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.

Erich Fromm and Global Public Sociology

The new book Erich Fromm and Global Public Sociology by Neil McLaughlin may interest AHP readers. The book is described as follows:

Drawing from empirical work, this is an invaluable contribution to popular debates about current politics, the sociology of ideas and the prospect of a truly global public sociology.

Erich Fromm was one of the most influential and creative public intellectuals of the twentieth century. He was a mentor to David Riesman and an inspiration for the New Left.

As the rise of global right-wing populism and Trumpism creates new interest in the kind of psycho-social writing and popular sociology that Fromm pioneered in the 1930s, this timely book tells the story of the rise, fall and contemporary revival of Fromm’s theories.


Introduction: Erich Fromm’s Global Public Sociology
1 Sociology in a World at War: Escape from Freedom
2 How Optimal Marginality Created a Public Sociologist
3 The Cold War, Conformity, and the 1960s
4 How Fromm Became a Forgotten Public Sociologist
5 Fromm’s Political Activism in the 1960s
6 Studying Social Character and Theorizing Violence
Conclusion: The Revival of a Global Public Sociologist

Abraham Maslow, Utopian Realist

A new piece in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology will interest AHP readers: “Abraham Maslow, Utopian Realist,” by Nadine Weidman. Abstract:

The ideal human community or “Eupsychia” envisioned by Abraham Maslow was a place inhabited by a thousand “self-actualizing people” who shared a devotion to certain higher values. These values were, for Maslow, universally human and biologically rooted, and they included truth, beauty, justice, and the ability to become the best that one was capable of becoming. In addition to imagining it, Maslow searched for Eupsychia in reality and thought he had found it in three California locations: Non-Linear Systems, a technology company; Synanon, a drug rehab center; and Esalen, a hippie retreat. Despite its dependence on shared values, for Maslow Eupsychia was not a perfect place, either in his imagination or in reality, and he realized that its inhabitants would need ways to confront strife and deal with their differences. I suggest that his utopian realism contains an important lesson for our own highly divided 21st-century American society.

Shock therapies in Spain (1939–1952) after the Civil War: Santa Isabel National Mental Asylum in Leganés

A new piece in History of Psychiatry may interest AHP readers: “Shock therapies in Spain (1939–1952) after the Civil War: Santa Isabel National Mental Asylum in Leganés,” Ana Conseglieri, Olga Villasante. Abstract:

The first third of the twentieth century changed the therapeutical landscape with the emergence of new treatments for the mentally ill in asylums. However, the historiography of their use in Spanish psychiatric establishments has been scarcely studied. The popularization of barbiturate sleep therapies, insulin shock, cardiazol therapy, electroshock and leucotomy spread from the beginning of the century. However, the Spanish Civil War and Spain’s isolation during Franco’s autarky (1939–52) made their implementation difficult. Through historiographic research using medical records as documentary sources, this work analyses the socio-demographic conditions of the asylum population during the first decade of Franco’s dictatorship. The treatments used in Leganés Mental Asylum are described and are compared with those used in other Spanish psychiatric institutions.

An ‘ingenious system of practical contacts’: Historical origins and development of the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1922–36)

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in History of the Human Sciences: “An ‘ingenious system of practical contacts’: Historical origins and development of the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1922–36),” by Catriel Fierro. Abstract:

During the first two decades of the 20th century, the expansion of private foundations and philanthropic initiatives in the United States converged with a comprehensive, nationwide agenda of progressive education and post-war social reconstruction that situated childhood at its core. From 1924 to 1928, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial was the main foundation behind the aggressive, systematic funding of the child development movement in North America. A pioneering institution, the Institute of Child Welfare Research, established in 1924 at Columbia’s Teachers College, was the first Rockefeller-funded programme of its kind at an American university. The Institute was influential in helping set up a nationwide network of child welfare institutes at other universities. Twelve years later, it would also be the first of those institutes to close. Nonetheless, the Institute’s context, emergence, and development have been overlooked or misrepresented by previous scholarship, which calls for a new, critical historical analysis. By drawing on a number of archival sources and unpublished materials, this paper offers a critical reconstruction of the Institute’s internal, often unstable history, emphasizing its origins, members, and administrative changes. I argue that the demise of the Institute should be understood in the context of both the revision of philanthropic policies in the late 1920s and the Institute’s singular emphasis on teaching and training over research. The resulting narrative allows for a deeper, more informed understanding of both the Institute’s origins and its eventual folding.

‘Flash houses’: Public houses and geographies of moral contagion in 19th-century London

A new piece in History of the Human Sciences may interest AHP readers: “‘Flash houses’: Public houses and geographies of moral contagion in 19th-century London,” by Eleanor Bland. Abstract:

‘Flash houses’, a distinctive type of public house associated with criminal activity, are a shadowy and little-studied aspect of early 19th-century London. This article situates flash houses within a wide perspective, arguing that the discourses on flash houses were part of concerns about the threat of the urban environment to the moral character of its inhabitants. The article draws on an original synthesis of a range of sources that refer to flash houses, including contemporary literature, newspapers, court documents, and government papers. It demonstrates that flash houses were part of both popular intrigue about the perceived ‘criminal underworld’ and official concerns about the collusion between police officers and suspected offenders, since police officers allegedly frequented flash houses to gather criminal information. A detailed examination of this term reveals anxieties about the state of the metropolis, poverty, and criminality that were central to the early 19th-century consciousness. However, the discussion of flash houses in this context also demonstrates a powerful connection in contemporary minds between the physical spaces of the city and the risks that they posed to inhabitants’ morals. While associations between the physical environment and morality have been drawn throughout history, flash houses represent a paradigmatic moment in this dialogue. This is because different moral concerns coalesced around the discourse on flash houses: anxieties about the criminal underworld, the potential for moral degradation of young people who frequented these spaces, and the corruption of police officers through contact with known or suspected offenders.

The rhetorical use of B. F. Skinner in evolutionary psychology

A new open-access piece in Theory & Psychology will interest AHP readers: “The rhetorical use of B. F. Skinner in evolutionary psychology,” by Timothy P. Racine. Abstract:

This article examines Skinner’s often neglected ideas about evolution, which he returns to in his final academic paper. I attempt to square Skinner’s advocacy for evolutionary explanation, including his efforts to reconcile biological, individual, and cultural adaptation, with how he is framed and critiqued by a school of evolutionary psychologists who attribute to Skinner a blank slate, or so-called standard social science model, view of the mind. I argue that characterizing Skinner in this manner is inconsistent with his evolutionary writings and ignores Skinner’s explicit disavowals of such interpretations. I then discuss Skinner’s evolutionary views in light of contemporary evolutionary theories of human psychology. I also compare the reception to evolutionary psychology and Skinner within the field more generally and conclude by discussing the proposal that evolutionary psychology should be considered a new paradigm for psychology, a claim that seems to follow from evolutionary psychologists’ caricature of Skinner.

“Between drift and confinement: What can the study of “lunatics” in Hong Kong contribute to the historiography mental health in East Asia?” And More!

Three articles that are part of a forthcoming special at the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences are now available online. Details below.

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 Wu. 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.

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

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