern psychiatry was almost absent in Britain’s crown colony until the end of World War II, and custodial care for lunatics was only one temporary measure in a much broader network of patient repatriation. The grand project was designed not for the well-being of the mentally ill but the smooth operation of the international commercial port. In addition, the post-war institutionalization of psychiatry, including the expansion of hospitals and the creation of the psychiatric specialty in Hong Kong, did not improve the mental health of Hong Kong residents. The author argues that this is because the rapid development of modern psychiatry in the former British colony overlooked the social determinants of mental suffering. A historical understanding of psychiatry in Hong Kong is helpful to address such ignorance.

“Ritual futures: Spirit mediumship as chronotopic labor,” Emily Ng. Open Access. Abstract:

This essay reflects on the still-present difficulty in approaching contemporary rural mediumship as coeval with their urban psychotherapeutic counterparts. Drawing on ethnographic work in rural Henan province in central China, I describe how both rurality and spirit mediumship have been rendered anachronistic through national imaginaries, anti-superstition campaigns, and psychiatric discourses. The essay centers on the case of a spirit medium located in the psychiatric unit, and the social evolutionary and developmentalist temporalities condensed in her cultural psychiatric diagnosis. I then turn to the medium’s ritual work and cosmological account, which invert mediumship’s position in space and time. The essay approaches mediumship’s rituals as a form of chronotopic labor, which reworks the spatio-temporal coordinates they inherit from within. It closes by bringing together the conundrums of rural mediumship and those of urban psychotherapeutic and diasporic worlds, to consider psychic landscapes of dislocation, and other formulations of futures to come.

A code for care and control: The PIN as an operator of interoperability in the Nordic welfare state

AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences: “A code for care and control: The PIN as an operator of interoperability in the Nordic welfare state,” by Marja Alastalo, Ilpo Helén. Abstract:

Many states make use of personal identity numbers (PINs) to govern people living in their territory and jurisdiction, but only a few rely on an all-purpose PIN used throughout the public and private sectors. This article examines the all-purpose PIN in Finland as a political technology that brings people to the sphere of public welfare services and subjects them to governance by public authorities and expert institutions. Drawing on documentary materials and interviews, it unpacks the history and uses of the PIN as an elementary building block of the Nordic welfare state, and its emerging uses in the post-welfare data economy. The article suggests that, although the PIN is capable of individualizing, identifying, and addressing individuals, its most important and widely embraced feature is the extent to which it enables interoperability among public authorities, private businesses, and their data repositories. Interoperability, together with advances in computing and information technology, has made the PIN a facilitator of public administration, state knowledge production, and everyday life. More recently, in the post-welfare data economy, interoperability has rendered the PIN a national asset in all the Nordic countries, providing a great advantage to biomedical research, innovation business, and healthcare.

The New Yorker: The German Experiment that Placed Foster Children with Pedophiles

A harrowing piece on the “Kentler experiment” in The New Yorker may interest AHP readers: “The German Experiment that Placed Foster Children with Pedophiles.” The piece details psychologist and sexologist Helmut Kentler’s “experiment”, beginning in the 1960s, in which he placed foster children with pedophiles. This continued into the twenty-first century. The piece begins,

In 2017, a German man who goes by the name Marco came across an article in a Berlin newspaper with a photograph of a professor he recognized from childhood. The first thing he noticed was the man’s lips. They were thin, almost nonexistent, a trait that Marco had always found repellent. He was surprised to read that the professor, Helmut Kentler, had been one of the most influential sexologists in Germany. The article described a new research report that had investigated what was called the “Kentler experiment.” Beginning in the late sixties, Kentler had placed neglected children in foster homes run by pedophiles. The experiment was authorized and financially supported by the Berlin Senate. In a report submitted to the Senate, in 1988, Kentler had described it as a “complete success.”

The full article can be read online here.

Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning

AHP readers will be interested in a new book by Audrey Watters. Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning is described as follows:

How ed tech was born: Twentieth-century teaching machines—from Sidney Pressey’s mechanized test-giver to B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist bell-ringing box.

Contrary to popular belief, ed tech did not begin with videos on the internet. The idea of technology that would allow students to “go at their own pace” did not originate in Silicon Valley. In Teaching Machines, education writer Audrey Watters offers a lively history of predigital educational technology, from Sidney Pressey’s mechanized positive-reinforcement provider to B. F. Skinner’s behaviorist bell-ringing box. Watters shows that these machines and the pedagogy that accompanied them sprang from ideas—bite-sized content, individualized instruction—that had legs and were later picked up by textbook publishers and early advocates for computerized learning.

Watters pays particular attention to the role of the media—newspapers, magazines, television, and film—in shaping people’s perceptions of teaching machines as well as the psychological theories underpinning them. She considers these machines in the context of education reform, the political reverberations of Sputnik, and the rise of the testing and textbook industries. She chronicles Skinner’s attempts to bring his teaching machines to market, culminating in the famous behaviorist’s efforts to launch Didak 101, the “pre-verbal” machine that taught spelling. (Alternate names proposed by Skinner include “Autodidak,” “Instructomat,” and “Autostructor.”) Telling these somewhat cautionary tales, Watters challenges what she calls “the teleology of ed tech”—the idea that not only is computerized education inevitable, but technological progress is the sole driver of events.

The Force of an Idea: New Essays on Christian Wolff’s Psychology

A new volume on Christian Wolff’s psychology, edited by Saulo de Freitas Araujo, Thiago Constâncio Ribeiro Pereira, and Thomas Sturm, will be of interest to AHP readers. The Force of an Idea: New Essays on Christian Wolff’s Psychology is described as follows:

This book presents, for the first time in English, a comprehensive anthology of essays on Christian Wolff’s psychology written by leading international scholars. Christian Wolff is one of the towering figures in 18th-century Western thought. In the last decades, the publication of Wolff’s Gesammelte Werke by Jean École and collaborators has aroused new interest in his ideas, but the meaning, scope, and impact of his psychological program have remained open to close and comprehensive analysis and discussion. That is what this volume aims to do.

This is the first volume in English completely devoted to Wolff’s efforts to systematize empirical and rational psychology, against the background of his understanding of scientific method in metaphysics. Wolff thereby paved the way to the very idea of a scientific psychology. The book is divided into two parts. The first one covers the theoretical and historical meaning and scope of Wolff’s psychology, both in its internal structure and in its relation to other parts of his philosophical system, such as logic, cosmology, aesthetics, or practical philosophy. The second part deals with the reception and impact of Wolff’s psychology, starting with early reactions from his disciples and opponents, and moving on to Kant, Hegel, and Wundt.

The Force of an Idea: New Essays on Christian Wolff’s Psychology shows not only that Wolff’s psychological ideas have been misinterpreted, but also that they are historically more significant than traditional wisdom has it. The book, therefore, will be of interest to historians and philosophers of science, historians of philosophy and psychology, as well as to philosophers and psychologists interested in understanding the roots of scientific psychology in 18th and 19th century German philosophy.

Table of Contents
Introduction: Reevaluating Christian Wolff’s Psychology
Araujo, Saulo de Freitas (et al.)

Who Was Afraid of Wolff’s Psychology? The Historical Context
Goldenbaum, Ursula

The Origins and Development of Wolff’s Psychology in His German Writings
Pereira, Thiago Constâncio Ribeiro (et al.)

Empirical Psychology: Between Reason and Experience
Marcolungo, Ferdinando Luigi

Wolff and the Dogmas of Classical Rationalism
Dyck, Corey W.

Wolff’s Idea of
Mei, Manuela

Wolff on Monadology and “Materialisterey”
Wunderlich, Falk

Wolff and the Logic of the Human Mind
Favaretti Camposampiero, Matteo

Image Composition as an Aesthetic–Epistemological Problem in Wolff’s Empirical Psychology
Suzuki, Márcio (et al.)

In-Between Psychology and Moral Philosophy: Christian Wolff’s Principle of Natural Obligation
Hüning, Dieter

The Relation Between Psychology and the Other Parts of Metaphysics: Ontology, Cosmology, and Theology
Goubet, Jean-François

Development and Diffusion of Wolff’s Psychology Through His Disciples and Followers
Carboncini, Sonia

Wolffians and the Emancipation of Aesthetic Faculties
Heßbrüggen-Walter, Stefan

Wolff and the Beginnings of Experimental Psychology in the Eighteenth Century
Rydberg, Andreas

The Science of the Soul and the Unyielding Architectonic: Kant Versus Wolff on the Foundations of Psychology
McNulty, Michael Bennett

Hegel and Wolff’s Psychologies
Euler, Werner Ludwig

“The Most Excellent Psychological Systematist”: Wolff’s Psychology in the Eyes of Wilhelm Wundt
Araujo, Saulo de Freitas (et al.)

DSM: A History of Psychiatry’s Bible

A new book documenting the history of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association will be of interest to AHP readers. DSM: A History of Psychiatry’s Bible by Allan V. Horwitz is described as:

The first comprehensive history of “psychiatry’s bible”—the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Over the past seventy years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, has evolved from a virtually unknown and little-used pamphlet to an imposing and comprehensive compendium of mental disorder. Its nearly 300 conditions have become the touchstones for the diagnoses that patients receive, students are taught, researchers study, insurers reimburse, and drug companies promote. Although the manual is portrayed as an authoritative corpus of psychiatric knowledge, it is a product of intense political conflicts, dissension, and factionalism. The manual results from struggles among psychiatric researchers and clinicians, different mental health professions, and a variety of patient, familial, feminist, gay, and veterans’ interest groups. The DSM is fundamentally a social document that both reflects and shapes the professional, economic, and cultural forces associated with its use.

In DSM, Allan V. Horwitz examines how the manual, known colloquially as “psychiatry’s bible,” has been at the center of thinking about mental health in the United States since its original publication in 1952. The first book to examine its entire history, this volume draws on both archival sources and the literature on modern psychiatry to show how the history of the DSM is more a story of the growing social importance of psychiatric diagnoses than of increasing knowledge about the nature of mental disorder. Despite attempts to replace it, Horwitz argues that the DSM persists because its diagnostic entities are closely intertwined with too many interests that benefit from them.

This comprehensive treatment should appeal to not only specialists but also anyone who is interested in how diagnoses of mental illness have evolved over the past seven decades—from unwanted and often imposed labels to resources that lead to valued mental health treatments and social services.

Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair: Nigrescence and Eudaimonia

William E. Cross Jr.’s new book Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair: Nigrescence and Eudaimonia will interest AHP readers:

Throughout his esteemed career, William Cross has tried to reconcile how Black men he met in the barber shop “seemed so normal,” but the portrayal in college textbooks of Black people in general—and the Black working class in particular—is self-hating and pathological. In Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair, Cross revisits his ground-breaking model on Black identity awakening known as Nigrescence, connects W. E. B. DuBois’s concept of double consciousness to an analysis of how Black identity is performed in everyday life, and traces the origins of the deficit perspective on Black culture to scholarship dating back to the 1930s. He follows with a critique showing such deficit and Black self-hatred tropes were always based on extremely weak evidence.

Black Identity Viewed from a Barber’s Chair ends with a new understanding of the psychology of slavery that helps explain why and how, during the first twelve years of emancipation, countless former slaves exhibited amazing psychological, political, and cultural independence. Once free, their previously hidden psychology became public.

His book sets out to disrupt and agitate as Cross attempts to more accurately capture the humanity of Black people that has been overlooked in previous research.

Development: The History of a Psychological Concept

Christopher Goodey’s new book, Development: The History of a Psychological Concept, will interest AHP readers. As described by the publisher,

This book details the history of the idea of psychological development over the past two millennia. The developmental idea played a major part in the shift from religious ways of explaining human nature to secular, modern ones. In this shift, the ‘elect’ (chosen by God) became the ‘normal’ and grace was replaced by cognitive ability as the essentially human quality. A theory of psychological development was derived from theories of bodily development, leading scholars describe human beings as passing through necessary ‘stages of development’ over the lifespan. By exploring the historical and religious roots of modern psychological concepts and theories, this book demonstrates that history is a method for standing outside psychology and thereby evaluating its fundamental premises. It will spark new interest in the history, sociology and philosophy of the mind sciences, as well as in the rights of children and developmentally disabled people.

Unnerved: Anxiety, Social Change, and the Transformation of Modern Mental Health

Jason Schnittker’s new book Unnerved: Anxiety, Social Change, and the Transformation of Modern Mental Health may interest AHP readers. The book is described as follows:

Anxiety is not new. Yet now more than ever, anxiety seems to define our times. Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders in the United States, exceeding mood, impulse-control, and substance-use disorders, and they are especially common among younger cohorts. More and more Americans are taking antianxiety medications. According to polling data, anxiety is experienced more frequently than other negative emotions. Why have we become so anxious?

In Unnerved, Jason Schnittker investigates the social, cultural, medical, and scientific underpinnings of the modern state of mind. He explores how anxiety has been understood from the late nineteenth century to the present day and why it has assumed a more central position in how we think about mental health. Contrary to the claims that anxiety reflects large-scale traumas, abrupt social transitions, or technological revolutions, Schnittker argues that the ascent of anxiety has been driven by slow transformations in people, institutions, and social environments. Changes in family formation, religion, inequality, and social relationships have all primed people to be more anxious. At the same time, the scientific and medical understanding of anxiety has evolved, pushing it further to the fore. The rise in anxiety cannot be explained separately from changes in how patients, physicians, and scientists understand the disorder. Ultimately, Schnittker demonstrates that anxiety has carried the imprint of social change more acutely than have other emotions or disorders, including depression. When societies change, anxiety follows.