Scientist. E. O. Wilson: A Life in Nature

AHP readers will be interested in a new biography of E.O. Wilson by Richard Rhodes: Scientist. E. O. Wilson: A Life in Nature. The book is described by the publisher as follows:

Few biologists in the long history of that science have been as productive, as ground-breaking and as controversial as the Alabama-born Edward Osborne Wilson. At 91 years of age he may be the most eminent American scientist in any field.
Fascinated from an early age by the natural world in general and ants in particular, his field work on them and on all social insects has vastly expanded our knowledge of their many species and fascinating ways of being. This work led to his 1975 book Sociobiology, which created an intellectual firestorm from his contention that all animal behavior, including that of humans, is governed by the laws of evolution and genetics. Subsequently Wilson has become a leading voice on the crucial importance to all life of biodiversity and has worked tirelessly to synthesize the fields of science and the humanities in a fruitful way.

Richard Rhodes is himself a towering figure in the field of science writing and he has had complete and unfettered access to Wilson, his associates, and his papers in writing this book. The result is one of the most accomplished and anticipated and urgently needed scientific biographies in years.

Standards of Care: Uncertainty and Risk in Harry Benjamin’s Transsexual Classifications

A new piece in Transgender Studies Quarterly will interest AHP readers: “Standards of Care: Uncertainty and Risk in Harry Benjamin’s Transsexual Classifications,” Beans Velocci. Abstract:

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Harry Benjamin and his colleague Elmer Belt corresponded at length about which transsexuals they would and would not approve for genital surgery. Benjamin defined transsexuality primarily through a desire for medical transition, but merely being a transsexual in this definition did not automatically result in surgical eligibility. Benjamin and Belt remained preoccupied with the possibility that transsexuals would regret their surgeries and seek legal or personal revenge, and thus their assessments of who should have surgery focused more on the possibility of a bad outcome than adherence to gender norms or classification as transsexual. The informal clinical practices they worked out to protect themselves in these early years of American trans medicine would ultimately go on to structure more formalized Standards of Care. Benjamin and Belt’s fears, and their resulting decision-making processes, thus played a crucial role in the production of the category “transsexual.” Throughout their correspondence and clinical practice, the transsexual emerged as a threat to medical providers, and a subject incapable of making their own bodily decisions, needing to be protected from themselves. While assessments of gender identity and gendered behavior factored into these decisions, their decisions about who might regret transition treated gender as primarily practical and functional, and made an unshakable internal gender identity a necessary but insufficient criterion for granting a patient access to surgery.

‘A woman and now a man’: The legitimation of sex-assignment surgery in the United States (1849–1886)

AHP readers will be interested in a new open-access piece in Social Studies of Science: “‘A woman and now a man’: The legitimation of sex-assignment surgery in the United States (1849–1886),” Maayan Sudai. Abstract:

Throughout much of recorded history, societies that assigned rights and duties based on sex were confounded by people with unclear sex. For the sake of maintaining social and legal order in those contexts, legal systems assigned these people to what they figured was the ‘most dominant’ sex. Then, in mid-19th century United States, a new classification mechanism emerged: sex-assignment surgery, which was imagined by some surgeons to ‘fix’ one’s physical and legal sex status permanently. Other surgeons, however, fiercely opposed the new practice. This article traces the controversy around sex-assignment surgery through three high-profile cases published in US medical journals from 1849 to 1886. Its central argument is that the more general effort to transform surgery into a scientific field helped legitimate the practice of sex-assignment surgery. Although such surgery was subject to intense moral criticism because it was thought to breach the laws of men and nature, over time, these concerns were abandoned or transformed into technical or professional disagreements. In a secondary argument, which helps explain that transformation, this article shows that surgeons gradually became comfortable occupying the epistemic role of sex-classifiers and even sex-makers. That is, whereas sex classification was traditionally a legal task, the new ability to surgically construct one’s genitals engendered the notion that sex could be determined and fixed in the clinic in a legally binding manner. Accordingly, I suggest that surgery became an epistemic act of fact-making. This evolution of the consensus around sex-assignment surgery also provides an early origin story for the idea of sex as plastic and malleable by surgeons, thus offering another aspect to the history of plastic sex.

Psychologising meritocracy: A historical account of its many guises

A new open-access piece in Theory & Psychology will interest AHP readers: “Psychologising meritocracy: A historical account of its many guises,” Francesca Trevisan, Patrice Rusconi, Paul Hanna, Peter Hegarty. Abstract:

Measured by psychologists, conceived in critical terms, popularised as satire, and exploited by politicians, meritocracy is a dilemmatic concept that has changed its meanings throughout history. Social psychologists have conceptualised and operationalised meritocracy both as an ideology that justifies inequality and as a justice principle based on equity. These two conceptualisations express opposing ideas about the merit of meritocracy and are both freighted ideologically. We document how this dilemma of meritocracy’s merit developed from meritocracy’s inception as a critical concept among UK sociologists in the 1950s to its operationalisation by U.S. and Canadian social psychologists at the end of the 20th century. We highlight the ways in which meritocracy was originally utilised, in part, to critique the measurement of merit via IQ tests, but ironically became a construct that, through its psychologisation, also required measurement. Through the operationalisation of meritocracy, social psychologists obscured the possibility of critiquing meritocracy and missed the opportunity to offer alternatives to a system that has been legitimised by their own work. A social psychology of meritocracy should take into consideration the ideological debate around its meaning and value and the implications of its measurement and study.

CFP: History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section CPA Convention, June 17-19, 2022, Calgary

Call for Proposals – History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section CPA Convention, 2022
June 17-19, Hyatt Regency, Calgary, Alberta

The History and Philosophy of Psychology (HPP) Section is seeking proposals for symposia, individual oral paper presentations, as well as posters for the Canadian Psychological Association’s 83rd Annual Convention (Friday, June 17th to Sunday, June 19th, 2022) in Calgary, Alberta.

After two years of online meetings, we hope that the 2022 Convention will be an opportunity to reinvigorate the section, renew old friendships, and to start many new conversations. Importantly, we want to expand the scope of the section beyond just strictly historical and philosophical research in psychology to include critical psychological scholarship and qualitative research. To some extent the section has always been a home for critical and qualitative inquiry. We now want to recognize this expanded scope formally, and we will be discussing a name change of the section at the business meeting in Calgary. Alternative approaches to psychology such as participatory approaches, discursive, and cultural psychology are also very welcome.

An important change relevant to section members and anyone interested in joining us is that CPA has introduced a new Section Associate membership, which is significantly less expensive than full CPA membership.

This year, there are several different types and lengths for individual spoken presentations (for our section we encourage either 25-minute conversation sessions or 25-minute review sessions) and group presentations (panel discussions and symposia). Details about these different formats can be found here:

The submission deadline is December 3.
The Call for Submissions is now open and accessible via:

If you have questions, please contact section chair-elect Kieran O’Doherty ( or section chair Jim Cresswell (

We hope to see many of you in Calgary!

With best wishes,
Kieran O’Doherty and Jim Cresswell

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

A new special issue of History of the Human Sciences on “Demons of the mind: The ‘psy’ sciences and film in the long 1960s” will interest AHP readers. Full details below.

Introduction: “Demons of the mind: The ‘psy’ sciences and film in the long 1960s,” Tim Snelson, William R. Macauley. Open Access. 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.

“‘We have come to be destroyed’: The ‘extraordinary’ child in science fiction cinema in early Cold War Britain,” Laura Tisdall. Open Access. Abstract:

Depictions of children in British science fiction and horror films in the early 1960s introduced a new but dominant trope: the ‘extraordinary’ child. Extraordinary children, I suggest, are disturbing because they violate expected developmental norms, drawing on discourses from both the ‘psy’ sciences and early neuroscience. This post-war trope has been considered by film and literature scholars in the past five years, but this existing work tends to present the extraordinary child as an American phenomenon, and links these depictions to adults’ psychoanalytical anxieties about parenthood and the family. This article, considering Village of the Damned (1960), Children of the Damned (1963), The Damned (1963), and Lord of the Flies (1963), will contend that the extraordinary child was British before it was American, and tapped as much into nuclear anxieties generated by the early Cold War as fears about the ‘permissive society’, especially given that many of these films preceded the peak of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and were based on British science fiction of the 1950s. The ‘psy science’ that was dominant in these films was developmental psychology, not psychoanalysis. Moreover, adolescents as well as adults were key audiences for these films. Drawing on self-narrative essays written by English adolescents aged 14 to 16 between 1962 and 1966, I will demonstrate that this age group employed their own fears of nuclear war and their knowledge of psychological language to challenge adult authority, presenting a counter-narrative to adult conceptions of the abnormal and irresponsible ‘rising generation’.

“‘Somewhere between science and superstition’: Religious outrage, horrific science, and The Exorcist (1973),” Amy C. Chambers. Open Access. Abstract:

Science and religion pervade the 1973 horror The Exorcist (1973), and the film exists, as the movie’s tagline suggests, ‘somewhere between science and superstition’. Archival materials show the depth of research conducted by writer/director William Friedkin in his commitment to presenting and exploring emerging scientific procedures and accurate Catholic ritual. Where clinical and barbaric science fails, faith and ritual save the possessed child Reagan MacNeil (Linda Blair) from her demons. The Exorcist created media frenzy in 1973, with increased reports in the popular press of demon possessions, audience members convulsing and vomiting at screenings, and apparent religious and specifically Catholic moral outrage. However, the official Catholic response to The Exorcist was not as reactionary as the press claimed. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Film and Broadcasting (USCCB-OFB) officially and publicly condemned the film as being unsuitable for a wide audience, but reviews produced for the office by priests and lay Catholics and correspondence between the Vatican and the USCCB-OFB show that the church at least notionally interpreted it as a positive response to the power of faith. Warner Bros. Studios, however, were keen to promote stories of religious outrage to boost sales and news coverage – a marketing strategy that actively contradicted Friedkin’s respectful and collaborative approach to working with both religious communities and medical professionals. Reports of Catholic outrage were a means of promoting The Exorcist rather than an accurate reflection of the Catholic Church’s nuanced response to the film and its scientific and religious content.

“From In Two Minds to MIND: The circulation of ‘anti-psychiatry’ in British film and television during the long 1960s,” Tim Snelson. Open Access. Abstract:

This article explores the circulation of ‘anti-psychiatry’ in British film and television during the long 1960s, focusing on the controversial BBC television play In Two Minds (1967) and its cinema remake Family Life (1971). These films were inspired by R. D. Laing’s ideas on the aetiology of schizophrenia, and were understood as uniting the personal and political motivations of progressive film-makers (Ken Loach, Tony Garnett, David Mercer) and progressive psychiatrists (Laing, David Cooper, Aaron Esterson). Drawing upon practitioner interviews with producer Garnett and director Loach, and extensive archival research on the production and reception of these films, this article contests previous scholarship on the popular circulation of anti-psychiatry and the movement’s perceived polarisation from mainstream British psychiatry. While the reception of In Two Minds and Family Life did intensify an adversarial relationship between ‘rebel’ anti-psychiatrists and hard-line behaviourists such as William Sargant, the wider psychiatric field largely welcomed the films’ contributions to mental health awareness and used the publicity to counter the idea of a ‘battle’ within the profession. This included leading UK mental health organisation the National Association for Mental Health looking to Loach and Laing as models for engaging contemporary audiences as it rebranded to MIND in 1972. This article contributes to historical understandings of the complex interactions between the fields of media and mental health, as well as recent scholarship challenging the idea of a clear split between anti-psychiatry and British medical orthodoxy.

“Psychedelic psychodrama: Raising and expanding consciousness in Jane Arden’s The Other Side of the Underneath (1973),” Sophia Satchell-Baeza. Abstract:

Jane Arden’s debut feature film The Other Side of the Underneath (1973) is an adaptation of the radical feminist play A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches (1971). In both the play and the later film, the all-female cast re-enact personal and archetypal situations using autobiographical material, which was collectively gathered from group therapy sessions led by the director. Psychedelic drugs were also consumed during the group therapy sessions. In this article, I will situate Arden’s distinct approach to performance in the film within the framework of psychodrama, focusing specifically on the role that psychedelic drugs play in unleashing performers’ repressed feelings of trauma, rage, and desire; these emotions are harnessed into a dynamic mode of performance that amplifies the cathartic possibilities of women’s speech. The film’s heady brew of radical feminist politics, group therapy, and countercultural self-actualisation is both challenging and contentious. I argue that Arden’s pursuit of consciousness liberation through psychodrama and psychedelics—in other words, through ‘raising’ and ‘expanding’ consciousness—is best understood as a concerted attempt to align countercultural and radical feminist tactics for unravelling repressive forms of social conditioning.

“Mothering in the frame: Cinematic microanalysis and the pathogenic mother, 1945–67,” Katie Joice. Open Access. Abstract:

This article examines the use of cinematic microanalysis to capture, decompose, and interpret mother–infant interaction in the decades following the Second World War. Focusing on the films and writings of Margaret Mead, Ray Birdwhistell, René Spitz, and Sylvia Brody, it examines the intellectual culture, and visual methodologies, that transformed ‘pathogenic’ mothering into an observable process. In turn, it argues that the significance assigned to the ‘small behaviours’ of mothers provided an epistemological foundation for the nascent discipline of infant psychiatry. This research draws attention to two new areas of enquiry within the history of emotions and the history of psychiatry in the post-war period: preoccupation with emotional absence and affectlessness, and their personal and cultural meanings; and the empirical search for the origin point, and early chronology, of mental illness.

Divided Attention, Divided Self: Race and Dual-mind Theories in the History of Experimental Psychology

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in Science, Technology, & Human Values: “Divided Attention, Divided Self: Race and Dual-mind Theories in the History of Experimental Psychology,” by C. J. Valasek. Abstract:

The duality of attention is explored by turning our focus to the political and cultural conceptions of automatic attention and deliberate attention, with the former being associated with animality and “uncivilized” behavior and the latter with intelligence and self-mastery. In this article, I trace this ongoing dualism of the mind from early race psychology in the late nineteenth century to twentieth century psychological models including those found in psychoanalysis, behaviorism, neo-behaviorism, and behavioral economics. These earlier studies explicitly or implicitly maintained a deficiency model of controlled attention and other mental processes that were thought to differ between racial groups. Such early models of attention included assumptions that Black and Indigenous peoples were less in control of their attention compared to whites. This racialized model of attention, as seen in the law of economy in the nineteenth century, with similar manifestations in psychoanalysis and neo-behaviorism in the twentieth century, can now be seen in present-day dual-process models as used in current psychological research and behavioral policy. These historical connections show that attention is not a value-neutral term and that attention studies do not stand outside of race and structural racism.

The Routledge International Handbook of Mad Studies

AHP readers may be interested in the soon-to-be-released The Routledge International Handbook of Mad Studies edited by Peter Beresford and Jasna Russo. The book is described as follows:

By drawing broadly on international thinking and experience, this book offers a critical exploration of Mad Studies and advances its theory and practice.

Comprised of 34 chapters written by international leading experts, activists and academics, this handbook introduces and advances Mad Studies, as well as exploring resistance and criticism, and clarifying its history, ideas, what it is, and what it can offer. It presents examples of mad studies in action, covering initiatives that have been taken, their achievements and what can be learned from them. In addition to sharing research findings and evidence, the book offers examples and insights for advancing understandings of experiences of madness and distress from the perspectives of those who have (had) those experiences, and also explores ways of supporting people oppressed by conventional understandings and systems.

This book will be of interest to all scholars and students of Mad Studies, disability studies, sociology, socio- legal studies, mental health and medicine more generally.

Table of Contents

Peter Beresford

Part 1: Mad Studies and political organising of people with psychiatric experience

The international foundations of Mad Studies: Knowledge generated in collective action
Jasna Russo

Reflections on power, knowledge and change
Mary O’Hagan

Shifting identities as reflective personal responses to political changes
Bhargavi V Davar

A crazy, warrior and “respondona” Peruvian: All personal transformation is social and political
Brenda Del Rocio Valdivia Quiroz

Reflections on survivor knowledge and Mad Studies
Irit Shimrat

Speaking for ourselves: An early UK survivor activist’s account
Peter Campbell

Fostering community responsibility: Perspectives from the Pan African Network of people with psychosocial disabilities
Daniel Mwesigwa Iga

Using survivor knowledge to influence public policy in the United States
Darby Penney

The social movement of people with psychosocial disabilities in Japan: Strategies for taking the struggle to academia
Naoyuki Kirihara

Re-writing the master narrative: A prerequisite for mad liberation
Wilda L. White

Part 2: Situating Mad Studies

A genealogy of the concept of “Mad Studies”
Richard A. Ingram

How is Mad Studies different from anti-psychiatry and critical psychiatry?
Geoffrey Reaume

Mad Studies and disability studies
Hannah Morgan

Weaponizing absent knowledges: Countering the violence of mental health law
Fleur Beaupert, Liz Brosnan

Part 3: Mad Studies and knowledge equality

The subjects of oblivion: Subalterity, sanism, and racial erasure
Ameil Joseph

Institutional ceremonies? The (im)possibilities of transformative co-production in mental health
Sarah Carr

“Are you experienced?” The use of experiential knowledge in mental health and its contribution to Mad Studies
Danny Taggart

De-pathologising motherhood
Angela Sweeney, Billie Lever Taylor

The professional regulation of madness in nursing and social work
Jennifer Poole, Chris Chapman, Sonia Meerai, Joanne Azevedo, Abir Gebara, Nargis Hussein, Rebecca Ballen

The (global) rise of anti-stigma campaigns
Jana-Maria Fey, China Mills

Part 4: Doing Mad Studies

Why we must talk about de-medicalization
María Isabel Cantón

Imagining non-carceral futures with(in) Mad Studies
Pan Karanikolas

Madness in the time of war: Post-war reflections on practice and research beyond the borders of psychiatry and development
Reima Ana Maglajlic

The architecture of my madness
Caroline Yeo

Re-conceptualising suicidality: Towards collective intersubjective responses
David Webb

De-coupling and re-coupling violence and madness
Andrea Daley, Trish Van Katwyk

Upcycling recovery: Potential alliances of recovery, inequality and Mad Studies Lynn Tang

Bodies, boundaries, b/orders: A recent critical history of differentialism and structural adjustment
Essya M. Nabbali

Spirituality, psychiatry, and Mad Studies
Lauren J. Tenney

Taking Mad Studies back out into the community
David Reville

Interrogating Mad Studies in the academy: Bridging the community/academy divide
Victoria Armstrong and Brenda LeFrançois

Madness, decolonisation and mental health activism in Africa
Femi Eromosele

Navigating voices, politics, positions amidst peers: Resonances and dissonances in India
Prateeksha Sharma

‘Madness’ as a term of division, or rejection
Colin King

Afterword: The ethics of making knowledge together
Jasna Russo

Postscript: Mad Studies in a maddening world
Peter Beresford

Ursula Le Guin’s Speculative Anthropology: Thick Description, Historicity and Science Fiction

A new open-access article in Theory, Culture & Society may interest AHP readers: “Ursula Le Guin’s Speculative Anthropology: Thick Description, Historicity and Science Fiction” Daniel Davison-Vecchione and Sean Seeger. Abstract:

This article argues that Ursula Le Guin’s science fiction is a form of ‘speculative anthropology’ that reconciles thick description and historicity. Like Clifford Geertz’s ethnographic writings, Le Guin’s science fiction utilises thick description to place the reader within unfamiliar social worlds rendered with extraordinary phenomenological fluency. At the same time, by incorporating social antagonisms, cultural contestation, and historical contingency, Le Guin never allows thick description to neutralise historicity. Rather, by combining the two and exploring their interplay, Le Guin establishes a critical relation between her imagined worlds and the reader’s own historical moment. This enables her to both counter Fredric Jameson’s influential criticism of her work – the charge of ‘world reduction’ – and point to ungrasped utopian possibilities within the present. Le Guin’s speculative anthropology thus combines the strengths while overcoming some of the limitations of both Geertz’s thick-descriptive method and Jameson’s theory of the science fiction genre.

A pioneer of psy: The first Ugandan psychiatric nurse and her (different) tale of psychiatry in Uganda

A new piece in Transcultural Psychiatry will be of interest to AHP readers: “A pioneer of psy: The first Ugandan psychiatric nurse and her (different) tale of psychiatry in Uganda,” Julia Vorhölter. Abstract:

In Africa, the emergence of a “modern” mental health regime centered on psychiatry is often portrayed as a unidirectional intervention by “the West.” Analyses ranging from medical histories of colonial psychiatry to more recent studies of Global Mental Health focus mostly on the role of external actors and the ways their actions impact(ed) on local populations. Uncritical studies simply reduce the complexity of African therapeutic landscapes to a “treatment gap” and see the introduction of “science-based” mental health approaches as necessary “civilizing” missions. Critical studies emphasize the harms of psychiatric interventions and celebrate local healing practices instead. Both approaches are problematic: they ignore the many interconnections between highly dynamic treatment regimes that cannot be neatly designated as African or western, portray local populations as largely passive, and neglect the multiple ways in which psychiatry has been embraced, adapted, and disrupted by Africans themselves. This article challenges simplistic depictions of “western” psychiatry in Africa by providing a portrait of Rwashana Selina, the first Ugandan psychiatric nurse who—after being sent to the UK in the 1950s for training—became a central figure in Ugandan psychiatry. Based on interview material, I recount her life story and discuss her formative role in the development of psychiatric care in the colonial and postcolonial era. Rwashana’s tale of Ugandan psychiatry emphasizes co-operation, mutual acknowledgments and pluralistic leadership and thus breaks with typical images of and dichotomies between white doctors and supposedly inferior African medical staff.