AHP readers will be interested in Sarah Igo’s new book The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America:
Every day, Americans make decisions about their privacy: what to share and when, how much to expose and to whom. Securing the boundary between one’s private affairs and public identity has become a central task of citizenship. How did privacy come to loom so large in American life? Sarah Igo tracks this elusive social value across the twentieth century, as individuals questioned how they would, and should, be known by their own society.
Privacy was not always a matter of public import. But beginning in the late nineteenth century, as corporate industry, social institutions, and the federal government swelled, increasing numbers of citizens believed their privacy to be endangered. Popular journalism and communication technologies, welfare bureaucracies and police tactics, market research and workplace testing, scientific inquiry and computer data banks, tell-all memoirs and social media all propelled privacy to the foreground of U.S. culture. Jurists and philosophers but also ordinary people weighed the perils, the possibilities, and the promise of being known. In the process, they redrew the borders of contemporary selfhood and citizenship.
The Known Citizen reveals how privacy became the indispensable language for monitoring the ever-shifting line between our personal and social selves. Igo’s sweeping history, from the era of “instantaneous photography” to the age of big data, uncovers the surprising ways that debates over what should be kept out of the public eye have shaped U.S. politics and society. It offers the first wide-angle view of privacy as it has been lived and imagined by modern Americans.
The Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine hosts a Working Group on the History of the Human Sciences which may be of interest to AHP readers. The group “meets monthly to discuss a colleague’s work in progress or to discuss readings that are of particular interest to participants.” Although “meetings are usually held at the Consortium offices in Philadelphia from 6:00 to 7:30 on third Wednesdays. Scholars located anywhere can also participate online.” To join the working group visit the working group site and click “Request group membership.”
The group meets next on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 from 6:00-7:30pm (EST) and will be discussing articles in the special issue of the journal History of the Human Sciences on “Psychology and its Publics.”
Full details, including a schedule of upcoming meetings, can be found here.
It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!
In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.
Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.
“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:
This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.
“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:
This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.
“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics