New Histories of Psychology: Politics, Publics, and Power
This Consortium working group builds on a virtual community, founded in the midst of the pandemic to connect scholars working in the history of psychology. “New Histories of Psychology” seeks to integrate the subfield of history of psychology into the heart of the history of science by reading cutting-edge scholarship that highlights major themes in the history of science—from the role of experts to the popularization of science. Our monthly themes focus on the intersections of psychology with contemporary issues, showing how psychology has been bound up in politics, publics, and power throughout its history. The content of monthly meetings will vary session to session, including a mix of key texts, panel presentations on a common theme, and workshop opportunities for works-in-progress. We welcome scholars at all career stages and all disciplines, including those in related fields concerned with the history, sociology and ethnography of the human sciences, as well as psychologists interested in understanding the history of their discipline. We aim to create a multi-disciplinary space for pursuing theoretically-informed, critical histories of psychology, involving scholars from different institutions, disciplines, and career stages.
Please set your timezone at https://www.chstm.org/user
Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy
Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.
Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to email@example.com.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EDT
April 28, 2021
Radical Psychiatry and Political Activism
In the 1970s, a growing number of psychiatrists expressed concern that their field was merely adjusting people to an oppressive society rather than to changing the oppressive society itself. In challenging many of the suppositions and traditions of their discipline, radical psychiatrists urged a shift from biological approaches toward political organizing and community mental health. This challenge was not only at the ideological level, but a shift at the professional and organizational level as well, including separate caucuses (i.e., the Black Caucus and the Women’s Caucus). The role of radical psychiatry meant not only challenging the authority of psychiatry, and the psy sciences more broadly, but also meant including informal expertise and advocacy from current or former mental health consumers/patients. What were some of the insights from radical psychiatry and what were its limits? What can these separate groups of psychiatrists and therapists tell us about psychiatry and counseling today?
Richert, L. (2014). ‘Therapy Means Political Change, Not Peanut Butter’: American Radical Psychiatry, 1968–1975. Social History of Medicine, 27(1), 104–121. https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkt072
Center for the History of Psychology blog: https://centerhistorypsychology.wordpress.com/2020/02/20/young-people-always-at-the-forefront-of-change/
Kunzel, R. (2017). Queer History, Mad History, and the Politics of Health. American Quarterly, 69(2), 315–319. https://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2017.0026
March 24, 2021
Deinstitutionalization and Abolitionist Futures
Deinstitutionalization, a term often referring to the closing of psychiatric asylums in the late 20th century, remains controversial today. While institutionalism was seen as dehumanizing, the New Asylums thesis has come to describe mass incarceration in prisons as the result of deinstitutionalization without considering the differences between populations of the two. Concerns of reentry (that is, people going from incarceration to society at large) have extended treatment and surveillance into public life and private homes. These issues are further complicated by the fact that institutionalization has increased in certain parts of the world, while in the US there has been a rise of abolitionism. How might historical narratives about the deinstitutionalization of the mental ill fit with the rise of mass incarceration? What are the implications for understanding institutions as disabling? What are the stakes compared to different forms of psychiatric treatments? Do criticisms of deinstitutionalization risk feeding into reform of current practices?
Ben-Moshe, Liat. 2017. “Why Prisons Are Not ‘The New Asylums.’” Punishment & Society 19(3):272–89.
Abi-Rached, Joelle M. 2021. “Psychiatry in the Middle East: The Rebirth of Lunatic Asylums?” BJPsych International 18(1):5–8. doi: 10.1192/bji.2020.22.
February 24, 2021
What is “Behavioral” in Behavioral Economics?
Behavioral economics has a particular hold on the twenty-first century (neo)liberal imagination. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the field of mathematical psychology went from the academic margins to the political mainstream as a scientifically respectable way of talking about human irrationality. In this session, we will scrutinize this ascendency, focusing on the popular dichotomy between thinking fast and slow, short- and long-term. Why did heuristics switch from making us smart in the 1950s to error-prone in the 1970s? Is the distinction between behavioral and neuro-economics a semantic or ontology one? Is brainhood a necessary component of dual process theories? Does the popularity of ‘nudges’ among policy-makers represent a behaviorist “counter-revolution” against cognitivism (and democracy)? How is behavioral economics’ critique of human judgment related to wider critiques and venerations of expertise?
Natasha Dow Schüll and Caitlin Zaloom. "The shortsighted brain: Neuroeconomics and the governance of choice in time." Social Studies of Science 41, no. 4 (2011): 515-538.
John McMahon, "Training for Neoliberalism," Boston Review (2015). http://bostonreview.net/books-ideas/john-mcmahon-richard-thaler-misbehaving-behavioral-economics
January 27, 2021
We live in a world awash in emotion. Its experience, measurement, manipulation, and augmentation shape daily life. From feminist engagements with “public feelings” to the emergence of positive psychology as a third force to hot cognition in decision making, the affective realm has recently taken a more prominent place across numerous academic disciplines. How should we make historical sense of this “affective revolution”? Is the pursuit of happiness a political ideal or an existential curse? In this session, we focus on the long past and short history of (un)happiness.
Sara Ahmed, "Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness," Signs 35, no. 3 (2010): 571-594.
Content Warning: suicide
Jennifer Senior, “Happiness Won’t Save You,” New York Times, November 24, 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/24/opinion/happiness-depression-suicide-psychology.html
December 16, 2020
“I Got a Lot of Problems with You People”: Our Favourite Pet Peeves about the History of Psychology
As the days grow short and people retrieve their unadorned aluminum poles from the closet, our thoughts inevitably turn to the holidays. Please join us for a History of Psychology Festivus! In this light-hearted session, we invite participants to “air their grievances” about the field’s greatest foibles as work together to imagine a brighter future. Libations optional!
November 18, 2020
Reading the Archive after #metoo
In the fall of 2017 sexual harassment came to the forefront of public conversation. Accounts of harassment and its consequences soon proliferated under the banner of the #metoo movement, first organized by Tarana Burke more than a decade earlier. While ‘sexual harassment’ as a distinct term only emerged in the 1970s, unwanted sexual attention has long had a presence in, and impact on, people’s lives. As historians of the human sciences operating in the post-#metoo era, how might we read the archive for traces of sexual harassment in the lives of our historical actors? What challenges and opportunities present themselves by attending to sexual harassment’s presence in the archive? How can we productively engage with sexual harassment as both an experience and exercise of power? What kinds of sources lend themselves to revealing these kinds of stories? How might an awareness of sexual harassment and its dynamics inform understandings of who our historical actors are and the knowledge they produced? In this session we will explore these questions and consider how sexual harassment may inform histories beyond those explicitly centred around gender.
Young, J. L., & Hegarty, P. (2019). Reasonable men: Sexual harassment and norms of conduct in social psychology. Feminism & Psychology, 29(4), 453–474.
Kim, S., & Rutherford, A. (2015). From seduction to sexism: Feminists challenge the ethics of therapist–client sexual relations in 1970s America. History of Psychology, 18(3), 283–296.
October 14, 2020
How Our Biases Became Implicit
Implicit bias is one of psychology’s most (in)famous contributions to the popular lexicon. The concept's entry into the North American public sphere is sustained by the availability of the Implicit Association Test and the rise of the implicit bias training industry in organizations. Theories of implicit bias suggest that ongoing discrimination, like racism and sexism, are sustained not be conscious, explicit beliefs but by implicit, unconscious, automatic biases we all hold.
Yet the very prevalence of implicit bias has fuelled a backlash. Some vocal critics of the IAT challenge its methodology (eg. how the algorithms derive cutoff scores) and predictive validity, concerned that the associations it measures don’t correlate to real-world behaviour. These criticisms, ostensibly about psychometrics, embed political concerns about the overreach of implicit bias and a broader opposition to diversity and inclusion policies. The conservative backlash against implicit bias just reached its peak with the latest US executive order, which essentially forbids government contractors from conducting implicit bias training.
For more left-leaning radical critics, the problem with implicit bias is that it doesn’t go far enough. Their worry is that implicit bias neither names nor addresses the structural and systemic factors that produced and sustain racism or sexism or other inequalities. This session will explore questions about the intertwined scientific and social dimensions of implicit bias. What are the implications for understanding racism and sexism in terms of individual implicit bias? What are the stakes when psychological concepts travel in the world? Do criticisms of implicit bias risk feeding into this conservative backlash? How can historical and critical approaches to psychology navigate the scientific and political stakes of implicit bias?
Jeffrey Yen, Kevin Durrheim and Romin Tafarodi, “I’m happy to own my implicit biases’: Public encounters with the Implicit Association Test,” British Journal of Social Psychology (2018)
Olivia Goldhill, “The World is Relying on a Flawed Psychological Test to Fight Racism,” Quartz (Dec) 2017)
September 16, 2020
Troubling the Commemoration of Psychology’s Past
What is the relationship between commemoration and critical history? Historians of psychology often find themselves in role of keeping the memory of the past alive in the discipline. Such an imperative often exists in tension with a scholarly, critical perspectives. We live in a moment of renewed concern about the ways in which universities and other institutions mark and celebrate their past. Many honored figures not only held abhorrent views on gender, race, sexuality, and ability but acted to promote and enshrine them. From the recent denamings of the Galton Lecture Theatre at University College, London and Thorndike Hall at Columbia University’s Teachers College to the European Association of Social Psychology’s decision to rename its Tajfel Award, these issues touch directly on the history of psychology. Are these merely symbolic gestures which keep existing structures in place? How do certain memories of the disciplines past get materialized into the space we inhabit? What would a critical practice of commemoration look like? In this session, we will explore these issues and think about how to incorporate the current controversies over commemoration on one’s own campus into the pedagogy of the history of psychology class.
Alderman, D. H., & Reuben, R.-R. (2020). The classroom as “toponymic workspace”: Towards a critical pedagogy of campus place renaming. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 44(1), 124–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2019.1695108
How to Research Your Own Institute (U.S. edition)
August 12, 2020
Tuck, E. (2009). Suspending damage: A letter to communities. Harvard Educational Review, 79(3), 409-428.
Mascarenhas, M. (2018). White space and dark matter: Prying open the black box of STS. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 43(2), 151-170.
Kira Lussier is a historian of psychology, technology and business. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto. Her work has been published in History of Psychology, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Slate, and Aeon. Her current book manuscript, Personality, Incorporated, traces a history of psychological testing in North American business, science, and society.
Michael Pettit is a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto. He is the author of Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America (2013) and over a dozen scholarly articles on the history and public understanding of psychology. Website: https://health.yorku.ca/health-profiles/index.php?mid=645753
Dana Simmons is Associate Professor of History at U.C. Riverside specializing in the history of science and technology. Her research interests include hunger, nutrition, soil and plant science, political economy, the human sciences, feminist theory and technoscientific utopias.
CJ Valasekis a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology & Science Studies at University of California San Diego. CJ is currently finishing a dissertation on the racial origins of reaction time measures and discount rate models used in behavioral economics today.
Jacy L. Young is a critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology at Quest University Canada. Her research interrogates the methods, practices, and assumptions that shape knowledge production in psychology, as well as their attendant consequences. She has published on a diverse range of topics, including sexual harassment, questionnaires, intelligence testing, mindfulness, child study, big data, pedagogy, and evolutionary ideas. Website: https://jacyyoung.com/