The August 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now available. Articles in this issue discuss psychoanalyst Sandor Rado’s influential views on bisexuality, American attitudes toward psychology, technology, and social engineering in the 20th century, and the difficult reception of behavior therapy in France. Full details below.
“Sandor Rado, American psychoanalysis, and the question of bisexuality,” by Tontonoz, Matthew. Abstract:
The Hungarian-born physician and psychoanalyst Sandor Rado (1890–1972), who practiced for most of his career in the United States, played a central role in shaping American psychoanalysts’ views toward homosexuality. Historians have pointed to Rado’s rejection of Freud’s notion of constitutional bisexuality as the key theoretical maneuver that both pathologized homosexuality and inspired an optimistic approach to its treatment. Yet scholarly analysis of the arguments that Rado made for his rejection of bisexuality is lacking. This article seeks to provide that analysis, by carefully reviewing and evaluating Rado’s arguments by the standards of his own day. Because one of Rado’s main arguments is that bisexuality is an outdated concept according to modern biology, I consider what contemporary biologists had to say on the topic. The work of behavioral endocrinologist Frank Beach (1911–1988) is important in this context and receives significant attention here. Rado ultimately distanced himself from Beach’s behavioral endocrinology, appealing instead to evolutionary discourse to buttress his claim that homosexuality is pathological. This tactic allowed him to refashion psychoanalysis into a moralistic discipline, one with closer ties to a medical school.
A project is underway to digitize the records of the Central State Hospital in Virginia. Led by King Davis, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, the project includes some 800,000 documents which span the period between 1870 and 1970. The collection is extraordinarily unique both in terms of its size and its scope. Davis has described that: “This is the most complete set of records on African Americans and mental health in place in the world” (source: Alcalde).
The Central State Hospital – formerly the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane – was opened in 1870. It was the only institution designated for the treatment of African Americans to operate in the state prior to the passing of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its story is one of only a small handful of “Colored Asylums”: while institutions for the insane would open in every state in the continental US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the vast majority served a uniquely White demographic.
The impetus for the project was reportedly the deterioration of the Central State Hospital’s records. Although digitization provides a way to preserve this rare archival collection, researchers must face the challenge of maintaining the privacy of the individual patients. To address these concerns the team is developing new Steganoscription software that will recognize the personal information contained within the handwritten documents.
Unfortunately the status of the project has been reported as “at a standstill” due to funding problems. In the meantime, a prototype of the website design can be found here.
One of the benefits of the APA’s “Akron Project” (at AHP here) is that it will make rare books and grey literature more accessible. This will make it easier for psychologists to “do history” and for students of psychology to engage with the foundations of their discipline. But at what cost?
The gizmo they’re using at AHAP, bought new, is rumoured to carry a price tag of around $300,000. If APA hadn’t rented the two they’ve been using since the project started in 2007, that amount would translate into a fixed cost contribution of ~$0.60 per scanned page (plus the marginal costs of labour and electronic delivery). These costs are tangible. What about the intangibles?
What about the cost of replacing the book as a content-delivery device?
The commodity of the book, as we have known it for the last few decades, is vanishing and being replaced by new electronic media. Paper-and-binding books have irrevocably begun to fade away as products of mass consumption and will soon transform themselves into curios like vinyl records. The age of the massive emporium bookstore is coming to an end under the crushing, virtual weight of the Internet. Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader is doing well and it promises to get better and cheaper in the future…. And worst of all, if you’re a paper-and-binding book lover such as myself, people are reading less paper than before.
For those of us who love the materiality of history, it’s certainly true that books have a certain hold on the imagination. When a book is imbued with its own history, when what you hold is more than its contents, it seems almost to sing—a soul greater than the hum of its parts. The feel and the smell and the dust, strangely, is part of the experience. It connects you to everyone else who has touched that volume; in a small way, it also makes you part of the history experienced by future readers.
A team sponsored by the APA has scanned 1,056,249 pages from the Archives of the History of American Psychology in Ohio. To date, 54 historical out-of-print books have been added to the PsycBooks database. When the digitization project is done, however, this figure will reach 2500. Boxes and boxes of “grey literature,” including conference proceedings and division newsletters, are also being scanned for inclusion in PsycExtra.