In continuation of the first 27, here are the remaining 52 items of my “History of the Skull, Mind, and Brain Sciences” reading list with John Tresch. It’s a lot of stuff, and I have no idea how he and I shall have a conversation about all of these in a 60- to 90-minute Skype session tomorrow evening, when I’ll already be brain-dead from sitting and working in window-less rooms for hours. But I guess I will be flexible or, better, creatively plastic, and figure out a way to mold or not mold myself to the crazy demands of being a grad student shortly before “orals.” (Less than 4 weeks left!)
Histories of the Neuro-Disciplines and -Cultures
Clarke, Edwin, and L. Stephen Jacyna. 1987. Nineteenth-Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Rose, Nikolas S., and Joelle M. Abi-Rached. 2013. Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Moreno, Jonathan D. 2012. Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Bellevue Literary Press.
Malabou, Catherine. 2008. What Should We Do with Our Brain? New York: Fordham University Press.
Alienists, Psychoanalysis, Neurology
Scull, Andrew. 1993. The Most Solitary of Afflictions: Madness and Society in Britain, 1700–1900. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Oppenheim, Janet. 1991. ‘Shattered Nerves’: Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goldstein, Jan E. 1987. Console and Classify: The French Psychiatric Profession in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Matlock, Jann. 1994. Scenes of Seduction: Prostitution, Hysteria, and Reading Difference in Nineteenth-Century France. New York: Columbia University Press.
Buhle, Mari J. 1998. Feminism and Its Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Guenther, Katja. 2015. Localization and Its Discontents: A Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Casper, Stephen T. 2014. The Neurologists: A History of a Medical Specialty in Modern Britain, c. 1789–2000. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Jacyna, L. Stephen, and Stephen T. Casper, eds. 2012. The Neurological Patient in History. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
Oosterhuis, Harry. 2000. Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lunbeck, Elizabeth. 1994. The Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jones, Kathleen W. 1999. Taming the Troublesome Child: American Families, Child Guidance, and the Limits of Psychiatric Authority. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Raz, Mical. 2013. The Lobotomy Letters: The Making of American Psychosurgery. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
Dickinson, Tommy. 2014. “Curing Queers”: Mental Nurses and Their Patients, 1935–74. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Metzl, Jonathan M. 2009. The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease. Boston: Beacon Press.
Healy, David. 1997. The Antidepressant Era. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Luhrmann, Tanya M. 2000. Of Two Minds: An Anthropologist Looks at American Psychiatry. New York: Vintage Books.
Strand, Michael. 2011. “Where Do Classifications Come From? The DSM-III, the Transformation of American Psychiatry, and the Problem of Origins in the Sociology of Knowledge.” Theory and Society 40 (3): 273–313. doi:10.1007/s11186-011-9142-8 .
Martin, Emily. 2007. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Vidal, Fernando. “Psychology and Classifications of the Sciences.” ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies). http://www.academia.edu/6913892/Psychology_and_Classifications_of_the_Sciences.
Dror, Otniel E. 2011. “Counting the Affects: Discoursing in Numbers.” Social Research 68 (2): 357–78.
Danziger, Kurt. 1990. Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Morawski, Jill G., ed. 1988. The Rise of Experimentation in American Psychology. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Carson, John. 2007. The Measure of Merit: Talents, Intelligence, and Inequality in the French and American Republics, 1750–1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Karafyllis, Nicole C., and Gotlind Ulshöfer, eds. 2008. Sexualized Brains: Scientific Modeling of Emotional Intelligence from a Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Beaulieu, Anne. 2004. “From Brainbank to Database: The Informational Turn in the Study of the Brain.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 35 (2): 367–90. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2004.03.011 .
Dumit, Joseph. 2004. Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Joyce, Kelly A. 2008. Magnetic Appeal: MRI and the Myth of Transparency. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Alač, Morana. 2011. Handling Digital Brains: A Laboratory Study of Multimodal Semiotic Interaction in the Age of Computers. Cambridge, London: MIT Press.
Bluhm, Robyn, Anne J. Jacobson, and Heidi L. Maibom, eds. 2012. Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Science. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Evolutionary Theories and Sexuality
Richards, Robert J. 1987. Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Jordan-Young, Rebecca M. 2011. Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
“Neurohistory” and Historiography
Pettit, Michael, and Peter Hegarty. 2014. “Psychology and Sexuality in Historical Time.” In APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology, Volume I: Person-Based Approaches, edited by Deborah L. Tolman, Lisa M. Diamond, José A. Bauermeister, William H. George, James G. Pfaus, and L. M. Ward, 63–78. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Wilson, Elizabeth A. 2004. Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body. Durham: Duke University Press.
Edwin Clarke and Stephen Jacyna’s volume on the Nineteenth-Century Origins of Neuroscientific Concepts is one of the few massive histories of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology in the 19th century that do not retreat to providing biographical accounts of famous white men. The monograph is organized along six major neuroscientific subject matters (the cerebrospinal axis, the nerve cell, the reflex, nerve function, brain functions, and the vegetative nervous system). It provides an overview of major ideas and scientific achievements in each of the fields in the English-, German-, French-, and Italian-speaking European world with a focus on the first half of the 19th-century. It also offers a massive appendix to support the readers own research in the form of 101 pages of bibliographical notes plus a detailed 99-page bibliography containing primary and secondary works from the 18th through the 20th century.
As the title suggests, the volume proceeds teleologically and tells the story of the generation and accumulation of knowledge towards ‘true’ neuroscientific principles—with occasional setbacks through “grave error” (p. 208), research of “low quality” (p. 196), or “deficient” thinking (p. 83). Nonetheless, the authors do not try to explain the different ways in which the neuroscientific concepts they discuss have been able to persist over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and they do not attempt to define contemporary neuroscience with nearly the precision that Nikolas Rose attempts (see below). Rather, Clarke and Jacyna provide an account of the ways in which Naturphilosophie and views of interdependency between the mind, brain, and environment have influenced early mind and brain research. They argue that Romantic philosophy, scientific theories, and experimental practice were interdependent—all the more reason to spell out how the concepts have been able to survive in a radically altered philosophical environment. The authors further argue that technological advances were not the primary driving force behind this early-19th-century “revolution in the understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system” (p. 1). This judgment reminds of Olaf Breidbach’s assertion that the mode of asking questions was the most important driver of the modernization or scientization of investigations into the brain and mind (see previous essay). Human desires, social contexts, and political agendas, however, are rare in Clarke and Jacyna’s volume that is a fabulous reference work full of technical detail.
Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rached’s Neuro is a highly optimistic account of the history and potential of the neurosciences. In more detail than Katja Guenther (see below) but still not convincingly, Rose and Abi-Rached address the anxiety of humanities scholars and social scientists in the face of the neurosciences’ omnipresent authority. They argue that “[n]eurobiological conceptions of personhood are not effacing other conceptions of who we are as human beings” (pp. 8 f) and instead offer “a radical way of moving beyond notions of human beings as individualized, discrete, autonomous, coherent subjects, free to choose” (p. 24). The authors arrive at this conclusion after treating the neuromolecularization of the brain as a consequence of the founding of neuroscience in an amalgamation of the brain and psy-sciences as well as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science (ch. 1); after discussing the new tools that intensify the “clinical gaze,” including brain imaging (ch. 2); after assessing the strengths and limitations of animal models (ch. 3); after debating the question of whether mental disturbances are exclusively diseases of (isolated) brains (ch. 4), to what extent brains are only understandable and how they can be studied as social objects (ch. 5), how “antisocial brains” can be defined and taken care of (ch. 6), and what this all means for human self-image and self-fashioning (ch. 7). As Stephen Casper remarks in his review of Neuro, one big topic that is missing from this assessment are the military (ab)uses of neuroscience, the lack of which may be one of the reasons for why Rose and Abi-Rached judge neuroscience so positively—but maybe not, as they even welcome the idea of “screen and intervene” to find and govern “brains at risk” in peace-time contexts of criminality (p. 197; ch. 6).
Rose and Abi-Rached classify the “key mutations” (p. 9) that make up modern neuroscience in conceptual and technological, economic, and biopolitical advances, all of which go far beyond the anatomical and physiological concepts that Clarke and Jacyna explicate in their work. Moreover, Rose and Abi-Rached name four “imaginaries” (p. 9) that have reshaped the interaction of the mind and brain sciences with humans in the 20th century, namely the psychopharmacologically mediated “neuromolecular gaze” as an intensification of the gaze discussed in Jacyna and Casper’s edited volume (see below), the application of genetic principles in brain science, the concepts of brain plasticity and malleability, as well as the visual accessibility through brain imaging. The introduction of the pharmacological and the genetic themes as well as the hope in regenerative and normalizing powers of brain plasticity are important additions to the mind vs. brain science debate addressed by Casper and Guenther in their works (see below). Rose and Abi-Rached, for their part, suggest without explanation that the psychological view has died with the advance of the neuromolecular gaze and that all that is sought within the neurosciences is a physical cure to what used to be called a ‘mental’ disease.
Neuropsychologist George Prigatano does what the title suggests in his paper “Challenging Dogma in Neuropsychology and Related Disciplines.” He first identifies five dogmas he perceives as pervasive in his field and then puts forward scientific evidence, that is, findings contradicting the dogmas, in order to illustrate how these ideologies work against establishing new or more refined knowledge about certain phenomena. First, he discusses randomized controlled trials and shows how the overemphasis on methodological aptness leads to a neglect of the neuropsychological phenomenon in question. Second, he argues that insights gained during psychotherapy can provide useful knowledge to aid neuropsychological investigations of brain-behavior relationships in much more depth than the usual neuropsychological questionnaires can elicit. Third, he illustrates how disorders of self-awareness after brain injury are accessible through thorough experimental study and do not lie beyond the realm of neuroscience. Fourth, he dismantles the so-called “new phrenology” of brain lateralization (p. 817), showing that most one-sided lesions to allegedly lateralized brain functions lead to bilateral impairments. Finally, he dismantles the dogma that psychotherapy is ineffective to treat any disorder stemming from a brain injury by referring to case studies in which the emotional trauma associated with the brain lesion could actually be treated successfully with psychotherapy.
Prigatano’s account resonates very well with Anne Harrington’s study of the pervasiveness of laterality research in the brain and mind sciences since the 19th century (see previous essay). His paper also shows that Guenther’s argument against the ‘reality’ of a rigid mind-brain science divide is very timely not only in 20th– but also in 21st-century neuroscience (see below). Interestingly enough, none of these dogmas except for the fourth one pertaining to brain lateralization corresponds to the main characteristics that Clarke and Jacyna identify in the alleged roots of contemporary neuroscience in the 19th century. The dogmas do, however, align very well with the four “imaginaries” mentioned in Neuro. This supports Rose and Abi-Rached’s claim that the advent of “neuroscience” in the mid-to-late 20th century has radically changed investigations into the mind and brain.
Jonathan Moreno’s Mind Wars provides an account of past (mostly the second half of the 20th century), current, and potential future military uses of and investments in the brain and mind sciences, a topic neglected by Rose and Abi-Rached. Moreno draws mostly from published sources and institutional reports in addition to a number of formal and informal interviews with scientists and other “experts”; this is not necessarily a first-choice selection of informants, he makes clear, because not all of the individuals he targeted at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) or in academic circles were willing to talk about even the unclassified parts of the research in question.
The book compiles projects funded and initiated by DARPA and its collaboration with academic institutions as well as intelligence agencies in the name of national security. Moreno also provides examples of national security research and the uses of neuroscience in the name of national security in other countries during World War II, the Cold War, and the time following 9/11. The topics treated include psychological warfare, neuro-enhancement for soldiers, and neuroscientific lie-detection or mind-reading devices. In a concluding chapter, Moreno takes a similar stance towards neuroscientific dual-use research as Rose and Abi-Rached take towards brainotyping for criminality, for instance. “[I]n a dangerous world, we do need to be protected,” he says (p. 187), and argues for transparency of military research and military research funding and democratic decision making processes. In particular, he advocates that neuroethics be strengthened in the interest of more “neurosecurity,” that is, the protection of citizens both from and with neuroscientific tools (ch. 8).
Fernando Vidal may find at least the neuro-essentialism conveyed by Moreno’s neuroethical analyses objectionable. In “Brainhood, Anthropological Figure of Modernity,” Vidal makes a two-level argument about the assumption that human individuals are entirely defined by or even reducible to their brains. From a cultural point of view, Vidal explains, this assumption is widespread in contemporary so-called Western societies, as evidenced in newly emerging and very authoritative fields such as neuroethics, neuroeconomics, neurobics, etc. In historical perspective, Vidal illustrates further, this is not a 21st-century phenomenon but one that permeates modern thinking (he finds it in John Locke’s and Charles Bonnet’s work). In particular, Vidal argues that the modern view of the brain-self is the necessary precursor to the contemporary neuro-hype and not a consequence of the new technologies and the new knowledge—which is not actually that novel, he contends. Starting with the quest for the seat of the soul to phrenology and later empirical versions of bran localization of physiological nature and in computerized neuroimaging, Vidal explicates clearly the scientific obsession with brains and their images, an observation that has been treated in more detail in Michael Hagner’s Geniale Gehirne (see previous essay).
Vidal’s unfortunately very cursory treatment of the question of why the neuro-reductive version of the self is more pervasive than the genetic one is highly interesting and deserves further attention. One possible explanation is that the brain is considered to be a circumscribed plastic organ, whereas the genome cannot be so easily manipulated in a living organism; the idea of neuroenhancement may thus stimulate the appeal of the cerebral subject in neoliberal societies. The unconditional primacy of brainhood is a dogma in our contemporary brain and mind sciences that Prigatano does not even seem to be able to identify it as such.
What Should We Do with Our Brain?, asks philosopher Catherine Malabou. Her slim monograph engages with the topic of brain plasticity and the extent to which the knowledge of a malleable brain can liberate individuals rather than subjugate them to the demands of capitalism and neoliberal flexibility, or—in her own words—to being “docile” (p 12). Following Karl Marx, Malabou suggests that “[h]umans make their own brain, but they do not know that they make it” (p. 1). She describes this ignorance as a force that leads to a habit of letting the political and economic system dictate how one’s brain and self should be, whereas individuals conscious of their own brain plasticity can make a choice about whether to adapt to their environment and have it shape their brain.
In her first chapter, Malabou introduces three forms of plasticity: developmental, synaptic, and regenerative. Her second chapter describes two interrelated decentralization developments; first, the corporation-oriented economy and neoliberal ways of governing, and, second, the abandonment of the equation between brains and machines. Malabou suggests that the intersection of these two developments produce a notion of the brain “as personal capital” (p. 46), which needs to be molded and enhance in the interest of “employability” and “flexibility” that enable a person to optimally react to fluctuating careers, institutional transformations, and changing ideological demands (p. 46). If one cannot adapt in a socially conform way, one gets excluded or chemically normalized, Malabou suggests with examples of mental illnesses.
In her third chapter, Malabou addresses the question of how the mental and neuronal relate to one another. She suggests that the two cannot be separated and that neuronal plasticity is a material correlate of the integration of new experiences and values into an individual’s brain. Yet, the mental is not reducible to the neuronal. Neoliberal authorities, however, neither promote nor allow the notion of creative—and potentially rebellious—“[s]elf-fashioning” (p. 71). Malabou, however, asks individuals to mold their own brain through confrontation and originality. In her own words, she suggests to “[c]reat[e] resistance to neuronal ideology” (p. 77; italics i.o.), to “defend a biological alter-globalism” (p. 80), and “[n]ot to replicate the caricature of the world” (p. 78). That is, she advocates for the “refus[al] to be flexible individuals who combine a permanent control of the self with a capacity to self-modify at the whim of fluxes, transfers, and exchanges for fear of explosion” (p. 78)—a refreshing antagonism to Rose’s and Abi-Rached’s seemingly unreflexive optimism of the marriage between neuroscience and neoliberal societies.
Sociologist Victoria Pitts-Taylor assesses in more detail the contradictory popular presentation of “The Plastic Brain.” In her article, she juxtaposes the celebration of brain plasticity as creative malleability with a rhetoric of governmentality and biologization. Four major themes in these popular accounts of the (plastic) brain: first, the brain “as a potentiality” and a “resource … untapped”; second, the “flexibility, …need for newness, and … adaptability” of the brain; third, the link between “brain health” and “personal responsibility,” in connection with “metaphors about labor and physical fitness”; and, fourth, the close connection between the brain and being at risk or the necessity to live risk-aversely (p. 641). Where Rose and Abi-Rached are optimistic and Malabou is critically enthusiastic, Pitts-Taylor is pessimistic (or realistic) in pointing to the normative power of the brain plasticity discourse in popular discourse. The false promise of empowerment justifies the rhetoric of determinism and blame for the non-conformant and the un-self-disciplined, she shows. Concepts such as self-care, responsibility, enhancement, risk-aversion, and flexibility all come with the popular plasticity package. In her explicit critique of Malabou’s work, Pitts-Taylor addresses the problem that Malabou does not provide concrete suggestions as to how one could liberate the brain and, more importantly, that she asks for an impossible disentanglement of ontology and epistemology in her call to divide a biological entity (brain plasticity) from a political ideology (flexibility). Moreover, Pitts-Taylor asserts, the problem of the reduction of individuals to a “cerebral subject” is only fortified by Malabou’s brain-centered liberation attempt.
The Most Solitary of Afflictions is a significantly extended new edition of Andrew Scull’s 1979 monograph Museums of Madness. The historical sociologist provides a revisionist account of the medicalization of madness in late 18th– and 19th-century England and of “the emergence … of a relatively stable psychiatric complex” (p. 376). Scull argues that the “lunacy reform” of the early 19th century and with it the transition from the unsystematic handling of the “insane” in small madhouses, hospitals, or, most importantly, homes to the systematic network of mental asylums and moral treatment did not derive solely from humanism. He illustrates instead that doctors medicalized insanity in order to heighten their realm of influence; moreover, it becomes clear that governmental oversight did not end a system of violent treatment of the deviant, like the “lunacy reform” is often presented in older scholarship, but rather that it heightened the normalizing power and legitimacy of institutions. Scull draws on a wide range of archival sources, such as case books, visitor books, registers, correspondence, and annual reports from different asylums, parliamentary reports and official statements; further sources include memoirs, then and now contemporary monographs and articles, as well as dissertations from the 1970s and 1980s, reflecting the increase of scholarship on psychiatry during these years.
Chapter 1 traces the rise of mental asylums in 18th-century English society as a culturally and socially fitting response to the new industrialized capitalist lifestyle. The “insane” were singled out as unproductive members of society and sent to special institutions, where, initially, the poor as well as the better-off misfits were taken to by their relatives or local communities and became diagnosed and certified as mentally ill (ch. 2). “[O]rder, rationality, and self-control” for the confined “insane” were the goals advocated by psychiatrists, who were in the midst of their professionalization (p. 41). These value statements reinforced the perceived authority of doctors and scientists in elite circles, Scull argues, as they resonated with the new capitalist ideology—and so did the centralization and rationalization of the economized state-overseen asylum system. The new consumerism and a longing for novelty, in combination with Enlightened views of “man,” Scull explains in chapter 2, created the intellectual basis on which elite reformers could demand the abandonment of the treatment of the “insane” as “beasts.”
Chapter 3 traces the parliamentary committees that investigated asylums in the 1810s and 1820s and the subsequently issued reform bills, leading to a new asylum landscape by the mid-19th century, in which doctors practiced the medicalization of deviancy and the scientization of moral treatment, which was eventually “absorbed into the realm of ordinary medical techniques” (p. 224), as part of a larger Enlightened secularized ideology, Scull explains in chapter 4. In chapter 5, he makes very clear the limits to psychiatric attempts of professionalization and authority; for instance, they competed with neurologists for public trust in matters of ‘nerves’, and they remained unable to find lesions or other material evidence for their conviction that “insanity” is a mental illness. Most importantly, the alienists/psychiatrists could tell hardly any success stories of ‘cured’ patients. Consequently, county asylums degenerated into storage sites for or “Museums” of the pauper mentally ill over the course of the second half of the 19th century (ch. 6) and the numbers of asylum inmates increased significantly, a factor that only strengthened the system, aided by a rhetoric of ‘finally we can diagnose all of the mentally ill out there’. Private patients had access to smaller asylums for the better-off, but many middle- and upper-class families avoided sending individuals there for as long as they could. Eventually, the reformist hopes gave way to eugenic thought: “Science, until it discovers a way of correcting bad stock … must say: ‘Do not propagate it’,” Scull quotes from an 1887 psychiatric lecture (p. 327).
Janet Oppenheim’s monograph “Shattered Nerves” complements Scull’s account of the early years of British psychiatry. She attends to “depression” in the long Victorian Era, one could say, from the early 19th century through WWI. Oppenheim puts much emphasis on gender- and age-dependent notions of mental illness as well as practices of treatment beyond the asylum, topics largely neglected by Scull (and other historians of the brain and mind sciences). Additionally, whereas Scull writes to revise previous Whiggish accounts that saw progress in the transformations surrounding the “lunacy reform,” Oppenheim seems to aim at revising Scull’s scornful account of English alienists (she refers to the first edition of his monograph) and the Foucaultian thesis of social control. Even though she repeatedly acknowledges the alienists’ striving for “moral management” of their patients (e.g., p. 57), Oppenheim draws a contradictory picture of kind-hearted Victorian psychiatrists who “hoped to save their patients from misery and devastation” (p. 53) but whose socialization interfered with their wish.
Oppenheim’s sources include contemporary newspapers, periodicals, monographs, memoirs, letters, reports, and fiction. Her sources and history are particularly skewed towards the work of J. Crichton-Browne, who worked as a medical doctor from the 1860s through the 1920s (ch. 2). Oppenheim integrates her account very well with the history of medicine in the 19th century, the turn away from humoral and towards ‘scientific’ medicine as well as the professionalization struggle of medical subdisciplines. She acknowledges that the term “depression” was not used by her actors but that she equates the 20th-century concept with what Victorians referred to as “(nervous) breakdown” (p. 5). Oppenheim provides similar hints at her presentist assessment by suggesting that “Victorian medical men lacked the instruments to prove the dependence of mind on body” (p. 4) and that “[t]he inexactitude of diagnostic labels [as well as] the laxity with which the terminology of nervousness was applied to widely disparate physical and mental states” posed challenges to her historical work and “prevent[ed] statistical precision” in her study (p. 10). Nonetheless, she asserts that this is not her actors’ fault, but a common historical occurrence.
The negotiation of boundaries between the psychological and the physical in medicine becomes very clear in Oppenheim’s account of medical therapies for and preventative measures against depression, which targeted both the mind and the body (ch. 4)—including the recommendation to be sexually active (ch. 5). One big challenge to Victorian psychiatrists, as Oppenheim describes it, was the fact that men were equally likely to suffer from breakdowns as women. In order to sustain the sex/gender divide, the alienists used various explanations for male nervous breakdowns; some suggested that a male breakdown manifests itself with different symptoms, others identified male exhaustion as the cause for men’s susceptibility to this allegedly naturally female condition (ch. 5, “Manly Nerves”). Even though Oppenheim puts less overt emphasis on the growing pervasiveness of capitalism, she, too, shows that psychiatrists targeted middle-class males for economic reasons, to name only one example. In chapter 6, “Neurotic Women,” Oppenheim makes exceptionally convincing use of fiction in conversation with medical doctrines, showing that the concepts of female nervous illness reflected social realities and cultural stereotypes, emphasizing the strong sexual and reproductive meaning permeating all conversations about virtually all female mental and physical ailments (cf. ch. 7, “Nervous Children”). Although she acknowledges the misogyny in this form of psychiatric treatment, Oppenheim vehemently argues against the feminist rebellion hypothesis (pp. 225–232), insisting that many women diagnosed with mental illness actually were suffering from physiological and psychological disturbances. Finally, chapter 8, “Nervous Degeneration,” reiterates and extends Scull’s illustration of the link between early British psychiatry and the eugenic movement. In line with Daniel Pick’s work (see previous essay), Oppenheim assesses the widespread fear of the nation’s deterioration and explains that the degeneration discourse has sustained the Victorian practice of controlling public morals via disciplining private life well into the 20th century.
Ian Goldstein’s monograph Console and Classify traces the rise of French psychiatrists, the aliénistes, during the 19th century, when France was characterized by massive changes of political and administrative systems as well as cultural attitudes. Up to 1800, Goldstein explains, the British set the tone in the treatment of mental illness, and around 1900, the Germans took over. The century in between belonged to Frenchmen who worked hard for and were eventually granted authority through the scientific diagnosis and so-called moral treatment of diseases such as monomania and hysteria. The aliénistes drew up nosological systems of psychiatric illnesses and shaped the French asylum system administratively as well as therapeutically. “[P]rofessionalization, bureaucratization, secularization” and the impact of individual actors (p. 4) are the key determinants along which Goldstein writes his decidedly historical account that is meant to complement the “genealogical” Foucaultian assessment of 19th-century France.
Goldstein argues that 19th-century French psychiatry stood and understood itself in the tradition of the clergy as intimately connected with families and the health of humans. At the same time, the psychiatrists deliberately scientized their field by studying pathologies with experimental methods as well as developing, refining, and correcting disease classifications and competed against the clergy for authority in asylums. Boundary work also took place in courts as a result of the psychiatrists’ push into forensics. A third aspect to Goldstein’s argument is the aliénistes’ performing bureaucratic functions in recording disease cases, promoting treatment in asylums, and stabilizing their professional field as part of a new national network of insanity control in the aftermath of the Law of 1838. The transformations of legal, moral, and spiritual meanings of actions through the psychiatric classifications, Goldstein argues, were most pervasive in 19th-century France: alleged demonic possessions were transformed into “hysteria,” suicide was pathologized as the outcome of a neural disease, and criminal behavior was determined to result from “monomania” (p. 383).
French scholar Jann Matlock’s first monograph, Scenes of Seduction, is an analysis of the representation of prostitutes and hysterics in mostly mid-19th-century French writing, of the ways in which several types of texts were declared dangerous for particular groups of women, and how women were forced into and resisted stereotypical gender roles of docile daughters, wives, and mothers during this time. Drawing on an exceptionally wide range of contemporary novels, compendiums, psychiatric treatises, as well as further popular and scientific publications and archival material, Matlock illustrates the similarities between the textual representation of low-class prostitutes and higher-class hysteric women, both of which had fallen out of favor with society due to their alleged seductive danger or, in other words, their resistance to fulfilling the social role assigned to them. As already seen in Alan Richardson’s and Rachel Malane’s work (see previous essay), Matlock shows that novels frequently engaged with scientific ideas about the relationship between mind and character; going beyond Richardson’s and Malane’s argument, however, Matlock also illustrates that the question of what literature should be read was a concern to psychiatrists.
Using Foucault’s analyses of 19th-century French sexuality and power relations and complementing them with accounts of successful resistance, Matlock argues that the prostitute was in two ways an integral part of French attempts to control morals and mental states of their citizens in the 1830s and 1840s; first, in that legally regulated prostitution seemed to be a tool to conserve the social order, and, second, because the prostitutes body and mental states would be studied in asylums as exemplars of immorality and excess as a necessary foundation to control these behaviors in society more broadly. The prostitute, mostly considered to be initially healthy but a victim of an invasion of unfulfilled desires from outside, was thus a model for a deviant woman and at the same time a promising instrument for containing morals. Hysteric women, stemming from bourgeois circles as well as the working classes prostitutes originated from, were conceived of as potentially degenerate individuals troubled by interior urges, most of which could be induced or magnified by reading the ‘wrong’ literature, such as novels, in particular those dealing with prostitution. This tension between the real-life prostitute as a tool for the containment of immorality and the prostitute in novels as the ruin of women’s mental health complicates the delineation between the notions of prostitution and hysteria. Furthermore, in the asylum, the boundaries between the two groups vanished even more; psychiatrists and administrators observed “contagion and collusion” (p. 4) between prostitutes and hysterics. The class distinction in particular, Matlock argues, became increasingly invisible and strategies were sought to morally cure all women inside and outside of the asylum regardless of their social standing.
American historian Marie Buhle’s second monograph, Feminism and Its Discontents, traces the dialogue between psychoanalysis and the feminist movement in the 20th-century, with a focus on the US. Buhle’s starting point is that the two groups’ “chief theorists tackle[d] common problems” (p. 4), namely the nature/nurture issue and the question of whether men and women are predominantly different or similar. Buhle uses published sources to make the argument that feminism and psychoanalysis, “two systems [that] occupied a common domain as theories of human liberation” (p. 3), were not only opposing movements but closely entangled co-producers of each other. As Buhle suggests, feminists like E. Goldman, for instance, stimulated S. Freud and the neo-Freudians to abandon their male-centrism and elaborate more on female sexuality, a topic that had been largely neglected by psychoanalysts by the 1920s and 1930s, but seemed necessary to first-wave feminists to develop theories of female subjectivity. Psychoanalysis provided feminists with the theories and vocabulary to elaborate on the difference between women and men in the first decades of the 20th century (chs. 1 and 2) and on justice and gender equality later that century (chs. 6 and 8). In different stages of the history of feminism and psychoanalysis, the relationship between the two fields was more hostile, Buhle shows. For example, when feminists aimed to disprove the general relevance of Freud’s theories by arguing for cultural relativism during the 1930s and 1940s (ch. 3) or when P. Wylie’s Generation of Vipers and similar misogynist voices during the early Cold War attacked momism and argued against female liberation in the interest of the preservation of femininity and the US culture, which resulted in a turn of feminists against psychoanalysis (chs. 4 and 5). The changing feminist views of what aspect of patriarchy and masculine predominance should be combatted shaped the alliance with psychoanalysis and stimulated changes in psychoanalytical concepts, such as the adoption of the sex/gender distinction (ch. 7).
Buhle heavily draws on Marxist theory and concludes that Freud and K. Marx share a similar obsession with the analysis of (re)productive processes despite their disagreement about whether labor or sexuality is the primary force that drives human endeavors. In accordance with both Freud and Marx, Buhle emphasizes the importance of a historical dimension to studies of “thought” as opposed to ahistorical investigations in recently published feminist “theory”; in doing so, she explicitly writes the history of feminism with tools contemporary feminism does not hold in high esteem anymore (pp. 20 f; ch. 9).
Localization and Its Discontents, Katja Guenther’s first monograph, weaves together accounts of the history of physiology and neurology written by Michael Hagner, Olaf Breidbach, Anne Harrington (see previous essay), and Stephen Casper (see below) with the history of psychoanalysis. Guenther extensively draws on archival sources from Europe and North America in her case studies about T. Meynert, C. Wernicke, S. Freud, O. Foerster, P. Schilder, and W. Penfield. Paying attention to the influence of institutions on fields of knowledge and the power of methods and theories to provide institutions and medical specialties with authority, Guenther argues that Freud’s early neuropsychiatric studies were no isolated precursor to his later work and that, instead, psychoanalysis heavily rests on Freud’s investigations into the concept of the localization of reflexes, brain function, and psychopathologies as researched by Meynert, Wernicke, and other neuropsychiatrists (see Elizabeth Wilson’s work below). In particular, Guenther argues that Freud’s as well as Foerster’s training with localizationists and their subsequent break with an atomistic-anatomical understanding of reflexes in f avor of systemic connectivist views gave rise to psychoanalysis and neurology respectively. Eventually, Guenther suggests that Freud is much more relevant to the history of medicine and the brain sciences than most scholars would concede and that the histories of neuropsychiatry, psychoanalysis, and neurology cannot be fully comprehended separately from one another. Most of the perceived breaks and oppositions, she argues, were in fact “internal reformulations” (p. 14).
After illustrating that the usually perceived opposition between Freud and Foerster stems at best from misunderstood disciplinary boundaries, Guenther deconstructs the later conflict between psychoanalysis and neurology/neurosurgery in a similar way when she shows that analyst Schilder and neurosurgeon Penfield both adapted Meynert’s system of reflex to make it fit their concept of separate sensory and motor reflex arcs. Guenther argues that this made both men rely on “a self-transparent patient who could provide insight into sensory states” (p. 12), a clear break with the Freudian belief in the power of the unconscious. In a short Epilogue, Guenther contends that the shared origins and conceptual similarities between the mind and brain sciences are evidence against the existence of a rigid divide between the ‘two cultures’; in particular, she suggests that the humanities and the neurosciences should not foster any perceived opposition or anxieties of intellectual monopoly, since their interconnectedness may be closer than our “fixed categories” make us believe (p. 191).
The Neurologists tells the story of the professionalization and emancipation of neurology in Britain from the French Revolution to the end of the Decade of the Brain initiative with a focus on the first two thirds of the 20th century. Stephen Casper visited a wide range of archives in the US and Great Britain and consulted consecutive series of two dozen different newspapers and periodicals in researching his first monograph. Casper’s main concern is to provide an answer to the question of how “neuro” could establish itself as a discipline largely independent of general medicine and become so pervasive in contemporary societies. He does so by paying close attention to the institutional contexts in which physicians and neurologists at first mingled and then separated, a development caused by a desire for “social rationalisation” (p. 24) as well as an influx of a new generation of neurologists in the 1920s and augmented by the political demands for efficient budgeting and healthcare during and between the two World Wars.
But the story of this specialization is one of great “reluctance” (p. 2), as Casper explains. He argues that it was precisely the adherence to a broad understanding of medicine and health that made neurologists rise to authority, and not any form of radical boundary work towards general physicians. Over the course of the 19th century, brain scientists deliberately practiced or stayed in close contact with general medicine and refused a status as specialists even after the founding of the Neurological Society of London in 1886. Britain was one of the slowest nations to embrace medical specialization, Casper explains, as exemplified by the formation of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1906, an attempt to counteract the fragmentation of medicine. Even by the early 20th century, neurologists concerned themselves with the entire nervous system, including the brain, as well as the mind, a notion familiar from Guenther’s account. Even during the interwar years, when funding and institutions finally welcomed specialization, an old generation of British neurologists slowed down the development by adhering to “establishment traditionalism” in their research goals and intellectual approach (p. 25). Only the formation of the Association of British Neurologists, an elite institution that carefully selected its members, succeeded in advancing the emancipation of neurology financially and institutionally over the course of the 1950s. Despite this successful boundary work, Casper concludes, the neurologists maintained their image of broad intellectual pursuit, a notion that facilitated the association with other disciplines during the rise of ‘neuroscience’ in the 1960s and the social authority this field acquired as not only a science of the brain, but also the mind and humans in general. But how exactly this was possible is given only cursory treatment in Casper’s final chapter, similarly to Guenther’s short remarks regarding the connection of her account with contemporary debates within the neurosciences.
The Neurological Patient in History is a volume of much theoretical appeal that focuses on patients, their private environments, and the public’s perception of neurological patients. The ten chapters are grouped into five parts and analyze the construction of neurological patients by neurologists, in private and public realms, by their caregivers and patient advocacy groups, by themselves, and by historians. The contributors to the volume utilize a variety of sources to make this possible: from laboratory records, hospital records, and medical textbooks through patient advocacy publications, movies, newspapers, and magazines to sketches created by caregivers or patients themselves. The result is yet one more historical construction of “The Neurological Patient,” but the product is a patient who has more choices of self-fashioning or resistance than in most other historical accounts, a theme that is also crucial to the work of Emily Martin (see below).
For example, Stephen Casper’s chapter “The Patient’s Pitch” (Part I) discusses the increasing standardization of neurological knowledge in textbooks and the attempt to objectify neurological examinations between the late 19th and the mid-20th centuries. Patients were crucial in order to assess neuropathology: they had to provide insight into their sensations and their cooperation was needed in order to teach the next generation of neurologists how to read out human bodies in search for internal brain lesions (mostly in male patients) or weakening outside influences on genetically caused degeneration (mostly in female patients). Marjorie Perlman Lorch, in her chapter “Speaking for Yourself” (Part II), draws attention to legal issues surrounding the question of how the brain, mind, and body were connected. Following the definition of aphasia in the 1860s, British courts, neurologists, and legal scholars saw the need to find out whether aphasia is a mental illness or a language disorder, as the result of this investigation would determine whether or not individuals with aphasia were legally able to draw up wills. The disparity between the legal validity of handwritten (or even drawn) wills of patients who had lost the ability to speak due to an accident and the distrust in similar documents originating from the hand of aphasia patients is striking; the question could not be legally resolved in 19th-century Britain and seems lacking attention in the legal as well as the historical realms to this day.
The monograph Stepchildren of Nature is Harry Oosterhuis’s attempt to draw attention to psychiatrist R.F.J. Krafft-Ebing’s (1840–1902) work on sexual pathology as a crucial contributor to the making of modern sexuality. The study is based on Krafft-Ebing’s published works (a list of which is provided in the reference section of the book, illustrating Oosterhuis’s point that Krafft-Ebing wrote much more than only the Psychopathia sexualis, first published in 1886) and unpublished manuscripts and patient files, as well as select published works of Kraft-Ebing’s contemporaries and further archival sources, mostly personal files for Krafft-Ebing from academic and state institutions.
His sources allow Oosterhuis not only to write a history of early sexology but also of the professionalization of psychiatry, focusing on Vienna. In Part I, he illustrates the problematic situation in which psychiatrists found themselves in the late 19th century, one that has already been elaborated upon by Scull and Oppenheim. “[P]sychiatry’s theorizing on and treatment of sexual deviance grew out of its weakness rather than its strength” (p. 13), Oosterhuis argues, illustrating that sexuality was but one realm in which psychiatrists hoped to make names (and money) for themselves. This account is a response to the question of how (rather than why) psychiatrists turned to the problem of sexuality, a question that Oosterhuis sees as a major contribution towards his revisionist and non-judgmental account of early sexology. Besides uncovering the roots of modern concepts of sexuality and sexual deviance as an extreme of ‘normal sexuality’, which lay in Krafft-Ebing’s association with forensic psychiatry, Oosterhuis wants to revise the picture that has hitherto been drawn of Krafft-Ebing in the historiography (incl. Foucault). Oosterhuis emphasizes that Krafft-Ebing did not simply ‘make up’ sexual deviances and perverts as the patients were actively engaged in the making of these labels (Part III) and they were, after all, only reflections of contemporary societal values and desires (Part IV).
Part II explains some of the strategies employed and the initial success of this new psychiatry, its move out of the asylums into the universities and private practices. Eventually, Oosterhuis argues that “Krafft-Ebing’s work anticipated twentieth-century attitudes toward sexuality,” that is, a rising consumerist view of sexuality and the quest for sexual fulfilment (p. 285; Part IV). Because Krafft-Ebing’s patients turned out to be mostly middle-class individuals as psychiatry established itself as a medical subspecialty that could potentially benefit the paying visitors of private practices (Part II), Krafft-Ebing’s sexology matched this group’s new ideal of romantic love (Part IV) and their growing search for “autobiographical self-analysis,” in particular after the publication of Psychopathia sexualis in 1886 (p. 15; Part III). His theory of sexuality as a drive difficult to contain and yet necessary for harmonious social life furthermore supported state interventions into citizens’ private lives for moral reasons—and what state neglected in the German unification and searching for a stable identity would not fancy such a theory?!
Elizabeth Lunbeck’s first monograph, The Psychiatric Persuasion, traces the history of psychiatry during the 1910s and 1920s. More specifically, Lunbeck provides an account of how psychiatry became a pervasive cultural force in Boston (or, as she argues, in the US-American society) when it transformed from a discipline that treated the insane and wretched at the bottom of society into a field concerned with ‘normal’ middle-class human behavior (Part I) and the “psychopathology[ies] of everyday life” (the title of Part III and a quote from S. Freud). This is thus a history of the de-dichotomization of mental health: from sane/insane to a metric of psychopathology. The focus of Lunbeck’s study is the Boston Psychopathic Hospital, which provided her with over 800 case records that include the notes of psychiatrists, wards, and social workers, as well as letters from and to the patients and protocols of staff meetings. Lunbeck complements these sources with psychoanalytical case records, some of which report on clients who were at the same time patients at the Psychopathic Hospital. Finally, archival manuscripts from libraries in Boston add information on individual Boston psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. A detailed appendix summarizes the social determinants of this history by providing the “Demographic Characteristics of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital Patient Population” in text and figures.
The reach of psychiatrists was based on unprecedented insights into ‘normal’ Americans’ private lives—including through social workers’ visits to patients’ homes (ch. 6) and to patients’ families, friends, and neighbors (ch. 10). Although Lunbeck considers the institutional context, the hospital and the psychoanalytical praxis, which had replaced the asylum (ch. 1 and Part II), she focuses on the modes of classification, the “conceptual apparatuses” with which the practitioners “turned the issues with which others presented them—sexual delinquency and aggression, marital relations, men’s characters, women’s desires—into the stuff of their science” (p. 4; ch. 5). This does not mean, as Lunbeck makes very clear, that patients became passive victims of the power-seeking Boston psychiatrists. Rather, practitioners and patients—or families who committed them (ch. 4)—cooperated in a classification project that hierarchically ordered personality traits and psychopathologies within the realm of the ‘normal’. The practitioners were on the quest for knowledge and tools to gather even more knowledge (ch. 3) and the patients responded with “self-scrutiny” (p. 5), which was the primary goal of modern psychiatric therapy (as opposed to cure) (chs. 4 and 6).
Quite unsurprisingly, this is a gendered history. In chapter 2, Lunbeck shows how the—mostly female—psychiatric social workers did not professionalize while the—mostly male and deliberately masculine—psychiatrists did so successfully at the same time and in the same space. Lunbeck furthermore suggests that Victorian sex/gender concepts (see Alison Winter’s and Rachel Malane’s works in the previous essay) were, at least in part, alive and well in 20th century US psychiatry. Ambiguous ideas of marriage and sexual mores shaped the psychiatric field in the age of sky-rocketing divorce rates: heterosexual marriage and fidelity were encouraged, but women were attributed the same sexual desires as men and supported in their attempts—or counseled towards—ending abusive relationships (ch. 10). The image of women spanned the reckless “hypersexual,” a concept that was based on the new self-assertive woman (ch. 7), the more traditional frigid “hysteric” (ch. 8), and the newly defined type of the masculine lesbian (ch. 11). Men were mostly classified by their class and race rather than their sexual behavior, but some gendered concepts were put in place for them, too (the adolescent, the psychopath, the alcoholic, and the shell-shocked effeminate man; ch. 9).
Kathleen Jones’s monograph Taming the Troublesome Child sheds light on a very similar group of practitioners at the renowned privately funded Judge Baker Foundation in Boston from the 1920s to the 1940s. Jones’s book is an intellectual and institutional history of the “child guidance” movement, a term coined in the 1920s, but a practice that had been popular in the English-speaking countries for circa a decade longer than that (ch. 2). Jones draws on psychiatric publications of the time, on records from professional societies in the fields of child psychiatry and social work, several personal manuscript collections, as well as over 1,000 patient files and other documents from the Judge Baker Guidance Center in the years 1920, 1935, and 1945/6. These sources allow her to trace the twin brothers of “child guidance” and the threat of “potential psychological problems” (p. 3) and “predelinquency” (p. 91) in young people, which was fabricated by the very same practitioners as those who offered the antidote. In other words, this book is a history of how mental health professionals “succeeded in psychologizing the troublesome child” (p. 11) and the ways in which this concept “became a framework for the reordering of class, gender, and above all, age relationships in the first half of the twentieth century, and a symbol of the ambivalent acceptance of psychiatric authority in modern American life” (p. 15).
Jones explains that the “child guidance” movement originated from Progressive thought. Progressive activists around 1900 sought to remedy the problems of families and children of lower socio-economic status, dressed in a notion of “mother-blaming,” that is, with the conviction that mothers in disadvantaged families cannot create a stable environment and/or that they persuade their children to support the family financially from an early age on (chs. 1 and 2). Mental healthcare professionals around 1920 perpetuated “mother-blaming” by suggesting that mothers in disadvantaged families fail to raise their “children” as independent individuals and did not satisfy their emotional needs—to the extent that, “[b]y 1940 child guidance was synonymous with mother-blaming” (p. 8). A crucial difference between the two movements, however, was the new focus on guiding the ‘normal’ child who gets in trouble with authorities and can be found in any social environment (ch. 4), a point that resonates very well with Lunbeck’s elaboration on psychiatry’s turn to the ‘normal’ in the early 20th century, a study Jones explicitly draws on. It is important to note that some “troublesome child[ren]” were not legally delinquents, but adolescents and children that resisted their parents’ or other societal demands.
Jones argues that “mother-blaming” became an integral connecting point between the three involved professions: social workers had a reason for accompanying the mothers instead of having to deal with the children, psychologists could focus on mother-child bonds and virtually leave the fathers out of the picture, and psychiatrists were able to draw on established psychoanalytic theory to explain the behavior of their novel underage-clients (ch. 3). Consequently, the very roots of the “child guidance” movement in Progressive thought led to the practitioners’ focus on failing mothers or families and thus to the neglect of social and economic factors that triggered legal juvenile delinquency (ch. 7). This rhetoric was particularly effective in the ears of concerned or unresponsive “problem mother[s]” (p. 171) who were supposed to cooperate with the—mostly female—social workers in their homes and with the therapists in the clinic (ch. 7). As Jones shows, over the course of the 25 years in question, mothers came to be considered more and more guilty and children less and less responsible for their state; and fathers, well, they could go wrong but not really twist a child in the view of the practitioners.
Most of the parents were confused by the hardships of parenting members of a modern post-WWI youth culture and gratefully accepted professional advice as to how provide “emotional support” and gain respect in new forms rather than to demand “parental control and authority” (p. 140; ch. 5). Children were “always involuntary participants” (p. 6), Jones’s sources suggest, which is not surprising as they were “troublesome” to the very authorities who took them to a mental health institution. Nonetheless, some of them confided in the staff psychiatrists they worked with and fulfilled the expectations of openness, honesty, and participating in sex education, with the therapeutic measures mostly catered towards male patients (ch. 6).
Mical Raz’s slim monograph The Lobotomy Letters provides insight into a more radical therapy for “troublesome” individuals in US-American psychiatry in the 1940s. The study investigates into the question of “how and why lobotomy could have been seen to work” (p. 1). Raz, herself educated as an M.D./Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science, focuses her study on Philadelphian neurologist Walter Freeman and his team at George Washington University (GWU). Raz’s major sources are held at GWU and consists of publications of Freeman’s group, letter exchanges amongst Freeman and his colleagues, and between practitioners and patients as well as their families, and medical case studies. Raz had only access to the files of patients whom Freeman’s data identified as diseased, leading to a skewed sample, which she acknowledges. From the patient files accessible to her, she used circa 40 different case studies, one group from 1945 (prefrontal lobotomy), one from 1948 (transorbital lobotomy) and one from in between, when Freeman was in the midst of transitioning from prefrontal to transorbital surgery.
Raz’s work puts more emphasis on the therapeutic encounter than Jack Pressman’s comprehensive but institutionally focused monograph Last Resort: Psychosurgery and the Limits of Medicine, which was first published in 1998. In six chapters, divided up evenly into two parts, Raz first considers “Lobotomy as Modern Medicine,” illuminating the context in which lobotomy could become appraised as a valid “last resort” within the heterogeneous but cooperating psy-disciplines, including neurology, neurosurgery, and psychoanalysis (ch. 3). She shows how Freeman was deeply inspired by French alienists in the 1920s; in the Salpetriere, he learned to value the research on mental illness in the clinic over manipulations in the laboratory, but at the same time he was repelled by an experienced absence of French neurologists’ attempts to surgically cure patients (ch. 1). Raz furthermore illustrates how Freeman synthesized localizationist and holistic thought in order to perform targeted surgeries and yet not be theoretically bound to rigidly determinable results (ch. 2). Holism, in Freeman’s book, was not limited to the brain but encompassed the patients’ bodies and their social environment as well.
Second, she writes about “Interpreting Lobotomy,” that is, the ways in which patients were advised, surgeries were prepared, results were examined with imaging technologies, and outcomes were evaluated by practitioners, patients, and their families (ch. 4). In this context, it is important to note that several of Freeman’s patients “chose” to have a lobotomy performed on them (p. 4), adding substantially to Raz’s claim that lobotomy made sense in the mid-20th century. The important concept here was “hope … ‘when all else fails’” (p. 75)—a carte blanche that left out of question the surgeons’ authority when a lobotomy did not lead to the desired results, yes, even if a patient died. Particularly strong is Raz’s emphasis on contemporaneous valuations of states like “docility” (pp. 96 ff) and “regression” (pp. 102 ff; ch. 5). Deemed undesirable side effects in contemporary society, these consequences were welcomed as positive outcomes of the surgical procedure. Infantilizing lobotomized patients and re-raising them during rehabilitation was in part, so Raz argues, “a form of management of frustration, as caregivers and nurses were encouraged to punish and even spank the patient as part of their retraining” (p. 4). This observation is puzzling compared to Jones’s illustration of the guilt-less child concept in Boston around the very same time, but it makes more sense if the spanking is seen as part of a disciplining process that derives from the underlying ideology of “affection, empathy, and care” (p. 108) as understood at the time. Immediately fitting with Jones’s account is Raz’s final chapter in which she shows that “the postoperative employment status” (p. 4) was seen as one of the major determinants of a successful operation and the reintegration of the patient into a productive society, quite unsurprisingly during and immediately after WWII (ch. 6). Overall, Raz contends that her study rejects the “binary divisions commonly invoked in the historiography of psychiatry and medicine: neurology versus psychiatry, holism versus localization, somatic versus dynamic approaches to mental illness, and social versus medical perceptions of illness and well-being” (p. 2).
Tommy Dickinson’s history of nurses and patients involved in the futile attempts of “Curing Queers” in the UK spans the years 1935, when the first official report on aversion therapy as a method for converting homosexual men was published, through 1974, when the American Psychiatric Association formally de-pathologized homosexuality by removing it from the 7th printing of the DSM-II. Dickinson bases his account on a broad source base: fictional and documentary audiovisual material, scientific publications, official reports, newspapers, (auto)biographies, and archival material including manuscripts from nursing associations, patient questionnaires, gay liberation organizations, and more. In addition, Dickinson draws on 25 oral histories of former patients and nurses (short biographies for his interviewees can be found on pp. 244–249). These oral histories are his main source base for chapters 2 through 4. In his introduction, Dickinson reflects on the fact that being gay and a mental health nurse gave him credit and/or made it harder to elicit information in some of the interviews he carried out.
Dickinson follows Raz’s theme of unearthing the extent to which healthcare practitioners believed that a form of treatment, now considered cruel, would be to the patients benefit, and what reasons patients had to undergo these therapies and what they experienced while in treatment. Dickinson connects these observations against the backdrop of a changing concept of homosexuality (including other conditions like transvestism as well as similar gender-non-conformities) as “deviance,” from criminal behavior through a mental illness to a sexual orientation. Because the chapters are thematically organized and have non-chronologically organized subsections, it is sometimes hard to follow this thread of the book.
After an introduction that provides reflections on Dickinson’s concepts and methods as well as a short historical overview of “The medicalisation of sex” since 1533, chapter 1 provides an overview of the legal and social standing of homosexuals in Britain before and during WWII; around 1950, when the Kinsey Report put homosexuality back into the focus of reactionary demands to return to pre-war conservatism; and when government committees debated at a decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts. This attempt came to fruition with the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 (even though still full of exclusions and thus only a de facto liberation for a subset of the homosexual population in the UK); it coincided with a much broader gay liberation and an anti-psychiatry movement in Europe and the US (ch. 5).
Chapter 2 illuminates the reasons for why nurses, who oftentimes overtly lived their own homosexuality in the secluded space of the mental health clinic, participated in painful treatments. During the 1950s and 1960s, aversion therapy, built on Ivan Pavlov’s work on conditioned responses, reached unprecedented popularity in the psychiatric and political realms as well as the broader public; in addition, the methods switched from chemical aversion agents (drugs that provoked nausea and vomiting) to electro shocks, a method more pleasant from the nurses’ point of view. Resonating with Raz’s depiction of lobotomy as ultima ratio, Dickinson shows that nurses considered drastic measures reasonable for severe diseases or cases in which patients suffered massively from their condition. More often than not, the nurses themselves were in underprivileged positions compared to their chiefs of staff and found it thus even harder to speak up on their patients’ behalf, in particular in the face of the reduction of mental health clinic staff in the aftermath of the community-care-oriented Mental Health Act in 1959. The theme of the “[s]ubordinate nurses” (p. 145), who “appeared to have behaved in a subservient, unenquiring and unquestioning manner” (p. 171) is expanded upon in chapter 3. “Subversive nurses” existed as well, and they supported patients who confided in them, for instance, by secretly spilling chemical injections on the floor or counseling the patients as to what strategy they should pursue in order to be discharged from the clinic as soon as possible (ch. 4).
In contrast to Raz, Dickinson repeatedly seems to justify, rather than explain, the mental health nurses’ actions, regardless of whether or not they were defiant. Particularly striking in this work is the frequent mentioning of Nazism; for instance, patients are quoted to have associated aversive therapy with Gestapo methods, and Dickinson actively compares the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany as well as the “obedience” of Nazi nurses during human experiments or euthanasia with the situation in Britain (ch. 3). Aside from illustrating that human rights were not only violated in the UK in the mid-20th century, it is not clear how these comparisons benefit the present work. In the same context, Dickinson also draws on bioethical principles, and in another place, he provides a psychological theory of being “responsibly subversive” (p. 197).
Psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl points to a more recent form of violence within the mental healthcare system and the overtly political misuse of psychiatric diagnoses in his monograph The Protest Psychosis. Focusing on the Ionia State Hospital during the 1960s and 1970s, he illustrates how the early-20th-century concept of schizophrenia, a harmless and predominantly white female emotional disturbance (Part III), was redefined to become a dangerous masculine “Black Disease.” Initially diagnosed with “moral insanity” or “psychopathic personality with amoral trends” (p. 55; Part III), male black Americans were increasingly diagnosed with schizophrenia and confined in the context of the black rights movement. Metzl uses this case study to expose the racialized histories and assumptions engraved in patient-practitioner interactions, psychiatric diagnostic practice, and health-care policies more broadly. He does not deny the material qualities of mental diseases as they are asserted by David Healy’s and Tanya Luhrmann’s protagonists (see below); his work sheds light on the very real determinants of schizophrenia beyond biomedicine, namely, the “social, political, and … institutional factors” (p. xvii).
This book targets a broad audience and aims at revealing and explaining structural violence (p. 202). Metzl draws on representations in newspapers and periodicals, fiction, interviews with former hospital employees, diagnostic manuals, and hospital records, thus speaking to racialized ideas of schizophrenia within and outside of the clinic. He foregoes lengthy notes or deep theoretical considerations and offers exceptionally generous insight into his primary sources by citing lengthy interview transcripts or providing reproductions of documents and pictures he worked with. The 27 chapters of unequal length are divided up into six parts. The first two parts provide historical and conceptual background information on the Iona State Hospital as well as the means of institutionalizing individuals in the 20th century. By 1950, schizophrenia stopped being a condition with harmless symptoms (Part III), and mental hospitals got overcrowded.
Part IV shows how, at Iona, male patients’ diagnoses changed from something else to schizophrenia during their decade-long stays—most likely due to a combination of both worsening symptoms and revised diagnostic criteria (for most women, the reverse transition was the case; Part V). The second edition of the DSM-II, published in 1968, was meant to provide an objective description of schizophrenia and other disorders that are culturally uniform. Despite the absence of explicit racism, the new formulation described precisely the threatening characteristics of the Black Power movement, dressed as psychological pathologies. More outspoken comparative and popular psychiatrists as well as journalists and politicians were quick in making explicit the connection between schizophrenia and the actions of black or ‘primitive’ individuals in the white press; ironically, some scientists even suggested black insanity stemmed from an internalized struggle against racism in the US American society. Part V addresses the deinstitutionalization of hundreds of patients during the anti-psychiatry movement in the 1960s—and the continued confinement of hundreds of black males who allegedly exhibited particularly disturbing schizophrenic symptoms. The population of inmates changed significantly during these years; prisoners as well as non-prisoners were held there until 1972, when civilians were removed, and the institution was transformed into a ‘correctional facility’ in 1977. Despite these changes, the idea of the black violent male schizophrenic persisted, as Metzl illustrates in Part VI.
David Healy is a psychiatrist who works in cognitive therapy, but also used to be the secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology. Mostly informed by scientific and medical publications from the 1960s through the 1990s, his monograph The Antidepressant Era traces the co-development of depression as such and its pharmacological treatments as an interplay between psychiatrists, pharmaceutical companies, regulatory bodies (in particular the Food and Drug Administration, FDA), and the broader (consuming) public in the latter third of the 20th century. Healy calls the advent of pharmacotherapy for depression a “revolution that has transformed our ideas of disease, of health, and of treatment” (p. 1). The most significant change brought about by these “magic bullets” is, according to Healy, that they provided “an armamentarium of specific treatments for specific diseases” (p. 1), an instance of the biomedicalization of the brain and mind already illustrated by Rose and Abi-Rached and a crucial foundation for the further specification of diseases in the DSM (see Michael Strand’s work below).
Healy’s account does not, at least superficially, uncover the amount of physical violence that Goldstein, Matlock, Scull, Oppenheim, and Raz address with regard to earlier psychiatric interventions. Against the backdrop of the “predepression era” (p. 4), starting with humoral medicine (ch. 1), however, Healy makes very clear the forcefulness of antidepressants and the ways in which commerce and reimbursement practices lead to a newly depersonalized psychiatric system that does not meet the needs of many patients. Individuals who struggle, temporarily or over sustained periods, have since the 1960s often been prescribed antidepressants, “the treatment [they] don’t want” (p. 3), instead of non-pharmaceutical forms of therapy (Introduction).
Healy’s history focuses on issues beyond patient-doctor relationships; he provides insight into the non-linear processes of ‘inventing’ the first antidepressants in the 1950s in clinical and laboratory contexts respectively (ch. 2) and the ways in which one of the most pervasive aspects of this ‘discovery’ derived its convincing power from its design as a randomized double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial (RCT), which in the following became the new standard of drug regulation and gave drug development a virtually exclusive home in the laboratory (ch. 3). Several scandals surrounding side effects and the battle for market shares for market shares for each of the many different drugs resulted in public controversies and debates regarding the role of the state in drug development and psychiatric care (ch. 4).
Bridging the scientific/regulatory and the more public stage, Healy illustrates how a new molecular ‘speak’ about the mind and brain became pervasive within psychiatry; the public initially opposed this rhetoric but then adapted it through press releases and popular science reports (ch. 5). Marketing divisions of pharmaceutical companies henceforth employed this new language for great commercial success and spread amongst physicians and the broader public the concept of the undiagnosed depressive individual whose life would be changed by the regular intake of a little pill (ch. 6). A landmark case that established a depressed patient’s right to antidepressants and brought to the surface many ideological differences between the advocates and critics of pharmacotherapy was Osheroff v. Chestnut Lodge (1980s; ch. 7).
Anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann’s monograph Of Two Minds provides “an anatomy of the way psychiatrists come to see the people who come to them as patients” (p. 21). More specifically, Luhrmann assesses the divide between the diagnosis-focused pharmacological and the psychotherapy-oriented dynamic approaches within psychiatry as it presented itself in her ethnographic work with medical residents. Instead of regarding both approaches “different tools in a common toolbox” (p. 7), Luhrmann shows how the medical residents experience the models as disconnected. Psychiatrists tend to subscribe more to the first notion, if only for practical reasons in order to more successfully navigate the insurance system. This is thus an anthropological complement to Healy’s work that focuses on the experience of psychiatrists and on their views of their patients in the age of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. Luhrmann’s main data stems from her extensive participant observation in psychiatric residency programs at the US West and East Coasts in the late 1980s and early 1990s as well as interviews with medical residents, participant observations at psychiatric conferences, educational participation in seminars on psychodynamic therapy, and published scientific literature.
Luhrmann explains that anthropologists distinguish between “disease” and “illness”; the former describes “abnormalities in the structure and function of bodily organs and systems,” that is, a biomedical concept, whereas “illness” is the term that “refers to the patient’s experience” (p. 19). In other words, pharmacotherapy would target a remedy of a disease, and psychodynamic therapy would seek to alleviate an illness. In psychiatric practice, the biologization of a mental illness starts with the ritualized admission of the patient to a clinic, when residents anxiously draft disease histories and admission reports aided by diagnostic manuals and sample reports. Psychopharmaceuticals or cocktails of different drugs retroactively allow for or confirm the initial diagnosis of underlying neurochemical abnormalities. In outpatient psychotherapy, the psychiatrists do not “listen for clues to a diagnosis,” but “for clues to a model” (p. 57). In other words, psychodynamics attends to “the emotion-motivation-behavior bundles” (p. 72) and a clients’ subconscious that determine their experience and interaction in the world, rather than on the mechanisms within their individual biochemical organism—two very distinct ways of tackling the question of “What’s Wrong with the Patient?” (ch. 1).
The motive of the detached and technical clinical psychiatrist, who aims to be a “scientist” and a “fearless investigator of truth” (p. 158; ch. 4), and the intimately involved psychotherapist, a “wise wizard of insight” (p. 158; ch. 4), is more clearly unpacked in Luhrmann’s second chapter, in which she describes the two diametrically opposed vulnerability concepts in both contexts: a view of clinical psychiatrists who may be “harm[ed]” (p. 84) by the diseased “enemy” (p. 90) or their own overinvestment versus the concept of the exposed client who relies on the psychiatrist’s trustworthiness in outpatient therapy. Although in very different ways, both ideas are to a similar degree inherently contradictory: the pharmacotherapeutic approach relies on rational information about the state of the disease from the disturbed patient, and psychodynamic practitioners perceive a client’s maladaption through their own subconsciously formed lenses and yet speak with authority of their interpretations (ch. 3).
The agenda of this book is to illustrate the importance of an integration of both approaches. Luhrmann provides a historical background of why the two strands developed into separate fields in ‘Western’ post-WWII societies and why it would be beneficial, with regards to both health finances and treatment success, to use both within a more holistic complementary treatment model in chapter 5. But the era of “Managed Care,” hitting psychiatric education right when Luhrmann was undertaking her research, benefits the reductive brain-centered cause-and-cure view, as she shows in chapter 6. In a final chapter, Luhrmann unpacks the ethical relevance of this split view. She argues that the two models of mental disease/illness underlie different perceptions of humanity. In the biomedical approach, disease and personhood are matters of the brain, but if the brain is diseased, then a patient is basically denied full personhood. The consequence is psychiatrists’ and society’s denial of responsibility for the care of the mentally ill that goes beyond drugs and confinement, Luhrmann closes.
Sociologist Michael Strand’s “Where Do Classifications Come From?” is an investigation into the reasons for the creation and the success of the DSM-III. Strand draws from published sources in order to trace the controversies before and around the publication of the manual in 1980 and he uses the field theory of P. Bourdieu and the works of M. Mauss, E. Durkheim, G. Bowker, and S.L. Star to frame his account. Strand’s main argument is two-fold: 1) The administrative demands imposed onto psychology and psychiatry by third-party payers and the increasing power of psychopharmaceutical companies did not cause the creation of the DSM-III. The primary reason for a massive revision of the descriptive and psychoanalytically drenched DSM-II was a concern from within psychiatry to end the domination of clinical psychology / psychoanalysis by providing a hierarchical set of medicalized diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses that were not founded on concepts of the unconscious. This asserted the psychiatric authority, since psychoanalysis remained preoccupied with psychotherapy and etiology rather than shift its focus to disease classifications. At the same time, the DSM-III helped psychiatrists to counter the anti-psychiatry movement by distancing themselves from a ‘making up’ of patient identities by imposing diagnostic labels and rather talking about symptomatic behavior and the treatment of specified diseases, not individuals. 2) Once the new classification was in place, the structure of the health system and the existence of disease-specific drugs contributed to its success and pushed psychoanalysis to the margins.
Emily Martin’s Bipolar Expeditions inquires into why and how mania, by itself or as one component of manic depression, is and has been deemed “good” or “bad” for different groups of individuals in American societies of the 20th and 21st centuries. Martin’s approach is anthropological and draws on fieldwork at sites on the US West and East Coasts (support groups, neuropsychological education, neuroimaging communities, professional training seminars, clinical settings, and at medical conferences). Martin also gathered data from interviews with affected individuals and representatives from pharmaceutical companies, exchanges in internet fora, as well as reports and advertisements in popular media. Last but not least, Martin draws from her own experience as an individual diagnosed with and treated for bipolar disorder. An appendix provides the reader with several charts and numbers that provide an overview of disease classifications, medications, changes in terminology, etc. Martin herself prefers the term “manic depression” over “bipolar disorder,” a political move that questions the fact established by the DSM-III of this condition as an unequivocal “disorder,” where it might as well be “a psychological style” (p. 28; see also ch. 1). “The ‘reality’ of manic depression,” Martin explains, “lies in the cultural contexts that give particular meanings to its oscillations and multiplicities” and that “suffering” may or may not accompany this condition (p. 29).
Martin pays particular attention to the ambiguity of “rationality” and “irrationality” in the context of mania in Part I, “Manic Depression as an Experience.” She shows that people diagnosed with bipolar disorder often self-identify as bipolar individuals and perform their cyclical emotions; they are “pronounced” manic-depressed (ch. 4). They join support groups (ch. 5). They exhibit a double-consciousness, even in the very same moment seemingly irrational and yet very rational in their self-awareness of their condition (ch. 2). Some voice their fears of depression and suicide and value psychotropic drugs, asserting that they are still in control of themselves, managing the drug, not the other way round (ch. 3). Others carefully control the intended and side effects of drugs and/or embrace their manic states to the extent that they refuse to take medication during these times because they enjoy manic episodes or believe that mood-flattening drugs are a sign of submitting to normalizing social forces (ch. 6).
Part II, “Mania as a resource,” focuses on the ways in which the mood swings are connected “with economic success and economic failure” in the imagination of capitalist US-American societies (p. 29). The mania concept of the DSM and the market, she explains, are not the same, but they are tightly linked and inform one another. Martin acknowledges that an individual with mania is “a threat to the conception of American personhood” with willfully directed emotions and actions as well as a rationally directed course of life at its core (p. 269). At the same time, however, she suggests that mania is valued by neo-liberal societies as a special resource to allow for conformity with demands for “relentless productivity” (p. 277), for instance, as a Hollywood comedian (ch. 8), a creative worker, entrepreneur, or CEO of a big corporation (ch. 9). It is thus not a break with traditional view of the mind, but only a novel way of assessing one’s mental health and social relationships; the ‘new mania’ derives from “an intensification of many old concepts,” including 19th– and 20th-century ideas of the brain as the seat of the mind and “creative insanity” (p. 10), the hypersexual female and the manic non-‘Westerner’ (ch. 8), or the necessity to trace one’s mood in charts to make self-improvement possible (ch. 7).
With his article “Contending Professions,” Andrew Scull provides an overview of the relationships between the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology from the mid-19th to the early 21st centuries. He identifies four stages in the shared history of the field: First, the 19th century during which psychiatry in the asylum dominated the “psy complex” (p. 131). The treatment of the mentally ill took place in total segregation from the rest of society. Second, the very late 19th and early 20th centuries, when psychology emerged as “a small enterprise largely operating outside the clinical arena,” and its only relevance for the still dominating field of psychiatry were psychometric technologies (p. 131). During these years from circa 1900 to 1945, psychiatry was characterized by “a veritable mania for experimenting upon the bodies of the mentally ill” (p. 134). The segregation between ‘normal’ citizens and the mentally ill continued, but the psychiatrists focused increasingly on physical causes for mental problems and consequently on somatic treatments (see Raz’s and Dickinson’s works) as well as the prevention of further ‘degeneracy’ by means of sterilization. Third, the rise of psychoanalysis to prominence within the psychiatric profession and in popular culture after WWII and the institutionalization of clinical psychology until circa 1980. The discovery of the relative ease with which veterans could be manipulated with psychodynamic methods contributed to a radical ideological change in the psychiatric profession after WWII. Large amounts of government funding through the Veteran’s Administration and the newly founded National Institute of Mental Health contributed to the success of clinical psychology and psychoanalytical psychiatry. Fourth, “the re-emergence of biological psychiatry” and its claim for fundamental scientific authority deriving from psychopharmacology and new “mechanical” diagnostic methods for mental diseases in the second half of the 20th century, pushing psychoanalytical ideologies to the margins again (p. 131). Scull calls this time a “neo-Kraepelinian synthesis” of the belief in diagnostically distinct mental diseases and the confidence that they can be treated with the newly developed psychotropic drugs, a cost- and time-effective way of doing psychiatry (p. 153).
In the present paper, Scull focuses on the “three major shifts” that led to the transitions between the identified phases and discusses phase IV at relatively great length. Through Goldstein’s, Matlock’s, and Oppenheim’s works as well as Scull’s monograph, we have acquired familiarity with phase 1; the pervasiveness of allegedly objective diagnostic psychiatry, including its medication, is illustrated by Dickinson, Healy, Luhrmann, and Strand. The latter also provides insight into the attempts of psychiatrists to assert the authority of their empiricism over psychoanalytical theory with the formulation of the DSM-III.
Fernando Vidal, in his paper “Psychology and Classifications of the Sciences,” takes a more conceptual approach than Scull in “Contending Professions.” Vidal convincingly argues that the process of the classification of scientific subfields sheds light “on the entire history of psychology,” as the delineation and ranking of scientific disciplines is “an epistemic practice that remains external to any particular discipline” (p. 2). This becomes clear in his survey of suggestions for mapping the boundaries around and within the scientific fields from the Rennaissance through the 20th century. Nonetheless, Vidal argues, since psychology is the very discipline that claims to provide insight into the modes of knowledge-making, it has been assigned a special status in relationship to other sciences since early modern times. The thinkers mentioned in his paper “all consider psychology as the link or transition between the physical and the biological sciences, on the one hand, and the historical and symbolic sciences, on the other” (p. 21). This leads him to conclude that “[p]sychology is thus characterized by a diversity of identities and projects, as well as by the mobility and permeability of its boundaries” (p. 22). This diversity or ambiguity, he suggests, “keep alive the two origins of the discipline—its double birth as an empsychologia intimately connected to the sciences of the body and as a psychologia of persistent metaphysical and spiritual significance” (p. 22).
Vidal traces the initial success of psychology’s claim to be one amongst many sciences, mirroring the Renaissance idea of a “science of the soul”; he shows that precisely this attempted alignment with other sciences led to debates surrounding the contents and methods of the field in later years. After the French Revolution, for instance, promoting secularism included the rejection of “psychology” or psychologia as a term, since it carried with it the Christian idea of an immortal soul and thus metaphysical ideas that John Locke and others had tried to reject even before the Revolution. Vidal continues to illuminate the implicit presence of psychology as a science in 19th-century French positivism. He also addresses Herbert Spencer’s mid-century assertion that psychology evolved relatively late as a “concrete” science (p. 14), sharing its objective approach with biology and sociology, and yet being meta-theoretical and different from any other science because of its intrinsic focus on the subjective. Wundt pushed back against this view and counted psychology towards the Geisteswissenschaften despite its use of the experimental method. Piaget, in the early 20th century, declared that psychology relies on the biological and sociological sciences to explain phenomena that influence the mind; at the same time, he remarked that psychology is the only science that can study logic, however, which is a foundation of the pursuit of all other sciences. The overemphasis of logic within psychology led to the Psychologismus-Streit (1890–1914), involving Husserl and others, the topic with which Vidal closes his historical analysis.
Otniel Dror’s article on “Counting the Affects” provides the reader with a revisionist history of “emotionology” towards the end of and after the Victorian era. Instead of banning emotions from public discourse and scientific pursuit, Dror shows, European as well as US-American scientists have engaged deeply and broadly with “[e]motion-as-number” (p. 371). Starting in France in the 1860s with Claude Bernard and speeding up over the course of the next decades, physiologists and psychologists employed mechanical apparatuses to determine the relation of physiological changes with emotional states: heart rate, skin conductivity, blood pressure, and breathing frequency were assessed around 1900; the pre-WWII-years saw new machines, the Stomach Balloon, Tremograph, EEG, and chemical measurements that depended on metabolic and endocrinological processes; and EOP as well as EVP were assessed from the 1960s and onwards. As a pre-history to Jamie Cohen-Cole’s analysis of the downfall of behaviorism in psychology (see below), Dror explains the ways in which the new numerally represented emotions aligned with the image of the body as a biological machine. Numeric emotions, Dror emphasizes, are still emotions, but differ markedly in kind from the “‘feminine’ … ‘sentimental[ity]’,” which spurred the antivivisectionist movement around 1900 and threatened the pursuit of empirical physiology. Quantified emotions seemed scientific and reinforced the authority of rational scientific pursuit. Even the feelings during orgasm could be numerically tamed and publicly addressed with the help of the new tools and language. The numbers were eligible as objects of scientific study in the laboratory, helpful tools in clinical diagnosis, and they allowed the modern public to communicate emotions openly and invite scientific quantification into their private lives, stimulated by diverse “Affectometers,” “Emotographs,” “Stressometeres” etc. in the popular press, for instance (pp. 367 ff). And this idea of measurable, ‘cleaned’ emotions stuck with us, Dror suggests in her introduction; the notion builds the basis for contemporary hypes and hopes regarding the power of new technologies to revolutionize human-machine interaction, human communication, and self-manipulation.
Social psychologist Kurt Danziger published his monograph Constructing the Subject as one of the first historical/STS studies of social psychology. The present work draws on published psychological literature, from the Philosophische Studien detailing Wilhelm Wundt’s practice in Leipzig in the late 19th century to the publications of the more solidified social psychology in the mid-20th century in Germany and the US. Danziger uses his evidence to draw attention to non-‘natural’ objects that psychology concerns itself with, despite the conviction that psychologists study the ‘nature’ of the human mind; these manufactured objects are “test scores, rating scales, response distributions, serial lists, and innumerable other items that the investigator does not just find but constructs with great care” (p. 2). Furthermore, Danziger emphasizes the “social bonds” and “ties of loyalty, power, and conflict” (p. 3) that connect psychologists amongst themselves, within the broader scientific field, and to a wider public, including the business world. The analysis of these ties is particularly strong as Danziger differentiates “between the intended and the unintended social features of experimentation” (p. 61), providing the reader with a an account of the origins of the reductive approach of social psychologists, the genesis of their ‘research subject’, and the culturally particular foundation for the psychologists’ claim that their knowledge is applicable to the world outside of the laboratory.
According to Danziger, psychological methods and standards of presentation were still malleable in the 19th century and the issues of “introspection, mathematization, and experimentation” were key to the debates surrounding psychology’s disciplinary standing (p. 22; ch. 2). Wundt introduced experimental methods to psychology and asserted at the same time that introspection and investigations of the social environment of minds be not neglected (ch. 3). But the Wundtian notion of a knowledgeable introspective subject, who could exchange roles with the experimenter (ch. 4), gave way to a Galtonian notion of an experimentally studied object that stood in for any other human by the 1920s, in particular in US psychology (chs. 5 and 8). This was the time when psychology started to increasingly assimilate itself to other sciences by collecting and quantitatively analyzing data with an emphasis on replication and statistical generalization (ch. 5). Small numbers of research subjects stood in for social groups and controlled interactions in the lab were used to make inferences to societal interactions writ large (ch. 6). This seemingly objective and easily comprehensible quantitative presentation of the mental and “personality” made social psychology attractive to educators and military establishments around WWI (ch. 7) as well as to capitalist businesses in the following decades (ch. 10). But not only the outcomes of psychometric tests were numerically assessed; “events” in the laboratory including sensory stimuli (e.g., weight on one’s skin) were quantified as well (ch. 9). Despite the competing methodological and ideological approaches, Danziger shows, social psychology had “settled into a rather rigid [methodological] mold” (p. 16) by the mid-20th century as a consequence of institutionalized experimental laboratories as well as standardized social procedures and terminologies that specified the roles of the psychological experimenters and the research subjects.
In the edited volume The Rise of Experimentation in American Psychology, Jill Morawski and other social psychologists (with the exception of Richard Gillespie, a philosopher and historian of science) shed light on the experimental method in US-American social psychology. Morawski’s edited volume does not treat the 19th-century history in as much detail as Constructing the Subject; it focuses on the first half of the 20th century, before cognitive psychology came to dominate psychology. Danziger contributed a chapter to this volume, in which he illustrates the aforementioned increasing asymmetry between researcher and research subject—from active collaborators to static roles of the investigator and the passive object of his (sic) research (ch. 2). Overall, the present work provides more detailed accounts of several concrete instances in which the experimental method allowed social psychologists to market their research tools and findings and the contexts in which psychologists managed to uphold their authority in the face of rising concerns about their abstracting and reductive methods. The research questions and goals of social psychologists become clearer than in Danziger’s monograph.
This volume exemplifies the entanglement of the social lives within and outside of the psychological laboratory. Several chapters provide insight into the problems of conceptualizing and operationalizing psychology in quantitative terms (e.g., ch. 1), a task that was crucial if psychologists wanted to extend their reach outside of the lab and speak to issues of industrial labor, for instance at the Hawthorne plants (ch. 6), or to the question of so-called gifted individuals (ch. 7; see also Peter Hegarty’s paper below). The authors emphasize the “real consequences” (p. xiv) that the psychological theories of social groups had, not to mention the exclusion of women within psychology and its professional societies that notably impacted the implicit and explicit gender constructs (ch. 5). These societies were also the contexts in which the negotiation of authority over fellow psychologists can be made visible. Other chapters tackle the authority of psychologists over their research subjects (chs. 2 and 3) and in society more broadly (ch. 3). The introduction of “debriefing” for study participants in the 1960s illustrates the patronizing psychological approach to research subjects and, more concretely, the importance of deception in psychological experiments, combined with an effort to “remedy [its] consequences” (p. xv; ch. 9).
Some contributors illustrate different strategies that psychologists have employed to investigate apparently non-researchable topics (ch. 4). For instance, the question of the cause of sex differences was substituted by a battery of psychometric tests to describe gendered experience, and research on uncontrollable social environments was substituted by investigations of ape colonies, infants, and institutionalized populations. All of these are methods to make the research subject even more passive than it would be in a ‘real’ social context or as a collaborator in the lab. Other concerns revolved around the question of how to detect, limit, and resolve experimental artifacts caused by suggestion and other social interactions between researchers and subjects, which psychologists increasingly concerned themselves with by 1960 (ch. 8). Validity could not be achieved by quantification alone, this chapter shows; experimental design was crucial.
Titled “From Genius Inverts to Gendered Intelligence,” Peter Hegarty’s paper on Lewis Terman’s work on intelligence, gender identity, and sexual orientation in the first half of the 20th century seeks to correct the historiography that overwhelmingly refers to Terman as a researcher of intelligence and only lately acknowledged his deep investment in so-called “sexual inversion” and effeminate geniuses. Hegarty argues that the theory and practice of Terman’s research was from the early days after WWI on inherently gendered; for instance, with regard to the female field workers who “served only as the media through which gifted children came into [Terman’s] world” of the laboratory and could be scientifically studied there (p. 138). Similarly, the future prospects of female geniuses interested Terman less than their masculinized personality features, which were assessed through an interview about the children’s favorite free-time activities. Similarly, the difference in Terman’s approach to juvenile delinquents, which involved deception about the goals of studies on gender and sexual identity, from his respectful treatment of gifted children and their privacy provides insight into the importance of class in Terman’s work. According to Hegarty, Terman was particularly interested in preventing or undoing “sexual inversion” in gifted children and adolescents, asserting, inspired by the Kinsey Report, that homosexuality occurs in all social and intellectual strata and may be reversible.
This paper is written with a clear agenda of subverting Terman’s means of sex/gender and intellect normalization and using them to promote queer notions of human difference in thinking, feeling, and acting Throughout his paper, Hegarty points to differing ideas of the “ideal” in a world of psychological and sexological metrics. In particular, he juxtaposes “Durkheim’s socially conservative understanding of the average as the ideal,” which is framed by pathological deviations and outliers, with “Galton’s socially progressive notion of people of unusual intelligence as cherished exceptions that might drag society forward from its currently mediocre state” (p. 134). Hegarty explains that Terman promoted the Galtonian concept in psychology when his colleagues were still adhering to the Durkheimian concept of genius as a pathological deviation. This makes Hegarty hopeful that even more change is possible in psychology and the broader society. If the Galtonian/Termanian notion of IQ-based genius were substituted for sexual and gender non-conformity or other forms of queer “intelligence,” he believes, our world could come to value queerness instead of sex/gender normalized gifted children.
Rebecca Lemov’s paper “X-Rays of Inner Worlds” tells the history of the projective test movement of US social scientists between 1941 and 1968. Lemov describes how the Rorschach Test and the Thematic Apperception Test were transferred from clinical contexts into the anthropological realm around WWII and employed in order to gain insight into foreign cultures. This shift is closely related to concerns during the Cold War. Social scientists and the government were very interested in context-dependent “inner worlds,” amongst other reasons in order to allow for brain washing. The paper, thus, exemplifies a return to the study of individual subjectivity and the “inner” workings of the psyche that Wundt had championed in the 19th century, but which was abandoned with the rise of experimental psychology as Danziger and the contributors to Morawski’s edited volume illustrate. Furthermore, the study resonates with Joanna Radin’s work on cryopreservation of blood samples from native peoples to the extent that both scholars’ actors aimed at the preservation of native life in a globalizing world—and during the global Cold War. Even though many of the anthropologists were politically left-leaning, their work contributed to a reinforcement of colonial relationships in a de-colonizing era: through projective tests, researchers would be able to read the subconscious of native individuals. In a very Spivakian notion, this amplification of an allegedly native subjective voice only heightened the power disparity between the US and the so-called “Third World,” a term introduced in the 1950s.
With his monograph The Measure of Merit, John Carson investigates into the question of “how merit and intelligence came to be linked within French and [US-]American conversations about democracy and equality” since the mid-18th century (p. xii). This cross-cultural analysis provides a thematic history as opposed to the works discussed above, which focused on the methods of social psychology. Carson assesses the ways in which changing societies have regarded intellectual abilities as inherent talents or environmentally dependent characteristics, and he illuminates the differing notions of achievement variance as well as the legitimizations of social inequality that have interacted with such theories. Carson attends to the views of psychologists, educators, anthropologists, philosophers, political scientists, and popular authorities. The sources on which this investigation is based are held in numerous national and university archives in the US, France, and Britain and include military as well as medical records; furthermore, Carson consulted the archives of institutions such as the National Research Council, the Educational Testing Service, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Throughout the book, he also attends to the popular and political meanings of terms like “talent,” “merit,” and “intelligence” as they became visible in public debates.
Carson traces the scientific qualifications of the declarations of human equality and theories of the perfectibility of humans from the Enlightenment (ch. 1) through the discourse surrounding individual talent and disposition around 1800 (ch. 2); the concern with physiological and mental demarcations between different racial groups in particular in the mid-century (ch. 3); the differentiation of different aspects of intelligence and the obsession with the ‘normal’ and the ‘abnormal’ in clinical and laboratory contexts around 1900 (ch. 4); the birth of the “IQ” out of an early-20th-century fear of degeneration (ch. 5) and to mental tests that classified military recruits into “types” and occupational “material” ( p. 215) in the US during and after WWI resp. the adherence to conceive of intelligence metrics akin to medical diagnoses in France (chs. 6 and 7).
Carson identifies four major differences between the US and France, which can be observed to varying degrees throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and particularly in the 1940s: First, French voices called for governmental action and bureaucracy to cope with the causes for and results of inequality (i.e., intellectual potential as one of the grounds on which state support for individual advancement or care could be mobilized), whereas US citizens’ liberal attitude preferred to let biology, democracy, and the market order social life (i.e., numerical intelligence scores as an objective measure of the abilities of a group of individuals and an explanation for their current state). Second, and in a similar vein, basic education in France was national and comprehensive, while the US organized it locally until way into the 19th century. Third, the concerns about racial differences were an interior debate in the US, but a matter of foreign policy during and after the colonial age, in France. Fourth, the French focused more on individual difference and rejected the US-American preoccupation with generalizations of laboratory findings to the ‘real’ world and for big social groups. Consequently, by the 20th century, social and intellectual upward mobility in the US was significantly impacted by one’s performance on standardized test, while the education system functioned as France’s institutionalized mediator to smooth out and/or reinforce social inequalities.
Nicole Karafyllis and Gotlind Ulshoefer’s edited volume Sexualized Brains comprises contributions from psychologists, sociologists, biologists, historians, cultural anthropologists, philosophers, economists, lawyers, and media theorists (or combinations of these). In four parts, each consisting of three chapters, the authors tackle the historical, methodological, socio-economic, and self-representative dimensions of the cerebral and numerical reification of “emotional intelligence” (EI). Many contributors refer to the gender dimension of this discourse, less to the issue of sex, and even fewer to the question of how the brain gets “sexualized” through EI research. The substantial introduction to the volume promises “a cultural philosophy of [the] science” of EI (p. 6) that aids scholars’ engagement with the gendered brain and “sexual stereotyping” (p. 1) in contemporary neuroscience and pop culture. The contributions all speak to the issue “of individuals[s] rationaliz[ing] their ‘self’ while still believing in their unique personality” (p. 9), but the overall volume reads more like a collection of STS-spotlights on science, its popular interpretations, and the resulting social and economic hierarchies with appeal for scientists themselves. Genuinely philosophical questions are almost exclusively raised in the introduction, and they are not explicated in much detail (e.g., the question of “how he boundaries of the self and the other are defined,” p. 13, is only mentioned; and “the question of what emotions are,” p. 29, is explicitly discarded).
Part I provides historical and conceptual inquiries into brain hierarchies, the use and biological underpinning of the terms “sex” and “gender,” and the specific “Western” emotional style. In Part II, Baerbel Huesing provides a survey and critique of the use of neuroimaging methods to investigate sex differences and gender identity. Myriam Bechtoldt’s chapter links the EQ to an earlier 20th-century concept of social intelligence. Bechtoldt describes the practice of measurement and the appeal of the scores in a capitalist-industrial society in ways that remind of Danziger’s, Hegarty’s, Lemov’s, and Carson’s investigations into the quantification practices of social psychology. A further chapter in this section tries to map the boundaries between the “science” and the “pseudoscience” of EI, an effort that reinforces the authority of EI researchers. Eva Illouz’s contribution to Part III goes back to the aforementioned “Western” emotional style and describes it as the attitude of individuals “who have had the time, leisure, money, and the cultural predispositions to dwell on their emotions, to cultivate the art of having social relations, and to strategically plan their lives and their interactions” (p. 175). The theme of inequitable emotional economies is continued by Carmen Baumeler in her chapter on proposed computational devices. These are supposed to be kept close to the body and quantify, communicate, or even act on a “flexible” individual’s internal emotions in order for this person to achieve full control of the emotions and use them strategically in a neo-liberal consumption and working environment. The promises and dangers of institutionalized and popularized neuroeconomics close this part of the volume. Finally, Part IV discusses the newly constructed emotional self and its ability to empathize; the “othering” dehumanization and masculinization that is expressed in the fascination with the ‘autistic brain’; and the link between the emotional brain and the legal system that is established by neurosociological inquiries.
Jamie Cohen-Cole provides insight into the entanglements between psychology, technology, politics, philosophy of science, and notions of the human mind in his paper “The Reflexivity of Cognitive Science.” He sheds light on the transformation of experimental psychology in the US after WWII, when cognitive science came to replace behaviorism as the dominant psychological ideology. His main argument is that this ideological and methodological shift from behaviorism to cognitivism “involved making normal what had once been normative,” namely a creative, democratic, and open view of the human mind (p. 107). This argument is most interesting, but the shift from the desired normative to the new normal is not entirely convincing from the data presented in the paper. The aforementioned entanglement that led to a normative “open mind,” however, is explicated exceptionally well. Cohen-Cole shows, for instance, how political concerns about Communism led politicians to advocate for research that would specify the kinds of minds that would be prone to accept totalitarian systems and the ways of thinking that align with democracy instead. At the same time that psychology studied the non-behaviorist mind, the discipline itself became more open-minded and expanded its theoretical and methodological reach. By re-valuating “insight” within psychology and scientific pursuit more generally (p. 125), researchers in the 1950s and 1960s overcame the autocracy of empirical trials within psychology. Furthermore, psychologists used new computers that exhibited “higher thinking” and heuristic learning as evidence for the fact that human minds were certainly not bound to deterministic stimulus-response rules (p. 123). Rigidity was deemed old-fashioned, not only with regards to the mind or psychology, but also pertaining to the philosophy of science; a more pluralistic (study of the) mind could at once overcome behaviorism, totalitarianism, and positivism, so most Cold-War politicians’ as well as some scientists’ and philosophers’ hopes.
One of the vital tools to further and communicate knowledge in the brain and mind sciences has been visualization. Communication studies professor Allan Gross’s paper on “The Brains in Brain” surveys brain images in six contributions to the journal Brain from its inception in 1878 to 2003. Drawing on semiotics and Gestalt theory, Gross argues that the brain pictures have shifted from carrying iconic to indexical functions, that is, they do not only resemble a brain (like a drawing) but are causally related to the object of investigation (like EEG or fMRI data). At the same time, he contends, the modalities evolved from time-specific realism in the depictions to abstract conceptual representations that claim high precision but may not be accurate (since it is questionable whether the meticulous fMRI data actually corresponds to a specific brain function). There is no clear break in the tradition of brain-related representations, Gross makes clear, as even the abstract data of electroencephalography (EEG) was combined with patient-specific iconic depictions in the 1950s. More generally, Gross suggests that brain images and the concepts of brain localization research, the primary topic of Brain, have evolved interactively—a claim that sounds reasonable but is not entirely convincing on the basis of the select publications.
In her short paper “Brains, Maps and the New Territory of Psychology,” STS scholar Anne Beaulieu cautions the reader to discard brain imaging methods as “reductionist moves” (p. 561; emphasis mine). She suggests to regard brain maps and brain mapping as “productive processes” instead (p. 561; emphasis mine), a performative set of concepts and practices that connect different disciplinary, institutional, and broader social actors, extend the reach of neuroscientific investigations, and transform the very topics of inquiry. In Beaulieu’s own words, “maps link the life of the mind and the space of the brain” (p. 562). Such maps, Beaulieu claims optimistically, brain maps transform behavioral questions into anatomical inquiries and reframe the nature/nurture question as an investigation into the changes of brain matter. In the case of popular accounts of a PET study of neglected orphans, for instance, “lack of nurture was shown as a biological feature,” assuring Beaulieu that the “[b]iologization of mind in brain mapping takes the social or the environmental rather seriously” (p. 563). She refers to other examples in which brain scanning allegedly performs a “complex translation of phenomena into measurements of the brain” (p. 563), allowing for correlating materialized mental life with genetic and/or environmental factors with regard to intellectual abilities or in the service of medical diagnoses and pharmaceutical interventions. Beaulieu believes that “the map” offers a “link [between] context, mind, and brain” (p. 563). In the face of Lemov’s and Carson’s works on metric assessments of the mental, her optimism sounds rather short-sighted, notwithstanding her calls for “greater public scrutiny” of scientists and their work (p. 565) as well as “increased awareness” by funding institutions and the broader public (p. 566). This call resembles Moreno’s for more neuroethical assessments.
In a paper titled “From Brainbank to Database,” Beaulieu continues her assessment of the changes brought to the brain and mind sciences by imaging technologies. She juxtaposes brain databases from the 1980s and onwards with the more traditional post-mortem brain collection and argues that “the virtual brain” is an entirely new type of brain. It depends on information technologies and computerized tools, but it is also “plentiful” and opens up new research avenues that could not be pursued in the years before the “informational turn,” when scientists had to rely on “the scarce, wet, biological brain” (p. 367). Beaulieu puts much emphasis on the fact that digital brain data, once it is uploaded to a database, allows for comparisons with other “virtual brains” and even for the construction of so-called brain atlases that are obtained by standardizing and averaging multiple “virtual brains.” Whereas wet brains used to be objects of investigation, numerical models allow for brain norms and guide the researchers’ “surveying and exploration” (p. 378) in addition to being objects of investigation. As we will see below, other scholars compare the data-drivenness of brain imaging to industrial production (Kelly Joyce) and challenge the notion of the purely digital and disembodied brain image (Morana Alač).
Several in-depth studies of specific brain imaging technologies were published in the 2000s. Titled Picturing Personhood, anthropologist Joseph Dumit’s monograph first provides a historical overview of the development of PET and the different tasks for which scientists perceived it to be apt. The ethnographies and interviews for Joseph Dumit’s analysis of positron-emission tomography (PET) were carried out in the 1990s, a time during which the neuroscientific PET community was still emerging. Dumit interacted with scientists that ranged “from lab leaders to graduate students” (p. 14) in six different labs in the US, but big names are privileged. Short “Interludes” connect the individual chapters. They are mostly excerpts from interviews with influential brain imagers and exemplify the crucial importance that interview data, rather than ethnographical observations, take on in Dumit’s monograph. This is particular unfortunate in the case of chapter 3, about image generation; Dumit did not interview lab technicians, IT providers, or programmers, and the interaction between these groups and the neuroscientists remain obscure. Overall, the monograph provides more insight into the varying degrees of authority that neuroscientific and legal experts as well as the broader public attach to PET technologies than into the ways in which “biomedical identities” and “person(hood)s” are made up.
In Dumit’s own words, he “follow[s] the images around” (p. 11), starting with their production in the lab (ch. 3). He pays particular attention to the ways in which the anticipated audience influences scientists’ decisions regarding the brain image and its accompanying text, for instance, in a neuroscientific publication or a grant proposal. This illuminates the different phases and ways in which brain data undergoes a process of “appropriation and subsequent translation” (p. 16), a mix of standardizing and normalizing procedures as well as statistical and aesthetic concerns before it is presented in the form of a printed picture. In chapter 4, Dumit analyzes the use of PET images in US legal courts, juxtaposing, on the one hand, the ease with which expert witnesses and the broader public succumb to brain-typing individuals based on colored pictures with, on the other hand, the wide-spread assertion in the neuroimaging community that such uses are unscientific and the hesitance of some judges that the pictures may be “prejudicial” per se (p. 130), and thus should not be shown to jurors. Finally, chapter 5 illustrates the ways in which PET images become “proof of the biological existence of mental illness in the brain” in the public media and how the distinction between “normal” and “abnormal” brains seems so obvious from contrasting colorful brain pictures.
Magnetic Appeal is a sociological analysis of the changing uses of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in US medicine since its development in the 1970s and 1980s. Kelly Joyce, the author of the study, illustrates the institutional and economic structures in which MRI as a technology is embedded as well as the cultural meaning and popular authority that MR images have acquired. The study thus goes beyond Dumit’s analysis of PET; historically, because MRI is a more recent development that does not rely on the injection of radioactive tracers, and conceptually, because money and institutional structures are added as levels of investigation. Joyce draws from in-depth interviews with four MRI developers and shorter interviews with medical professionals, fieldwork at three imaging labs and five professional conferences, patents and technical publications from the 1970s and 1980s, targeted literature reviews from 1999 through 2000, and content analyses of popular media (cf. Appendix, pp. 167–172).
Joyce assesses the uses of MRI in clinical contexts, pertaining to the brain and beyond. She argues that healthcare policies, the corporate hospital, and the hierarchical organization of the medical laboratory as well as a “broader sociotechnical turn toward visualization” since the early 19th century (camera obscura, photography, film, surveillance, etc.; p. 6) are crucial for understanding the cultural appeal of MRI and its success within medicine, despite its significant costs and its questionable contribution to patient wellbeing (ch. 1). MRI, she suggests, has become “a cultural icon—a sacred object” that “can reveal the truth about one’s physical condition, produce a definitive medical diagnosis, and reveal one’s identity” (p. 2; italics i.o.). Chapter 2 resonates with Dumit’s analysis in showing the contingency of MR data representation. The design of MRI apparatuses and the resulting pictures are the results of negotiations between radiologists, other bio-medical professionals, and the anticipated audience. Arrays of numbers or tables and charts would have been equally viable possibilities for anyone but the radiologists.
Chapter 3 inquires into the ways in which MR images gain neutrality and can be presented as visualized objective truth about bodies and people. Joyce argues that this process makes invisible the institutional situatedness of the technology. The origin of MRI technologies in nuclear physics during the Cold War cannot be neglected in this connection (see the change of name from “nuclear magnetic resonance” to “MRI” in the 1980s; ch. 2). In chapter 4, she describes the busy clinical production of MR images as an assembly line in factories that sometimes produce for 24 hours a day. Joyce closely attends to the interactions between radiologists, patients, and technicians—particularly the latter two groups and their “emotional labor” (p. 90) do not get much airtime in Picturing Personhood. This need for efficiency is positioned in the larger fee-for-service healthcare economy of the US in chapter 5, focusing on government investments in MRI, hospitals’ contracts with manufacturers, marketing to referring physicians, and the ways in which MRI labs utilize reimbursement policies to generate profits for their institution. The patient as consumer, who demands to benefit from the truth-generating powers of MRI, carries much potency in this exchange. Joyce concludes that it is precisely the failure of the healthcare system and its providers that makes MRI so attractive, glossing over the “social costs” (p. 21) of the de-personalizing and dis-embodying technologization and economization of healthcare (ch. 6). Nothing along these lines can be found in Dumit’s analysis.
Morana Alač’s monograph Handling Digital Brains provides insight into the meaning-making associated with a yet more recent technology: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Alač’s thoroughly theorized semiotic study provides deep insight into the embodied character of fMR images and their creation. On the basis of videos she recorded during her fieldwork at three Californian fMRI laboratories in the early 2000s, Alač demonstrates the deeply physical interaction of cognitive scientists with data on screens and with each other, in gestures, drawings, use of instruments, and speech. Photographs and simplified line drawings of the recorded scenes illustrate the scientific choreographies to the reader.
“[M]ultimodal interaction” is a key term in Alač’s analysis (p. 20). Not only scanners, statistical tests, and 3D visualization are important in making fMRI knowledge, Alač argues, but also, and crucially, “the engagement of hands” (p. 5). Consequently, despite the neuro-centric and reductive tendencies of brain imaging, this research field is undeniably corporeal and knowledge about brains is performed and embodied by the researchers. In the author’s own words, “cognition … is distributed between people and rooted not only in mental processes and computational inferences but also in a culturally shaped and socially enacted world” (p. 20). Alač’s juxtaposition of disturbing and productive movements in the labs are most insightful (ch. 4). She shows how practitioners use their language and bodies in order to remove motion artifacts from their data and make sense of what they regard a disembodied brain as soon as the subject’s behavior is rendered invisible; such de-personalized brain data can be flattened, inflated, sheared, scaled, rotated, and squished (ch. 6) on a computer screen, which the researchers touch and communicate with in the process of manipulating the data and arbitrarily choosing an aesthetic representation, sometimes based on “guess”-work (p. 113; ch. 5).
fMR images’ iconic function, Alač suggests, is thus not rooted in the pictures’ allegedly objective insight into the brain, as Joyce and Dumit suggest. (Mind that Gross suggests fMR images’ indexical function; see above.) In a Peircian semiotic system, the fMR image—colors that are superimposed on an MR structural image to indicate function in a certain area—are icons in the sense that they are material substrates of the signifiers’ engagement with their object of study and active participants in the process of seeing and getting-to-know (ch. 2). The actual work of scanning a subject’s brain, the noise in the laboratory, and the “apprenticeship” of graduate students that involves learning to hear the different phases of data collection during an experiment are the topic of chapter 3. Gestures in front of screens are an additional pedagogical tool (ch. 4). Furthermore, fMR images provide the basis for collaborations between individual practitioners, entire labs (ch. 6), and are a crucial component in the peer-review process (ch. 7). These exchanges reiterate Alač’s argument that fMRI brains are not merely digital, but have a hybrid nature and “are fields scientists actively engage with, rather than pictures and images [scientists] simply look at” (p. 147)—a clear push-back against Beaulieu’s emphasis on the primacy of digital data in 21st-century neuroscientific research.
Feminist neuroscientists, philosophers, STS and Gender Studies scholars contributed to Robyn Bluhm et al.’s edited volume Neurofeminism, which is, according to the editors, “the first collection of essays to bring a critical feminist perspective to the recent brain sciences” (p. 1). Most of the contributions tackle a specific set of 21st-century neuroscientific claims and methods in order to show its value-ladenness and conceptual as well as methodological problems surrounding it. Despite the interdisciplinary set of contributors, the essays relate closely to one another. Among the big themes is, first, the impossibility to distinguish between biological sex and gender ascriptions/identity, in particular in the brain, where nature and nurture form new materialities, abilities, and convictions, which stimulate new behaviors and change bodies (ch. 10)—and the other way round (ch. 7). In particular, the authors argue, neuroscience should focus more on describing the striking similarities between the brains of women and men (ch. 5) and, furthermore, acknowledge that detected sex differences in the brain may not necessarily correlate with behavioral differences (ch. 2). A turn away from sex-essentialism may at the same time end the sexualization of the brain, some contributors argue (ch. 6).
Second, the authors continue the project of situated epistemologies that challenge past and current ‘objectivity’-focused pursuits of science; they champion a transparency of values in scientific pursuit and its critique (chs. 7, 8, and 9). Third, the chapters draw attention to the fact that cognition is embodied and critique the current brain-centrism, which does not take into consideration the interactions between brains and bodies as mentioned above (chs. 7, 10, and 11). Fourth, some contributors argue that the ‘Western’ ethics builds on masculine ways of seeing and engaging with the world, and care-focused approaches to morality (e.g., Carol Gilligan), for instance, are both undervalued and feminized (chs. 3 and 4). Additional ethical problems derive from structuring the world according to a binary sex/gender concept (ch. 5). Many of the contributions focus on neuroimaging and its aesthetic characteristics that foreclose any discussion about the ambiguity of neuroscientific knowledge and neuroimaging data more specifically (in particular chs. 1 and 6); this contributes to the wide public appeal of neuroscience (ch. 11).
The psychology of sexuality is oftentimes explained with evolutionary models. Robert Richards’s massive monograph Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior traces the pre-history of evolutionary psychology in the 17th century and its elaboration throughout the subsequent three centuries. Richards’s focus lies on the 19th century, including Darwin’s evolutionary theory and the ways in which it was shaped by his personality, education, and his social and cultural context. But Richards also attends to many other researchers, oftentimes without explicitly comparing their concepts to Darwin’s. The historiographical style of this account mirrors the intellectual content it discusses; in the authors’ own words, this book provides “a natural selection approach to ideas” (p. xv). Richards’s conviction is that an ideal history can in fact identify causal relations between historical events, and so Richards seeks the reasons for the nature and prominence of evolutionary theories of mind and behavior in Darwinian thought. This model treats scientific theories as competitors in a common environment; Richards calls his model “nonprogressive” and thus superior to other historiographical frameworks, for instance, the revolutionary model (p. 592; the framework is formally laid out and justified in Appendix 1). Moreover, Richards does not agree with the social constructivism of the Edinburgh school. In his own words: “To Claim that Darwinism is social—or … that all science is social—is maddeningly vague” (p. 556). Since Richards’s account is in large parts an intellectual history that is interspersed with stories about women and episodes of mental distress in the male researchers’ lives, however, it is questionable how convincingly Richards can make his point about the subordinate importance of the social. Furthermore, and no less debatable, Richards proposes an allegedly non-naturalistic ethical system derived from evolutionary theory (Appendix 2).
Richards anchors his philosophical considerations and historiographical style in a wide range of published and unpublished sources from the long period he covers; he consulted archival collections in Germany, Britain, the US, and the Netherlands in order to review the manuscripts and correspondence of important evolutionary thinkers and psychologists. Richards’s positive attitude towards evolutionary concepts derives from his view that Darwin’s early ideas were neither naturalistic and determinist nor anti-clerically polemic. Darwin’s early work and that of his followers conceived of “man” as active and believed “that behavior and mind drove the evolutionary process” and could be inhabited to a certain degree, so Richards argues (p. 6; chs. 2 and 3). The main body of the book makes clear that instinct and habit were core concepts underlying the study of both intelligence/rationality and ethics/morals from the Enlightenment thinkers (ch. 1) through Darwin and subsequent Darwinians as well as experimental (developmental) psychologists (chs. 10 and 11) and eugenicists (ch. 11) in the early 20th century—before behaviorism rose to prominence—to the psychology around 1960 that was characterized by a resurgence of evolutionary concepts in sociobiology and genetics (ch. 11). Richards’s remarks regarding the link between evolutionary theory and population statistics (chs. 6 and 7) are most interesting and may be substantive enough for a separate monograph.
Pieter Adriaens and Andreas De Block’s paper “The Evolutionary Turn in Psychiatry” introduces a special issue about evolutionary psychiatry in History of Psychiatry. The authors aim at providing a historical overview of the engagement between psychiatry and evolutionary theory from Darwin through Freud to new schools of evolutionary psychiatry in the 20th century. In doing so, Adriaens and De Block complement Richards’s account by highlighting the heterogeneity of evolutionary psychiatry and the ends that this disciplinary union served. The first school, “ethological psychiatry,” derives many concepts and methods from Konrad Lorenz’s and Niko Tinbergen’s research from the late 1940s onwards. It is a form of comparative ethology and seeks explanations for human psychiatric disorders in similar conditions in non-human animals. The attachment theorists John Bowlby and Harry Harlow are two examples for proponents of this approach. The second school, to the contrary, “considers mental disorders to be evolutionary oddities that need explaining” (p. 134). According to Adriaens and De Block, scholars who adhere to this school, the “modern synthesis,” search for the genes that make humans susceptible to mental illnesses and ask why these genes managed to stay in the human gene pool, hence the close link between this school of evolutionary psychiatry and theoretical population genetics between the 1920s and 1950s. Julian Huxley would be an exemplary scholar of this kind.
“The History of Sexuality Meets Evolutionary Psychology” zooms in on evolutionary theories of sexuality in the late 20th and early 21st centuries—from Wilson’s sociobiology in the 1970s through wild searches for individual genes in the 1990s to more measured research endeavors in the 2000s. Drawing from scientific reviews and popular scientific accounts, H.G. Cocks provides a crystal-clear and succinct overview of evolutionary psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ theories of sexual selection and the system of ultimate and proximate causes, the latter of which are regarded to be of less importance in the grander scheme of evolutionary things. Cocks explains the different concepts that explain sex and gender differences in physiology and behavior according to the sexual selection theory, for instance, with regards to parental investment on the macro- or sperm competition on the micro-level. It becomes clear that genes are at the core of any behavior, including rape and homosexuality. The latter, in fact, served a test case for the theory that genes underlie sexual identity, an idea that could not be proven right, but was not abandoned either. Like many evolutionary psy-scientists, the hunters of the ‘gay gene’ retreated to a softer version of their argument in the post-genomic age and proposed gene-environment interactions. In the final part of the paper, Cock reviews critiques of sexual selection from the natural and social sciences and humanities. It becomes clear that the theory is controversial even amongst scientists. Quite critical towards humanities scholars is Cocks’s assertion that historians cannot intervene in the debate of whether or not genes or environment “cause” human behavior and character as they only have access to historical time, not evolutionary time, a thought that is turned upside down by Michael Pettit and Peter Hegarty (see below).
Rebecca Jordan-Young’s monograph Brain Storm “sets out to question answers” pertaining to the causes of femininity, masculinity, and sexual orientation that are allegedly provided by the brain organization theory (p. ix). The theory rests on the assumption that sex-, gender-, and sexuality-related characteristics are determined by the developing brain’s exposure to so-called sex hormones, in particular prenatal testosterone. The monograph does not contain an explicit engagement with evolutionary psychology, but it is obvious that genes and hormones play a significant role in this connection. Jordan-Young draws from scientific publications from 1959 through 2008 and interviews with 21 leading brain-organization researchers. The measured tone and the deep engagement with the science on its own terms reflect Jordan-Young’s hope that scientists may read her book. Jordan-Young, who received training in biology herself, acknowledges that brains, genes, hormones, and sex/gender/sexuality do interact, just not in the simplistic causal ways proposed by brain organization theory. She also provides an overview of the ways in which feminist scholars have grappled with this entwinement and criticized science for its reductive approaches; in doing so, Jordan-Young offers a sophisticated and very accessible analysis of the categories sex, gender, sexuality, which makes this book a great teaching resource in the context of the nature/nurture debate or third-wave feminist science critiques.
Jordan-Young questions the assumption that brains are hormonally determined to be male or female and homo- or heterosexual on two levels: First, she explains that human brain research can only perform quasi experiments, which do not allow for simply reading out a cause-effect relationship. In the first half of her book, Jordan-Young scrutinizes different quasi experiments in brain organization research and argues that many of the studies differ methodologically, structurally, and conceptually to a degree that does not allow for extrapolating the cause-effect relationship even from this large number of studies (cf. “symmetry principles” in ch. 3). She also attends to the question of how much animal models can tell us about the ‘nature’ of human sex, gender, and sexuality. Second, Jordan-Young analyzes the results of the disparate studies. She illustrates that many of the findings are inconclusive or even contradictory and contends that brain organization theory, even if the quasi experiments were comparable to one another, is a poorly supported theory that forecloses debates surrounding the impact of gender roles, stereotypes, and education on brains and selves. Chapters 6 through 8 zoom in on three specific characteristics that brain organization theory seems to explain, on possible means of measuring sexual orientation, (fe)maleness, or masculinity/femininity, and on the sex/gender/sexuality concepts that these studies (re)produce. The two closing chapters point more outspokenly to the problems of neuro-centrism and ‘pathological’ samples; Jordan-Young argues for a more contextualized and embodiment-sensitive approach to sex, gender, and sexuality in the brain.
“Psychology and Sexuality in Historical Time” is a contribution to the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology, co-authored by historian of psychology and STS scholar Michael Pettit and Peter Hegarty, a social psychologist who also engages in historical work. Whereas the following contributions will debate the importance of neuroscientific concepts for social science and the humanities, Pettit and Hegarty argue for the importance of a historical perspective in neuroscience. They provide an overview of four different kinds of “time” in their introduction: evolutionary time, historical time, developmental time (with regard to each individual), and situational time (as it can be measured in psychological observation). They proclaim that psychologists interpret situational assessments in developmental or evolutionary frameworks, neglecting historical time and thus de-contextualizing their inquiries into human sexuality. This dangerous practice stems from the historical controversies surrounding the degree to which psychology can be regarded a science, the authors suggest. In order to avoid close engagement with the humanities and for reasons of navigating the nature/nurture debate from a biological standpoint, psychology of sexuality got acquainted with ignoring crucial historical shifts related to their topic of study.
The paper provides an overview of the most important primary and secondary sources—empirical and conceptual—in the history of psychology and sexuality in order to exemplify the necessity and fruitfulness of attending to historical changes in “Bodies, Behaviors, and Pleasures” (e.g., the changing experience of fertility and child-bearing in the age of birth control from the 1920s to the 1970s), norms and legal regulations (e.g., from overt homosexual behavior through the construct of the dangerous homosexual individual in the mid-20th c. to homosexual liberation around 1970), epistemologies and concepts (e.g., sex/gender distinction in the 1970s), and self-images (e.g., making up the “sexual psychopath” before WWII and shortly after). If psychologists embraced historical developments of the meanings of bodies, sexualities, and sex/gender, the authors suggest, they would not only better understand the forces by which their clients’ experience is shaped, but also be empowered to advocate for legal and social change.
Elizabeth Wilson’s short monograph Psychosomatic provides a novel and constructive feminist engagement with neuroscience. Wilson critically reads scientific publications not in order to expose neuro-reductionism, but with the goal of identifying models for new ways in which feminist studies can incorporate bodies and biology into their work. Wilson uncovers the creative moments of biological explanations in these authors’ writings and suggests that the feminist equation of biologism with reductionism is in itself reductive. Wilson’s hope is that scientific accounts below “can help feminists build more robust models of embodiment and emotion” (p. 83). This is a daring endeavor, since Wilson de-contextualizes the scientific literature in order to find “useful conceptual framework[s]” (p. 83) to strengthen feminist oppositions against sex-essentialism, social hierarchies, and bio-medical reductionism—knowing that the very same texts have, in their historical and cultural contexts, served opposite ends.
Amongst others, Wilson attends to Sigmund Freud’s neurological studies, which shaped his idea that distributed physiological networks and interactions between the body and the psyche underlie mental disturbances (Introduction and ch. 1); Peter Kramer’s optimistic attitude towards psychopharmacology, which derives from his belief in the interaction between experience and neural matter (ch. 1); neurogastroenterology and the study of the now so-called enteric nervous system from Freud through the 20th century, which can enrich models of “the nervous system beyond the head” (p. 34; ch. 2); Simon LeVay’s theory of the male gay brain, which adheres to heteronormative constructs but nonetheless promotes a productive idea of what Wilson calls a “reticulating structure” (p. 59), that is, an embodied view of the brain in general and the hypothalamus in specific, as a material structure in which not only sexuality but several basic body functions can be located (ch. 3); Charles Darwin’s work on blushing and trembling, which exemplifies not only an early version of de-centralized effects of the peripheral nervous system, but also Darwin’s utilization of Lamarckian ideas of inheritance and intersubjectivity allowing him “to form a frame of reference for these uncanny psychosomatic events” (p. 76; ch. 4); and Oliver Sacks’s conviction that affective neuroscience can only be successful if it includes both archaeological (cultural influences and transformations) and paleontological approaches (biological roots and evolution), which stimulated his research on reptilian temperament and resonates with similar popular accounts that associate the ‘emotional brain’ with the brain of evolutionarily earlier organisms’ central nervous systems, thereby blurring animal-human boundaries (ch. 5).
What is implicit in Wilson’s monograph becomes explicit in Daniel Smail’s work: the assertion that psychological characteristics can at the same time be biological and cultural. “Neurohistory in Action” is a concrete application of Smail’s concept of “neurohistory” or “deep history” to the case of compulsive hoarding. This approach seeks to explain human history by adding neuro-paleontology to the toolkit, an approach Wilson touches upon in her chapter on Oliver Sacks. More concretely, Smail’s “neurohistory” takes serious traditional historical ideas of cultural and social production and combines these with the neuroscientific concept of plasticity in order to explain how certain cognitive lesions and genetic predispositions can nowadays lead to compulsive hoarding. This approach is superior to evolutionary psychology, Smail claims, since genetics and neuroendocrinology cannot solve the mystery of why the aforementioned lesions and genetic setups only induce this psychopathology in certain societies and not in others; he bases this argument on the assumption that “hunter-gatherer peoples of the Upper Paleolithic,” for instance, never experienced this symptomatic (p. 111). Smail maintains that the “hand-off model,” which asserts that biological evolution stopped in order to give way to cultural evolution, is wrong (p. 113). He is convinced that a “[g]ene-culture coevolution” (p. 115) still shapes the human physiology and psyche, and he bases his approach on environmental history. Thus, “growing emotional entanglements with things” in recent human history in combination with the societal tendency to “recycl[e] and repurpose[e]” (p. 119) and may have led individuals with a certain genetic or psychological setup to abandon the common “hierarchy of use and uselessness” (p. 122) and seek release in an exaggerated form of consumption, that is, hoarding. In Smail’s view, this “coevolution” has not only created a “disorder” but also offers a reflection of a broader cultural phenomenon, which he identifies as “misplaced priorities” (p. 122).
Max Stadler’s contribution to the debate surrounding “deep history” was published in the same Isis Focus Section as Smail’s aforementioned paper—and the same is true for the following two articles. Stadler’s paper takes a less radical stance than its title “Neurohistory Is Bunk?” may suggest. Stadler does not explicitly approve or disapprove of Smail’s concept of “neurohistory” and suggests instead that the concept of a biological-cultural mind precedes Smail. In Stadler’s own words, we are at least partially “already participating in a culture profoundly tuned toward a quasi-naturalistic construction of the mind/brain as an embodied, situated, and distributed thing” (p. 133) and, thus, may not be in the position to assess the premises of “neurohistory” with sufficient distance. The “postclassical mind,” Stadler suggests, anticipated the idea of materialized cognition (p. 135). According to him, the availability of computer technology to the scientist and the private citizen in the 1980s shaped a “new natural philosophy” (p. 139) in which ideas of the mind are linked with notions of parallel processing and artificial intelligence; “technological prostheses” (p. 142), “user psychology,” and “cognitive engineering” (p. 137) were promoted and/or perceived as accelerated versions of biologically evolving human intellect and already blurred the lines between the biological, technological, and mind sciences. “Neurohistory,” Stadler contends, does not go much farther.
Stephen Casper’s paper “History and Neuroscience” does not explicitly engage with Smail’s “neurohistory.” Casper complements Stadler’s detection of late-20th-century bio-cultural concepts of mind with an analysis of neurology in the 19th and 20th centuries. He shows that neurologists have long claimed to provide a holistic assessment of body and psyche with their science that can and should be utilized for social and cultural ends. This claim is paralleled by late-20th– and early-21st-century assertions that neuroscience is an all-encompassing science that can solve the problems of many natural and social sciences and increasingly the humanities as well. And both disciplines, according to Casper, have argued that the neuro-approach can be most successful if it is reductive, a matter of knowledge about structure and function, which scientists can translate into avenues of self-improvement, advice for “natural political economies,” justifications for social hierarchies, and explanations for cultural values (p. 124). This primacy of the nerves, which are causes for and influenced by all matters biological, social, and cultural, leads to a “strangely self-referential universe” (p. 131), “a closed world of science, medicine, and biopower” (p. 132) in which neuroscientists decide about what the world is, how it should be, and how their research should be used to get there, Casper concludes.
Roger Cooter deserves to have the last word on brains and history in this long essay of book and paper summaries. His article “Neural Veils and the Will to Historical Critique” tackles the question of “Why Historians of Science Need to Take the Neuro-Turn Seriously.” Following Cooter’s description of how the neuro-turn has already permeated society and academia, including the humanities—one of the best examples for this is Smail—, the timeliness of this article becomes very clear. Cooter asserts that the neuro-turn is unique in that it was the first turn in the humanities to occur outside of “postmodernism as a body of thought critical of modernity” (p. 154) and introduce an entirely new reductive ideology. Already by embracing the neurosciences as a groundbreaking novelty, Cooter argues, does a historian buy into this ideology and the neuro-turn itself becomes one of the most serious obstacles in writing a critical history of the neurosciences. What is more, the neoliberal-neurocentric complex devalues history itself, as an academic discipline and as an endeavor to understand the present and learn for the future. In Cooter’s own words, the neuro-turn has introduced a new “regime of truth” in which only the biological is “real” and reliable (p. 148) and in which science becomes “a source of autonomous power without being recognized as such” (p. 150); this deeply political transformation caters towards the advancement of neoliberal principles and yet claims objectivity. Cooter refers to “neurohistory” as one exemplary of unfortunately many more movements that utilize scientific tools and concepts without realizing the politics that are embedded in them, a practice I have previously critiqued for Wilson’s work. He urges historians of science to not buy into the allure of “neuro” and instead maintain a will to “be critical and reflexive” despite the hardships of actually working out such a critique as we all are already part of this veiled neuro-age. Such an attempt to distance oneself from the “neuro” will not lead to marginalization, Cooter argues, but is vital to saving the entire discipline of the history of science, institutionally and intellectually.