Tag Archives: colonialism

Sebastián Gil-Riaño on “Relocating Anti-Racist Science”

A forthcoming article in The British Journal for the History of Science, available now online,  on mid-twentieth century anti-racist science may be of interest to AHP readers.

Relocating anti-racist science: the 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race and economic development in the global South,” by Sebastián Gil-Riaño. Abstract:

This essay revisits the drafting of the first UNESCO Statement on Race (1950) in order to reorient historical understandings of mid-twentieth-century anti-racism and science. Historians of science have primarily interpreted the UNESCO statements as an oppositional project led by anti-racist scientists from the North Atlantic and concerned with dismantling racial typologies, replacing them with population-based conceptions of human variation. Instead of focusing on what anti-racist scientists opposed, this article highlights the futures they imagined and the applied social-science projects that anti-racist science drew from and facilitated. The scientific experts who participated in drafting the first UNESCO Statement on Race played important roles in late colonial, post-colonial and international projects designed to modernize, assimilate and improve so-called backward communities – typically indigenous or Afro-descendent groups in the global South. Such connections between anti-racist science and the developmental imaginaries of the late colonial period indicate that the transition from fixed racial typologies to sociocultural and psychological conceptualizations of human diversity legitimated the flourishing of modernization discourses in the Cold War era. In this transition to an economic-development paradigm, ‘race’ did not vanish so much as fragment into a series of finely tuned and ostensibly anti-racist conceptions that offered a moral incentive for scientific elites to intervene in the ways of life of those deemed primitive.

New JHBS: Catholic Church and Psychoanalysis, Vygotsky on Thinking and Speech, & More

The Spring 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online.  Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

““A disease of our time”: The Catholic Church’s condemnation and absolution of psychoanalysis (1924–1975),” by Renato Foschi, Marco Innamorati, and Ruggero Taradel. Abstract:

The present paper is focused on the evolution of the position of the Catholic Church toward psychoanalysis. Even before Freud’s The Future of an Illusion (1927), psychoanalysis was criticized by Catholic theologians. Psychoanalysis was viewed with either contempt or with indifference, but nonpsychoanalytic psychotherapy was accepted, especially for pastoral use. Freudian theory remained for most Catholics a delicate and dangerous subject for a long time. From the center to the periphery of the Vatican, Catholic positions against psychoanalysis have varied in the way that theological stances have varied. In the middle decades of the twentieth century, some Catholics changed their attitudes and even practiced psychoanalysis, challenging the interdict of the Holy Office, which prohibited psychoanalytic practice until 1961. During the Cold War, psychoanalysis progressively became more and more relevant within Catholic culture for two main reasons: changes in psychoanalytic doctrine (which began to stress sexuality to a lesser degree) and the increasing number of Catholic psychoanalysts, even among priests. Between the 1960s and the 1970s, psychoanalysis was eventually accepted and became the main topic of a famous speech by Pope Paul VI. This paper illustrates how this acceptance was a sort of unofficial endorsement of a movement that had already won acceptance within the Church. The situation was fostered by people like Maryse Choisy or Leonardo Ancona, who had advocated within the Church for a sui generis use of psychoanalysis (e.g., proposing a desexualized version of Freudian theories), despite warnings and prohibitions from the hierarchies of the Church.

“The final chapter of Vygotsky’s Thinking and Speech: A reader’s guide,” René van der Veer Ekaterina Zavershneva. Abstract:

The seventh and last chapter of Vygotsky’s Thinking and Speech (1934) is generally considered as his final word in psychology. It is a long chapter with a complex argumentative structure in which Vygotsky gives his view on the relationship between thinking and speech. Vygotsky’s biographers have stated that the chapter was dictated in the final months of Vygotsky’s life when his health was rapidly deteriorating. Although the chapter is famous, its structure has never been analyzed in any detail. In the present article we reveal its rhetorical structure and show how Vygotsky drew on many hitherto unrevealed sources to convince the reader of his viewpoint.

“Japanese-American confinement and scientific democracy: Colonialism, social engineering, and government administration,” by Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt and Leandro Daniel Benmergui. Abstract:

During World War II, the U.S. Indian Service conducted social science experiments regarding governance among Japanese Americans imprisoned at the Poston, Arizona, camp. Researchers used an array of techniques culled from anthropological culture and personality studies, psychiatry, psychology, medicine, and public opinion research to probe how the personality traits of the confined Japanese?Americans and camp leaders affected the social interactions within each group and between them. The research drew on prior studies of Indian personality in the US Southwest, Mexico’s Native policies, and indirect colonial rule. Researchers asked how democracy functioned in contexts marked by hierarchy and difference. Their goal was to guide future policies toward US “minorities“ and foreign races in post?war occupied territories. We show how researchers deployed ideas about race, cultural, and difference across a variety of cases to create a universal, predictive social science, which they combined with a prewar romanticism and cultural relativism. These researchers made ethnic, racial, and cultural difference compatible with predictive laws of science based on notions of fundamental human similarities.

Erik Linstrum: The Empire Dreamt Back

A recent piece from historian Erik Linstrum over on Aeon may be of interest to AHP readers. In “The Empire Dreamt Back” Linstrum explores the role of psychoanalysis in British colonial rule. The piece begins:

Every state needs to know about the people it rules. Censuses, property surveys and tax records are familiar and tangible expressions of the state’s need to maintain power by accumulating knowledge. This is not just a matter of tedious bureaucratic record-keeping: especially when confronted with unfamiliar problems, states often turn to cutting-edge technologies and forms of expertise to make sense of the populations under their authority. In the early 20th-century Age of Empire, when European colonies stretched across the world, psychoanalysis was the novel technique of the moment. In an attempt to better understand their colonial subjects in those years, officials in the British empire undertook a curious and little-known research project: to collect dreams from the people of South Asia, Africa and the Pacific. The results were not what they expected.

Read the full article here.

The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture

The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture by Heike Bauer was recently been published by Temple University Press. As described on the publisher’s website,

Influential sexologist and activist Magnus Hirschfeld founded Berlin’s Institute of Sexual Sciences in 1919 as a home and workplace to study homosexual rights activism and support transgender people. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. This episode in history prompted Heike Bauer to ask, Is violence an intrinsic part of modern queer culture? The Hirschfeld Archives answers this critical question by examining the violence that shaped queer existence in the first part of the twentieth century.

Hirschfeld himself escaped the Nazis, and many of his papers and publications survived. Bauer examines his accounts of same-sex life from published and unpublished writings, as well as books, articles, diaries, films, photographs and other visual materials, to scrutinize how violence—including persecution, death and suicide—shaped the development of homosexual rights and political activism.

The Hirschfeld Archives brings these fragments of queer experience together to reveal many unknown and interesting accounts of LGBTQ life in the early twentieth century, but also to illuminate the fact that homosexual rights politics were haunted from the beginning by racism, colonial brutality, and gender violence.

The full volume is available as an open access pdf here.

Devereux, Ellenberger, and the Early History of Transcultural Psychiatry

The most recent issue of Transcultural Psychiatry includes a piece on Henri Ellenberger and transcultural psychiatry that may interest AHP readers. Full details follow below.

“On the history of cultural psychiatry: Georges Devereux, Henri Ellenberger, and the psychological treatment of Native Americans in the 1950s,”  by Emmanuel Delille. The abstract reads,

Henri Ellenberger (1905–1993) wrote the first French-language synthesis of transcultural psychiatry (“Ethno-psychiatrie”) for the French Encyclopédie Médico-Chirurgicale in 1965. His work casts new light on the early development of transcultural psychiatry in relation to scientific communities and networks, particularly on the role of Georges Devereux (1908–1985). The Ellenberger archives offer the possibility of comparing published texts with archival ones to create a more nuanced account of the history of transcultural psychiatry, and notably of the psychological treatment of Native Americans. This paper examines some key moments in the intellectual trajectories of Devereux and Ellenberger, including Devereux’s dispute with Ackerknecht, the careers of Devereux and Ellenberger as therapists at the Menninger Foundation (Topeka, Kansas) in the 1950s, and their respective positions in the research network developed by McGill University (Montreal, Quebec) with the newsletter Transcultural Research in Mental Health Problems. Finally, I consider their ties to other important figures in this field as it transitioned from colonial medicine to academic medicine, including Roger Bastide (France), Henri Collomb and the Ortigues (France and Africa), as well as Eric Wittkower and Brian Murphy (Canada) and Alexander Leighton (United States and Canada).