Dana Simmons on “Hungry, Thinking with Animals: Psychology and Violence at the Turn of the Twentieth Century”

The 2020 volume of Osiris edited by W. Patrick McCray and Suman Seth and dedicated to “Food Matters” is now available. Among the contributions to this volume is one that will particularly appeal to AHP readers: “Hungry, Thinking with Animals: Psychology and Violence at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” by Dana Simmons. Abstract:

Edward L. Thorndike (1874–1949), at the turn of the twentieth century, set up animal hunger as a model system for understanding human motivation and learning. Hungry animals participated in over a hundred years’ worth of experiments designed to characterize human emotions and behavior. Hunger, along with electric shocks, became standard tools for producing psychological effects, such as motivation, excitement, fear, learning. Scientists deprived kittens, monkeys, chicks, turtles, children, and soldiers of food for four, eight, twenty-four, or forty-eight hours to observe the variable effects. I want to think through the meaning and context of this choice. What is the nature of hunger as an epistemic tool and as a model system? Why did hunger appeal to Thorndike and his colleagues at the turn of the twentieth century as a reasonable and productive relation with their animal subjects? What preexisting relations made hunger an obvious choice? What relations, in the end, did hunger experiments produce? I am interested in how hunger, as a model system, helped to establish a field of behavioral-physiological-neuroscientific knowledge. I am even more interested in what the traces of these model systems, and the animals within them, can tell us about the history of hunger. In the global nineteenth century, hunger was a tool for social violence.

New in CBMH: Diagnostic Politics of Autism, Eugenic Discourses in French Canada

AHP readers may be interested in a couple of articles now in press at Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine. Full details below.

Incertitude diagnostique et action politique : une association de parents face aux politiques de l’autisme, 1982–2017,” by Dannick Rivest and Julien Prud. Abstract:

The definition of diagnostic categories, such as autism, is not always consensual. It can be the cause of political struggles between various actors, including professionals, public administrations or patient associations. However, little is known about the situation of patient or parent associations in these “diagnostic politics.” We assert here that these associations are more sensitive to the politics of definition than is suggested by the current historiography. Through an analysis of discourses and strategies of the Quebec Autism Society from 1982 to 2017, we document the role that this association intends to play in the politics of autism and we show how the adoption by the state of diagnostic-based policies intensify definitional debates in civil society, including among parents.

La définition de catégories diagnostiques comme l’autisme ne fait pas toujours l’unanimité. Elle peut faire l’objet de luttes politiques entre divers acteurs, notamment les professionnel.le.s, les administrations publiques ou les associations de patients. On en sait toutefois peu sur la situation des associations de patients ou de parents dans ces « politiques du diagnostic ». Nous affirmons ici que ces associations sont plus sensibles aux politiques de la définition que l’historiographie actuelle ne le laisse paraître. En analysant le discours et les stratégies de la Société québécoise de l’autisme de 1982 à 2017, nous illustrons le rôle que cette association entendait jouer dans les politiques de l’autisme et nous démontrons que l’adoption par l’État de politiques axées sur le diagnostic a eu pour effet d’intensifier les débats définitionnels chez divers acteurs, y compris les parents.

“A Better Harvest of Healthy and Strong Citizens”: Eugenic Discourses in French Canada (1902–10)” by Vincent Auffrey. Abstract:

The Association des médecins de langue française d’Amérique du Nord (AMLFAN) was founded in Québec at the turn of the twentieth century. The physicians who convened at the Association between 1902 and 1910 shared a concern for the degeneration of the French-Canadian “race” under the effects of alcoholism, tuberculosis, and syphilis. For hygienists such as Arthur Rousseau and Charles-Narcisse Valin, this state of degeneration called for hygienic measures that would help regenerate and improve the French-Canadian race. While their suggestion that marriages be matched scientifically in order to prevent the transmission of hereditary and acquired defects from parent to offspring may be reminiscent of eugenics, French-Canadian physicians had no knowledge of Sir Francis Galton – eugenics’ “founding father” – and his work on the topic. This article compares French-Canadian eugenic discourses with Galtonian eugenics in order to shed light on the particularities of the French-Canadian case.

L’Association des médecins de langue française d’Amérique du Nord (AMLFAN) a été fondée au tournant du XXe siècle. Parmi les questions scientifiques et d’intérêt professionnel qui s’y posent, on discerne une préoccupation pour la dégénérescence de la « race » canadienne-française, qui serait causée par les trois fléaux que constituent l’alcoolisme, la syphilis et la tuberculose. Pour certains médecins, tels Arthur Rousseau et Charles-Narcisse Valin, cet état de détérioration exige la régénération, voire l’amélioration, de la race par des moyens hygiénistes – notamment l’assortiment judicieux des futurs mariés afin d’éviter la transmission de tares héréditaires aux générations à venir. Ces discours ne sont pas sans rappeler ceux de Sir Francis Galton, « fondateur » britannique de l’eugénisme. Toutefois, les propos de l’AMLFAN semblent parfaitement ignorer la théorie galtonienne. Cet article propose donc une analyse comparée de ces deux discours afin de mieux cerner les particularités du cas canadien-français.

Commentary: Why Study the History of Neuroscience?

A new commentary now in press at Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience may be of interest to AHP readers: “Commentary: Why Study the History of Neuroscience?” by Jeremy Trevelyan Burman and Brianne M. Collins. Burman and Collins write,

We want students to be more than tourists who visit Disney’s EPCOT resort, then leave thinking they’ve had an authentic cultural experience. We also don’t want them to lament the ignorance of those who did otherwise. Instead, we want them to be more humble; to prefer to go to the source, whenever possible, and learn to see things according to how and why those things made sense to the people who held other beliefs. In other words, we want them to learn how to think “from below” (Thompson, 1966; cf. Porter, 1985; Spivak, 1988). To hear those who can’t be heard (e.g., Jacyna and Casper, 2012).

Nadine Weidman in Psyche: Do humans really have a killer instinct or is that just manly fancy?

1952 illustration of Australopithecus africanus by Zdenek Burian. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty via Psyche.

A recent article in Psyche by Nadine Weidman may interest AHP readers: “Do humans really have a killer instinct or is that just manly fancy?” Weidman writes,

In the 1960s, alongside prevailing psychological and neuroscientific theories of human aggression, a new claim appeared, that aggression was a human instinct. Relying on the sciences of evolution and animal behaviour, this ‘instinct theory’ held that human aggression was a legacy of our deep ancestral past and an inbuilt tendency shared with many other animal species. One important novelty of this theory was its assertion that human aggression was not wholly destructive, but had a positive, even constructive side. Its proponents were talented writers who readily adopted literary devices.

Read the full piece here.

Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum

AHP readers may be interested in a new book, Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum by Mab Segrest. The book is described as follows,

“The situation approaches Nazi concentration camp standards . . . unbelievable this side of Dante’s Inferno.”
—April 1949 issue of Ebony magazine, describing the situation for black patients at the Milledgeville asylum

Today, 90 percent of psychiatric beds are located in jails and prisons across the United States, institutions that confine disproportionate numbers of African Americans. After more than a decade of research, the celebrated scholar and activist Mab Segrest locates the deep historical roots of this startling fact, turning her sights on a long-forgotten cauldron of racial ideology: the state mental asylum system in which psychiatry was born and whose influences extend into our troubled present.

In December 1841, the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum was founded. A hundred years later, it had become the largest insane asylum in the world with over ten thousand patients. Administrations of Lunacy tells the story of this iconic and infamous southern institution, a history that was all but erased from popular memory and within the psychiatric profession.

Through riveting accounts of historical characters, Segrest reveals how modern psychiatric practice was forged in the traumas of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Deftly connecting this history to the modern era, Segrest then shows how a single asylum helped set the stage for the eugenics theories of the twentieth century and the persistent racial ideologies of our own times. She also traces the connections to today’s dissident psychiatric practices that offer sanity and create justice.

A landmark of scholarship, Administrations of Lunacy restores a vital thread between past and present, revealing the tangled racial roots of psychiatry in America.

Call for Papers: Psychology from the Margins

AHP readers may find a call for papers from Psychology from the Margins of interest. Please note this call is for contributions from students. Details below.

Call for Papers: Psychology from the Margins

Exploring untold stories of social justice and traditionally underrepresented groups in psychology.

Submissions Deadline: November 1, 2020

Mission statement:

Psychology from the Margins is a peer reviewed, student-led, student-edited journal that provides an outlet for articles addressing the history of research, practice, and advocacy in psychology. The journal highlights stories that have been unrepresented or underrepresented by other historical narratives. It features scholarly work addressing the history of psychology especially in areas related to social justice, social issues, and social change.

We encourage contributions that draw attention to the impact of traditionally marginalized groups on the development of psychological research, practice, and advocacy. This includes narratives, biographies, commentary, and reviews related to traditionally marginalized groups and social justice issues throughout the history of psychology. Manuscripts should be between 20 to 40 pages in length (not including references). Additionally, issue three is welcoming articles that address the broad question “A look back, lessons learned, what can historical research tell us about contemporary problems.”

Example topics may include:

  • biographies of psychologists from underrepresented groups
  • historical contributions of marginalized psychologists
  • social justice and advocacy endeavors in the history of psychology
  • analyses of the impact of historical and contextual oppression on the development of psychology
  • explorations of the work of underrepresented groups in shaping psychology

Submission Guidelines: Interested authors are welcome to submit an abstract for feedback from the editorial board regarding the topic’s fit and focus for this issue. The editorial team welcomes questions and correspondence, which may be directed to Nuha Alshabani, M.A., (na32@zips.uakron.edu) and Samsara Soto M.A., (sis4@zips.uakron.edu). Completed manuscripts should be submitted through the Psychology from the Margins portal found at https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/psychologyfromthemargins/

Beyond the asylum and before the ‘care in the community’ model: exploring an overlooked early NHS mental health facility

Fair Mile Hospital (via Wikipedia)

AHP readers may be interested in a piece now in press at History of Psychiatry: “Beyond the asylum and before the ‘care in the community’ model: exploring an overlooked early NHS mental health facility” by Christina Malathouni. Abstract:

This article discusses the Admission and Treatment Unit at Fair Mile Hospital, in Cholsey, near Wallingford, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire). This was the first new hospital to be completed in England following the launch of the National Health Service. The building was designed by Powell and Moya, one of the most important post-war English architectural practices, and was completed in 1956, but demolished in 2003. The article relates the commission of the building to landmark policy changes and argues for its historic significance in the context of the NHS and of the evolution of mental health care models and policies. It also argues for the need for further study of those early NHS facilities in view of current developments in mental health provision.

First Issue! Awry, Journal of Critical Psychology

AHP readers may be interested in a new journal that has just released its first issue: Awry, Journal of Critical Psychology. Awry is an “open-access, peer reviewed academic journal that provides an interdisciplinary forum for critical scholars dedicated to interrogating the economic, social, political, and environmental dimensions of psychological research and practice.” Details below.

“Critical Psychology in an Age of Uncertainty,” Michael Arfken.

“Psychology Through Critical Auto-Ethnography: Instituting Education,” Ian Parker.

“Disrupting Androcentrism in Social Psychology Textbooks : A Call for Critical Reflexivity,” Meghan George, Susannah Mulvale, Tal Davidson, Jacy Young, Alexandra Rutherford.

“The Reproduction of Compliant Labour Power Through (Re)Constitution of the Child and Adult Subject: Critical Knowledge-Work,” David Fryer, Charles Marley, Rose Stambe.

“Understanding and Theorizing the Pursuit of Intersubjective Recognition,” Peiwei Li, Tyler Banks.

“The Influence of Critical Consciousness-Based Education on Identity Content and Perceptions of Sexism,” Nia Phillips.

“What Do Young Brazilian Students Think About Socialism? Class-Consciousness Past, Present and Future,” Antonio Euzébios Filho, Raquel Souza Lobo Guzzo.

Reviews: “Psychology Through Critical Auto-Ethnography: Academic Discipline, Professional Practice and Reflexive History by Ian Parker,” Emese Ilyes.

Position Opening: Assistant Director, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, located in Akron Ohio, is accepting applications for an Assistant Director. Working with the Director, the Assistant Director: helps to manage and supervise the daily operations of the Center; works with Center staff in collections development and management; leads and contributes to grant-writing, exhibit curation, teaching, and educational and community outreach efforts; serves as the resident “expert” on the history of psychology and related human sciences; and serves as a liaison to the larger history of the human sciences community.  

Required Qualifications: Master’s degree in the history of psychology or related field; experience with archival research or management; record of successful engagement with the history of psychology or related human sciences community; Ph.D. preferred.

Full details and the application are available at: https://www.uakron.edu/hr/job-openings/openings.dot

(Job ID: 12395)

Review of applications will begin September 3 and will continue until the position is filled.

About the Center

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology is an archives, museum, and research center that cares for, provides access to, and interprets the historical record of psychology and related human sciences. It is comprised of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, the National Museum of Psychology, and the Institute for Human Science and Culture. The vision of the Cummings Center is to promote and explore the understanding of what it means to be human.

The goals of the Center are:

  • To generate awareness and understanding of the history of psychology and related human sciences
  • To collect, preserve, and provide access to the historical record of the human sciences
  • To promote the use of primary source materials in the examination of the history of psychology and related human sciences, and the role of contextual factors in that history
  • To develop the Center as a resource where past and present intersect
  • To offer public lectures, workshops, conferences and interactive exhibits that promote teaching and learning
  • To promote the care of archival materials and special collections.

Visit the website at www.uakron.edu/chp  for further information about the Center.

PsychSessions: Invisible Pioneers: Adding Forgotten Psychologists to Psychology Course Content with Leslie Cramblet Alvarez and Nikki Jones

AHP readers may be interested in a recent episode of the PsychSession podcast, “Invisible Pioneers: Adding Forgotten Psychologists to Psychology Course Content with Leslie Cramblet Alvarez and Nikki Jones.”

In this SoTL PsychSessions episode, Anna Ropp interviews Leslie Cramblet Alvarez from the University of Denver and Nikki Jones from Colorado Mesa University about their content analysis of History of Psychology textbooks, including who is missing from these texts. Nikki and Leslie also give tips on how to incorporate these invisible pioneers into all psychology courses. A link to their journal article can be found at https://linktr.ee/sotlpsychsessions