Neuroscience and Critique appears in an established genre – but it has significant virtues of its own. Central among these is the sheer breadth of its scholarship: this is a properly interdisciplinary collection, featuring not only philosophers with interests in critical theory and/or psychoanalysis, but also a geographer, an anthropologist and STS scholar, a neuroscientist, and a psychologist, among others. What holds this disparate collection of interests together is a commitment to not only some kind of critical engagement with neuroscience – but also a shared attention to what, precisely, critique can do, even to what critique might be, as it gets more widely entangled in neuro-sciences and neuro-cultures.

Jan De Vos and Ed Pluth (Eds.), Neuroscience and Critique: Exploring the Limits of the Neurological Turn New York and London, Routledge, 2016, 236 pages, hardback £95.00, paperback £31.99, ISBN: 978-1138887350 What is it about neuroscience? Ever since a group of disparate life sciences – partly propelled by ‘the decade of the brain’ in the 1990s – congealed into what we today call ‘neuroscience,' scholars from the humanities and social sciences have been committed, sometimes intensely committed, to a more-or-less sharp critique of this science, and the unspooling of its socio-political effects. Indeed, in recent years, neuroscience has not only been the object of critical scrutiny, but has become something of a whet-stone on which critique sharpens itself – a sort of funhouse mirror for critical social scientists to figure out what it is, exactly, they stand for. What explains this cultural role of neuroscience in the academy? Is it a fear that, in its powerfully reductive hold over

human subjectivity (so it seems, anyway), neuroscience will ultimately stake a claim to all social, cultural, and human insight – an ‘expectation,’ as Jan De Vos and Ed Puth put it in their introduction to Neuroscience and Critique, ‘that the neurosciences will explain it all?’ (p.2). Neuroscience and Critique appears in an established genre – but it has significant virtues of its own. Central among these is the sheer breadth of its scholarship: this is a properly interdisciplinary collection, featuring not only philosophers with interests in critical theory and/or psychoanalysis, but also a geographer, an anthropologist and STS scholar, a neuroscientist, and a psychologist, among others. What holds this disparate collection of interests together is a commitment to not only some kind of critical engagement with neuroscience – but also a shared attention to what, precisely, critique can do, even to what critique might be, as it gets more widely entangled in neuro-sciences and neuro-cultures. At the heart of the book, then, is a…

The July 2016 issue of History of the Human Sciences (Volume 29, Issue 3) is now published. Abstracts of research articles, plus links to the full text, are below. Elwin Hofman (KU Leuven) - 'How to do the history of the self'' The history of the self is a flourishing field. Nevertheless, there are some problems that have proven difficult to overcome, mainly concerning teleology, the universality or particularity of the self and the gap between ideas and experiences of the self. In this article, I make two methodological suggestions to address these issues. First, I propose a ‘queering’ of the self, inspired by recent developments in the history of sexuality. By destabilizing the modern self and writing the histories of its different and paradoxical aspects, we can better attend to continuities and discontinuities in the history of the self and break up the idea of a linear and unitary history. I distinguish 4 overlapping and intersecting axes along which discourses of

the self present themselves: (1) interiority and outer orientation; (2) stability and flexibility; (3) holism and fragmentation; and (4) self-control and dispossession. Second, I propose studying 4 ‘practices of self’ through which the self is created, namely: (1) techniques of self; (2) self-talk; (3) interpreting the self; and (4) regulating practices. Analysing these practices allows one to go beyond debates about experience versus expression, and to recognize that expressions of self are never just expressions, but make up the self itself. Egbert Klautke (University College London) - '"The Germans are beating us at our own game" - American eugenics and the German sterilization law of 1933' This article assesses interactions between American and German eugenicists in the interwar period. It shows the shifting importance and leading roles of German and American eugenicists: while interactions and exchanges between German and American eugenicists in the interwar period were important and significant, it remains difficult to establish direct American influence on Nazi legislation. German experts of…

We were delighted to publish an in-depth review essay by Colin Gordon, on the new Cambridge Foucault Lexicon, in the July 2016 issue of HHS (Gordon is, among other things, an internationally-renowned scholar of Foucault; he is editor of Power/Knowledge [Pantheon] and co-editor of The Foucault Effect [Chicago]). We were even more delighted that when our colleagues at Sage made the essay open access, a status that will be retained through the end of 2016. You can now access the essay, without subscription, here: http://hhs.sagepub.com/content/29/3/91.full.pdf+html 

Perhaps the most shocking part of this book are the stories of what happened to these Jewish psychologists after fascism had fallen during and after World War Two. Unfortunately, as with many other Jews who had been discriminated against or sacked in a variety of sectors, their reintegration and rehabilitation was neither easy nor straightforward. Would these people simply be offered their former jobs back? Some were happy to stay where they were, but others tried to return to Italy. Others appeared lost – nobody seemed to know where they were or what they were doing. Should those who ‘replaced’ these people be themselves sacked or moved on?

Patrizia Guarnieri, Italian Psychology and Jewish Emigration under Fascism. From Florence to Jerusalem and New York New York, Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016, 275 pages, Hardcover $100.00; E-Book: $79.99,  ISBN: 978-1-137-30655-5/978-1-137-30656-2 by John Foot This is a difficult and at the same time a fascinating book. It has many sites of focus and can also be read as a set of collective biographies or individual pathlines through the worlds of psychology, fascism and Jewish identity in Italy and elsewhere. The overall analysis of the book is linked to the study of psychology and psychologists in Italy – and the way this nascent and marginalised discipline developed in that country before, during and after fascism – and in particular in the city of Florence. Thus, Guarnieri tells us a number of important stories of individuals who carried forward this discipline and taught and research within various areas of psychology. Within this world, in Italy, we quickly come across the all powerful role played by

Agostino Gemelli in the private Catholic University in Milan. As Guarnieri points out, Gemelli had institutional resources behind him. Gemelli, a friar, turns up time and time again in this book as a king-maker, able to create or destroy careers – and someone who, within Italian psychology, it was very difficult to avoid. For me, the most fascinating parts of this volume are those linked to the pernicious effects of Italy’s anti-semitic laws of 1938.  These laws led in most cases to the expulsion of all Jews from academic posts in Italian universities.  These people were forced to find another job – not easy in a country which officially discriminated against Jews and where psychology itself was hardly a major discipline. Guarnieri then takes up individual pathways of certain key psychologists. There is the detailed and extraordinary story of Enzo Bonaventura, who emigrated to Palestine in March 1939 and became Professor of Psychology in the Hebrew University. But perhaps the…

When placed in a broad multicultural and historical context, the Chinese approach to emotion differs substantially and substantively from that favoured in the West. While the West has long been concerned with the ways that emotion can distort 'reality,' the Chinese notion of qing holds that emotion 'discloses something that is true about the person and the world' by grounding the person in reality. This sensitizes the person to the undisclosed or implicit impact that the world has upon us. While Western theory focuses on differences ('symmetry breakdown') that foster action and control, the Chinese privilege symmetry as evidenced by a heightened appreciation of harmony and resonance with others and nature as a whole.

Louise Sundararajan, Understanding Emotion in Chinese Culture: Thinking Through Psychology.  Springer International Publishing, 2015, 201 pages, Hardcover £90.00/-Book £72.99, ISBN: 978-3-319-18220-9/978-3-319-18221-6 by Gerald C. Cupchik Louise Sundararajan’s book offers a comparison between Western and Chinese culture based in part on differing modes of cognition that underlie lived experiences. Her approach is more nuanced than the usual East and West comparison. First, she is careful to focus on Chinese culture instead of making sweeping generalizations about the East. Second, while using the term “West,” she focuses on contemporary Western psychology. Since scientific psychology does not necessarily represent the full scope of knowledge about Western emotions, this book pertains primarily to western psychological conceptualizations of emotions, not Western emotional experiences per se. Sundararajan presents as a scholar with a foot in each of two worlds. On the one hand, she introduces many valuable concepts from Chinese culture and, in particular, the contrast by Confucian and Daoist approaches to life and meaning. On the other hand, she is

well versed and established in the mainstream literature from Western psychology with a bit of philosophy thrown in. Sundararajan summarizes the challenge of understanding Chinese emotions as follows: 'This suggests that a central problem for understanding Chinese emotions is the gap between mainstream western scientific terminology and indigenous Chinese psychology.'  At the heart of her book is the bridging of dynamics of emotional processes in Chinese culture with concepts and findings in the Western empirical tradition. Implicitly juxtaposed against mechanistic thinking in Western psychology is the Chinese approach that focuses on dynamic processes.  Sundararajan explains this difference in terms of that between non-relational and relational cognition. Relational cognition, which applies to Chinese culture, focuses on holistic mind-to-mind transactions based on shared meanings. Western culture embodies more linear non-relational cognition emphasizing mind-to-world transactions and mastery over the environment. Whereas the former is marked by Communal Sharing, the latter is reflected in Market Pricing. Understood in terms of…

Social historians of medicine have been especially adamant that medicine should be framed, as the title of the conference suggests, in its place. Medical knowledges could well be understood in a similar or an identical manner across geographical boundaries, but ultimately they have been influenced by the social and cultural contexts within which they were practiced.

The biennial Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM) conference took place at the University of Kent, 7-10 July 2016. The conference was opened by the chairman of the society Carsten Timmermann, and Julie Anderson, who organised the event with half a dozen of other postgraduate students in Kent’s history department. They made it clear that as a biennial meeting of members of the field from all over the world, the programme was kept flexible, to enable historians of medicine of diverse approaches and methodologies to present their work, even beyond social history itself. Nonetheless, the conference was officially titled Medicine in its place: situating medicine in historical contexts. The notion of place was open to different interpretations: physical and geographical places, ‘places’ of knowledge production, and the idea of a ‘social space’ as originally conceived by Henri Lefebvre. However, historians were perhaps in agreement that medicine must be understood, as stated in the title, within the social and cultural contexts in which they were

practiced at the time. ‘Medicine’, often misinterpreted as a branch of western science within the popular imagination, has always been contingently constructed within its own time and space. The clearest reflection of the theme of medicine in its place was how many of the papers discussed medicine as practiced within a specific geographical or physical space. Fabrice Cahen explored the geographically located pathology of congenital hip dislocation in provincial France, while at the transnational level Bill Leeming compared the process of institutional diffusion of prenatal diagnosis between Canada and Mexico. Kate Grauvogel’s fascinating paper discussed the renovation of an infamous mental hospital in suburban Stockholm to a modern residential area, articulating how the stigma associated with mental health was ‘contagious’ to the land even after the function of the space changed. As an appropriate commentary on the role of ‘place’ in the construction of medical knowledge, Steve Sturdy delivered the first plenary of the event on the commercialisation of…

One of the most important contributions of this book is its consideration of how late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century descriptions and understandings of the brain and the nervous system fell within a wider humanistic project. Casper’s exploration of the archives of the Neurological Society of London offers a unique window onto the nature of debates on topical issues at the time, in particular the conflict between specialisation and general medicine or generalist approaches to the body and mind.

Stephen T. Casper, The Neurologists: A History of a Medical Specialty in Modern Britain c. 1789-2000 Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2014, 288 pages, hardcover £70.00, ISBN: 978-0-7190-9192-6 Stephen T. Casper’s first book is an interesting reflection on the early origins of neurological sciences and the reasons why they came to dominate descriptions of mental processes and human reasoning.  Casper uses traditional techniques in the history of medicine to reveal the long history of the birth and development of the specialism of neurology in Britain. One of the most important contributions of this book is its consideration of how late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century descriptions and understandings of the brain and the nervous system fell within a wider humanistic project. Casper’s exploration of the archives of the Neurological Society of London offers a unique window onto the nature of debates on topical issues at the time, in particular the conflict between specialisation and general medicine or generalist approaches to the body and mind.  As Casper argues, ‘specialisation’

was an idea that was ‘peculiar to modernity’ which otherwise employed the language of evolution to develop organic models of society ultimately within functionalist sociology. His reflection on neurology as a discipline thus offers insights into how and why neurological hypotheses and ideas prospered in the British context as well how neurologists themselves negotiated their ability to offer wider insights on human nature whilst simultaneously protecting their own science. Although the term ‘neurology’ can be traced to 1664 in the work of Thomas Willis, and was used by phrenologists in the late 18th-century, it appeared rarely in both medical and lay literature until the latter part of the 19th century.  The specialty of neurology also emerged at this time. Its origins are associated with the foundation of the journal Brain: A Journal of Neurology in 1876. However, Casper argues, neurology did not achieve a coherent form until the interwar period.  And even when it did, there were always…

Nicholls’ monograph is the very first comprehensive English-language introduction to Blumenberg’s theory of myth, but even compared with introductions that are available in German, it is unique in its commitment to making Blumenberg’s arguments accessible combined with an extraordinary depth of scholarship on his intellectual background.

Angus Nicholls, Hans Blumenberg on Myth and the Human Sciences  New York and London, Routledge, 2015, 277 pages, hardcover £90, e-version £34,99, ISBN: 978-0-415-88549-2 I am fully convinced that this book will become an important tool in research and teaching, not only on the twentieth-century German philosopher Hans Blumenberg (1920-1996) but in the wider areas of myth and anthropology. It may even be of interest to an even more diverse audience, bringing a new level of complexity to current debates between religion and evolutionary theory. The title of the book itself holds the possibility of bridging the gap between cultural studies and natural sciences and reclaims the term “science” from the latter. It demonstrates, through Blumenberg’s work, how interwoven mythologies and the natural sciences actually are. The border between logos and myth is, according to Blumenberg, a fictive one. Nicholls’ monograph is the very first comprehensive English-language introduction to Blumenberg’s theory of myth, but even compared with introductions that are available in German,

it is unique in its commitment to making Blumenberg’s arguments accessible combined with an extraordinary depth of scholarship on his intellectual background. Blumenberg’s highly original theory of myth, outlined in the volume Work on Myth (1979; English translation 1985), distinguishes him as the most important German theorist of myth of the second half of the twentieth-century. His work has resonated internationally across academic disciplines ranging from literary theory, philosophy, religious studies and anthropology, to the history and philosophy of science. Blumenberg’s theory of myth is deeply related to debates within the broad field known as the 'human sciences,' particularly to philosophical anthropology and evolutionary biology. Emerging from his view of humans as 'creatures of deficiency' – organisms which, by virtue of their capacity for reflective thought, find themselves at odds with the order of nature – his theory breaks with enlightenment ideas by ascribing to myth a rational function. Indeed, the distinctive feature of Blumenberg’s approach is his…

Digitisation changes the way we view our archives, as it affects the relationship between what we want to study and what is accessible.

L0005847EB Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk
http://wellcomeimages.org
Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: recto,
3rd century MS. 5754
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 2547 
Published:  - 

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

L0005847EB Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Papyrus text: fragment of Hippocratic oath: recto, 3rd century MS. 5754 Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 2547 Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

This is part three in a four-part report from the workshop, ‘The Future of the History of the Human Sciences,’ which was held at the University of York, 7-8 April 2016 (see a storify from the workshop here). The workshop was jointly hosted by HHS and Chris Renwick (History, York), and was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the University of York. Here, Maria Damjanovicova (European Institute of Oncology, University of Milan) reports on the third of the workshop’s core problematics: The Problem of The Archive. What has been the impact of biological data and digital media on the archive and on notions of human nature? In the first talk of this session, ‘Possibilities and Problems with the Growing Archive’, Michael Finn (Museum of the History of Science, Technology, & Medicine, University of Leeds) discussed the changes in how archives are used in research, and the relevance of archival material with the emergence of the digital. He focused on three sets of challenges:

in questions of storage for example, digitisation introduces software and copyright issues, as well as a risk of information-loss when physical objects are digitised. In curation-related challenges, the role of the expert on historical subjects and historical expertise in archives is lost – together with a sense of what gets excluded from what is archived and unfiltered in search results. And in interpretation-related challenges, digitisation changes the way we view our archives, as it affects the relationship between what we want to study and what is accessible. In ‘Molecular Archives of Human History: Moving Beyond Text-Based Sources,’ Jessica Hendy (Department of Archaeology, University of York) drew together a range of material and historical practices showing how, for example, cultural practice towards animals can be gauged through parchment analysis, how the molecular biography of a people (who did not have a chance to write their own history) can be learned from the remains of St. Helena slaves, and…

What these different approaches to the problem of the social – division in knowledge production; attempts of knowledge synthesis; and crisis of sociology – highlighted, is that the future of the history of the human sciences itself entails the prospect of both a ‘new merger’ of and ‘new boundary work’ between and within the social and the biological sciences.

This is part two in a four-part report from the workshop, ‘The Future of the History of the Human Sciences,’ which was held at the University of York, 7-8 April 2016 (see a storify from the workshop here). The workshop was jointly hosted by HHS and Chris Renwick (History, York), and was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the University of York. Here, Maria Damjanovicova (European Institute of Oncology, University of Milan) reports on another of the workshop’s core problematics: The Problem of The Social. How do models of ‘the social’ in the life sciences challenge those in the social sciences and humanities? The first talk of this session was Des Fitzgerald’s ‘The Commotion of the Social’. Fitzgerald (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University) engaged with a crisis of sociology considered to have been brought about by the challenge that technology poses to sociological research, and confronted the idea of duality in mainstream sociology – that sociology must be dead or alive, digital or

analogue, etc. Using urban life, a case with long established interest for both biology and sociology, Fitzgerald introduced the idea of a ‘limit sociology’ – a concept inspired by Stefan Helmreich’s notion of a ‘limit biology’ – as a form of practice, in a time of ecological crisis, and an edge case for connecting sociology and biology in an interesting way. Describing his current project, which embraces a ‘limit sociology approach,’ and looks at stress and the topologies of stress in Shanghai, Fitzgerald proposed an alternative future for the sciences of the social to go on living into the twenty-first century. In ’The Social as the Non-Biological: Genealogy and Perspectives’, Maurizio Meloni (Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield) examined how we came to think, ‘it is social vs. biological’ via the notion of inheritance and its division into biological heredity and social heritage. Locating the split into soft/hard heredity and genetics/epigenetics in the period after Erasmus…