In this book, Velminski’s grandiose claims regarding the telepathic underpinnings of Soviet society tend to drown out the more subtle forms of continuity his materials gesture towards; he is more interested in telepathy as a master analogy for understanding Soviet culture than in exploring telepathic practices and discourses as cultural phenomena.  Perhaps prioritising his materials over his overarching thesis would have allowed the complexities of those hypnotic histories to come to the fore and a less stereotyped portrait of Soviet power may have emerged in the process. 

W. Velminski, Homo Sovieticus: Brain Waves, Mind Control, and Telepathic Destiny, trans. by Erik Butler, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017, £14.95 pbk, 128pp, ISBN: 9780262035699 by Hannah Proctor, Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin ‘Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole land’ declared V.I. Lenin in a 1920 speech. Wladimir Velminski cites this famous phrase in the opening pages of his slim and punchy book, Homo Sovieticus, recently published in English translation by MIT Press. But while Lenin was referring to the electrical infrastructure required for industrialisation in the wake of the October Revolution, Velminski explores how Soviet power harnessed electromagnetic technologies and theories to communise the mind in order to produce ‘uniformity of thought’ and achieve what he bombastically describes as a form of ‘collective brainwashing’ (p. 2, p. 1). Telepathy and hypnosis, or what Velminski calls ‘neural prostheses’, provide the thematic links between chapters. Originally published in German by Merve Verlag – primarily known for their

translations of French and Italian philosophy, theory and political thought – Homo Sovieticus is not a work of cultural history or the history of science in any conventional sense. Indeed, at first glance it might seem to have more in common with McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red: Theory of the Anthropocene (which includes discussions of Soviet theories of nature by Alexander Bogdanov and Andrei Platonov), than with scholarly monographs discussing specific Soviet scientific disciplines, discourses, thinkers or schools of thought. Superficial stylistic similarities aside, however, Wark excavates specific strands of early Soviet thought he perceives to have radical potential in order to challenge understandings of nature in the ‘capitalist realist’ present, whereas Velminski treats telepathy as a metaphor for comprehending the oppressive operations of Soviet power in the past. Homo Sovieticus is comprised of a combined and uneven jumble of vignettes about telepathy plucked from disparate moments across the Soviet period, encompassing descriptions of cybernetic theories, introductions to technological inventions, glosses of science…

In this book, the view of pain as a ‘deficit of energy’ is dissected and dismissed as inconsistent with physiology. Similarly, pain as the opposite of pleasure is not a convincing hypothesis, as not all pain is displeasing, and disagreeableness is not equivalent to the experience of pain... the systematic dissection of historical concepts of pain is a useful way to challenge our contemporary conceptions of pain and its treatment. This was an insightful read for someone working in a medical field [as I do] as it made me question the way I perceive pain, and how this may be different to the way in which my patients perceive it.

R. Kugelmann, Constructing Pain: Historical, Psychological and Critical Perspectives, London: Routledge, 2017, £34.099 pbk, 158pp, ISBN: 9781138841222 by Lottie Wittingham In this thorough review, Robert Kugelmann charts how ideas around the polymorphous concept of pain have come about via the influence of academic personalities, and their experiences in the spheres of psychology and medicine. Drawing on the theories of figures such as Benjamin Ward Richardson, Henry Rutgers Marshall and well-known philosophers such as Descartes and Bentham, part 1 of the book describes the dualistic concept of pain and the perceived distinction between ‘real’ and imagined pain. Beginning with the development of anaesthesia and the influence of this on the anatomical image of the body as opposed to the ‘felt’ body, the introductory chapter describes the heralding of the abolition of pain, and the consequence of this on people’s opinions on pain and its utility or otherwise. Is pain a useful signal to signify a physical ailment within the body? If

so, where does chronic pain fit into this model? It is posited that the pointlessness of chronic pain perhaps accentuates how much it hurts. The ‘medical gaze’ describes pain as an indicator of bodily dysfunction and this challenges the legitimacy of chronic pain which has no ostensible ‘function’. The theory of pain as a direct sensation felt by specific pain nerves is contrasted with the theory of pain and pleasure as direct antitheses to one another. The view of pain as a ‘deficit of energy’ is dissected and dismissed as inconsistent with physiology. Similarly, pain as the opposite of pleasure is not a convincing hypothesis, as not all pain is displeasing, and disagreeableness is not equivalent to the experience of pain. This section of the book is somewhat hard to follow, but the systematic dissection of historical concepts of pain is a useful way to challenge our contemporary conceptions of pain and its treatment. This was an insightful read for someone…

In this book, we learn much about an all-round scholar and clinician, who, as his own book on the history of psychiatry also showed, was not an either/or thinker regarding relations between body, brain, and the mind. We also learn about a caring European-style pater familias. We learn with the eyes of the respectful granddaughter about a family style that always combined love and commitment with decisiveness.

Ilonka Venier Alexander: The life and times of Franz Alexander. From Budapest to California. London: Karnac, £22.99 pbk, 2015, xxxii + 154 pp. ISBN:  9781782202509 by Csaba Pléh Written by the granddaughter of the famous Hungarian-born and educated psychoanalyst (Franz) Ferenc Alexander, Ilonka Venier Alexander’s book is a peculiar work on the life and work of her grandfather in several regards. The peculiarity of the book is shown in two ways. Regarding its central figure, Franz Alexander, the reader sees a constant shifting of perspective between the personal/familiar and the professional perspective, the latter mainly dealing with the history of American psychoanalysis. On the other hand, sometimes we have to deal not with Franz Alexander, but with the grandchild, the vicissitudes of the divorce of her parents, and the central role of the grandfather. This is not necessarily intended to be a criticism. The book is an excellent resource and a fascinating read. But the constant shifts of perspective make for a

hard time for the reader. As a history of a professional psychoanalyst, the monograph is certainly timely. Alexander has been unduly forgotten. The editor of Karnac's 'History of Psychoanalysis' series, Brett Klahr, points out in the preface that Franz Alexander is an important figure in the history of psychoanalysis; Alexander’s proposal for short therapy was a provocative intervention. Even more provocative was his glittering life in California. The author argues that Franz Alexander’s copious honoraria - which allowed for this luxurious standard of life - made many of his colleagues jealous. At the same time, the fact that Alexander continued his practice for over a decade in Hollywood had an important role in psychoanalysis becoming part of American everyday life, thought and pop culture. The first third of the book is a family chronicle. It presents the Alexander clan with family trees, family photos, and gossip. Franz Alexander’s Father, Bernat (Bernhard) Alexander (1850–1927) – whom the writer spells as Bernard…

"Following in the vein of influential scholars such as Gillian Beer, who in the early 1980s pointed out that nineteenth-century science and literature shared a common language, recent research on sexology by Veronika Fuechtner, Anna Katharina Schaffner and Robert Deam Tobin, among others, has shown that the science of sex was a porous field. The main point of Crozier’s critique – that sexology should be located within an idealized, tightly bound domain of science proper, and most definitely not in the literary realm – is both historically inaccurate and critically outdated. Sexology was constituted from the contributions of medical professionals, legal and social scientists, anthropologists, social reformers as well as authors, literary critics and all kinds of cultural commentators who individually and collectively turned their attention to questions of sex."

Heike Bauer (ed.), Sexology and Translation: Cultural and Scientific Encounters Across the Modern World. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2015, $34.95 pbk, 284 pages, ISBN: 978-1-43991-249-2 by Ivan Crozier, with responses from Heike Bauer Editor's note: we are very happy to here present Ivan Crozier's review of 'Sexology and Translation.' The review is followed by a response from  the editor of that volume, Heike Bauer; then a response to the response; and then a response to the response to the response. We are grateful to both scholars for this lively and interesting exchange, which foregrounds crucial issues about historiography and field-making, which are central to work on sexology, but that span the human sciences much more widely too. Sexology was a trans-European, transatlantic discipline, with important sexological works appearing in Italian, French, English and especially German before Havelock Ellis’s synthesis of the field in his Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897-1928). As suggested by their footnotes, most of the main players read each other’s languages. They also read widely outside of the field, and rearticulated non-sexological

views of sex from other fields, such as history, literature, law and anthropology. Understanding how they read and used the works of other sexologists and those of other sexperts who were not in the same field is a significant way to map out the intellectual history of one of the most important disciplines that framed many attitudes towards sexuality in the twentieth century. How authors in other fields interpreted and disseminated these sexological discourses is a useful way of assessing the impact that sexologists had.  These are not the same problem, but they both require an understanding of how knowledge is generated within a field. It is obvious to students of sexological texts that translation is a key issue for understanding the field – both the translation of texts between languages and cultures, but particularly the translation of concepts and evidence between fields. This book attends to both types, but with varying degrees of success.…

Sarah Chaney and Chris Millard, in their respective volumes, ally themselves to a view of psychiatric knowledge that derives from historical epistemology. They both use Ian Hacking’s concept of ‘making up people’ to develop the ways that psychiatry produces specific objects of knowledge which are then transported to society through the expansion of psychiatric power - via psychiatric social workers, structures like the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, and education programmes. The increased prevalence of the self-harmer is in part produced by the sustained and expanding psychiatric attention.

Sarah Chaney, Psyche on the Skin, Reaktion Books, London, 2017, £20.00, 320pp. ISBN 9781780237503; Chris Millard, A History of Self-Harm in Britain: a genealogy of cutting and overdosing, Palgrave, London, 2015, £15.99 and available open access. ISBN  9781137547736. by Ivan Crozier People have always changed their bodies in permanent ways – whether with tattoos, scars, tongue splits, brands, piercings, genital modifications (from religious circumcision to self-bifurcation), or through cosmetic surgery. These changes give the body a particular meaning that is entirely dependent on the social context. Sometimes, scarification is done to show belonging to a particular ethnic group (a Mossi man from Burkina Faso was traditionally initiated with specific facial scars made with a hot knife), while other scars might be consensually produced as a part of a heavy sadomasochistic scene, and yet others – as these two books show – might be the result of a distressed teenager engaging in a self-harming practice which increasingly

became viewed as a ‘cry for help’ within psychiatric discourses, and which necessitated the intervention of mental health professionals. These acts of body modification only take on their meanings within certain social groups. In some cases, self-injury is framed as resulting from a disturbed mind. Psychiatry is the dominant current way of understanding deliberate self-inflicted injuries in the west, but this was not always the framework, and, as these two books show, there is much to suggest that psychiatric power is being resisted in current corporeal practices. The abhorrence that has framed self-injuring is partly tied up in ideas about pain as a wholly negative experience, with those willing to engage in it consciously believed to be mentally disturbed and requiring psychiatric attention. This is the main reason that sadomasochistic practices come under the scrutiny of psychiatrists. Another important framework for considering self-harm is the social and legal status granted to suicide. Self-harm was developed as a category within psychiatry, firstly believed to be…

This book valuably complements the existing bodies of work dealing, on the one hand, with German-language contributions to the development of physical anthropology, and, on the other, with the history of British and American ethnology. Historians of science, scholars of Enlightenment thought, and those interested in the peoples of Siberia are the obvious target audience, but 'Before Boas' also has much to offer to anthropologists, ethnologists, geographers, and historians, each of whom will learn a great deal about the history of their own discipline.

Han F. Vermeulen, Before Boas: The Genesis of Ethnography and Ethnology in the German Enlightenment. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015, $75.00. xxiii + 718 pages, ISBN: 978-0-8032-5542-5 by Hilary Howes The central argument of Han F. Vermeulen’s Before Boas, which checks in at an impressive – indeed, somewhat daunting – 718 pages, is presented with admirable conciseness at the very beginning of the first chapter.  Both ethnography, ‘conceived as a program for describing peoples and nations in Russian Asia and carried out by German-speaking explorers and historians’, and ethnology, developed by ‘historians in European academic centers dealing with a comprehensive and critical study of peoples’, ‘originated in the work of eighteenth-century German or German-speaking scholars associated with the Russian Academy of Sciences, the University of Göttingen, and the Imperial Library in Vienna’ (pp.1-2).  The formation of these studies, Vermeulen adds, ‘took place in three stages: (1) as Völker-Beschreibung or ethnography in the work of the German historian and Siberia explorer Gerhard Friedrich Müller during the

first half of the eighteenth century, (2) as Völkerkunde and ethnologia in the work of the German or German-speaking historians August Ludwig Schlözer, Johann Christoph Gatterer, and Adam František Kollár during the second half of the eighteenth century, and (3) as ethnography or ethnology by scholars in other centers of learning in Europe and the United States during the final decades of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century’ (pp.1-2).  Building particularly on existing research by Hans Fischer and Justin Stagl into the importance of Göttingen as a locus of early ethnographic work, Vermeulen pushes the earliest uses of the German terms Völkerkunde, Ethnographie, ethnographisch, and Ethnograph back by several years, and the concept, as Völker-Beschreibung (description of peoples), by several decades.  In the process, he also raises several significant overarching points, including the interconnectedness of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century science in Western Europe and in Russia; the need to distinguish between ‘colonial anthropology’ and…

Progressive social and political ideals have been integral to biology and our understanding of the human during the past 70 years. But with private companies becoming significant actors in the development and communication of these ideas, there are profoundly important questions about the ownership of human heritage, not to mention inequalities in participating in it and accessing any of its future benefits.

Marianne Sommer, History Within: The Science, Culture, and Politics of Bones, Organisms, and Molecules, London and Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2016, 544 pages, cloth $50.00 ISBN 9780226347325. by Chris Renwick UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation – is probably best known to the public for the “world heritage site” status it has awarded to buildings, structures, and places including the Acropolis, the Galapagos Islands, and the Taj Mahal since it was founded in 1945. Given this role as a guardian of the globe’s heritage, it might surprise some people that UNESCO’s first director – and the man who insisted it include science as well as education and culture in its remit – was Julian Huxley (1887-1975). Grandson of “Darwin’s Bulldog”, Thomas Henry Huxley, Julian was a distinguished biologist in his own right and a public intellectual who had written numerous best-sellers, including Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (1942), been Secretary of

the Zoological Society of London, and even won an Oscar for his documentary film, The Private Life of Gannets (1934). Julian Huxley’s connection with UNESCO made perfect sense. A campaigner for what he called “evolutionary” or “scientific” humanism, he believed there was no good reason to exclude the stuff of which we are made from our concept of heritage. Huxley’s vision is one of the three overlapping evolutionary programmes – the others belonging to the American paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935) and the Italian geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (b. 1922) – that Marianne Sommer has weaved into the compelling History Within. Charting almost 100 years across 15 deeply researched and packed chapters, Sommer tells a story about the efforts to come to terms with the biological, social, and cultural meaning of evolution during the twentieth century. Focusing on an evolving understanding of heritage, through which thinkers fused biology, society, and culture whilst avoiding reductionism, History Within documents a complex intergenerational project to provide us with…

We know that the interpretation of symbols played an important role in the beginnings of psychoanalysis, particularly in the first half of the 20th century. This practice first appeared as a technique for interpreting dreams, with the goal of filling out the material obtained in the patient’s free associations while recounting a dream. For the therapist, it helped both to overcome mental blocks and to explain Oedipal fantasies to the patient. But psychoanalysts soon extended this practice to interpreting symbols in myths, religions, and literary texts.

L’Âge d’homme preceded by L’Afrique fantôme, by Michel Leiris. Paris: Gallimard, 2014. Edited by Denis Hollier, in collaboration with Francis Marmande and Catherine Maubon, Series: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, n°600. 1456 pages, 38 ill., ISBN: 9782070114559. by Emmanuel Delille A new edition of L’Âge d’homme (available in English as Manhood) by Michel Leiris (1901-1990), overseen by Denis Hollier, was published by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade at the end of 2014. It constitutes the second volume of Leiris’ selected works, the first volume being La Règle du jeu. The edition presents selected autobiographical texts in addition to L’Âge d’homme, including L’Afrique fantôme. (The latter is often translated into English as Ghostly Africa, but will be soon published for the first time as Phantom Africa in a new translation by Brent Hayes Edwards). L’Afrique fantôme is an essay that is simultaneously controversial and foundational for French ethnology. Hollier’s editorial decision highlights Leiris’ contribution to the genre that we call autofiction, wherein autobiographical materials are rewritten using the techniques of fiction writing – in contrast to the

raw journals kept by Leiris between 1922 and 1989. Hollier has proposed the general title L’âge d’homme fantôme to identify this corpus; following Edwards’ new translation of Phantom Africa, an English version of this title could be Phantom Manhood The volume is imposing; for this reason, my analysis focuses solely on L’Âge d’homme, the best-known of Leiris’ books among the general public (L’Afrique fantôme is the object of another review article, in the Japanese academic journal Zinbun). From my perspective, it is not, for all that, his masterpiece; however, this narrative has benefited from its long availability as a mass-market paperback, unlike L’Afrique fantôme. Of Leiris’ books, it is also the one closest to the genre of confessional literature: it reveals the author’s sexual obsessions, the pathological shame he felt, and how he turned to the psychoanalytic interpretation of myths to narrate his experience. Hollier soberly recounts the book’s…

Much like Hasok Chang, who has put forward the idea of a history and philosophy of science that functions as 'complementary science,' Strick is interested in the way in which historical knowledge might be useful in uncovering and helping to reinstate forms of scientific knowledge that have been obscured or deliberately left out in the development of scientific disciplines.

James E. Strick, Wilhelm Reich, Biologist. (London: Harvard University Press, 2015). 467pp. ISBN 9780674736092. (hardcover), £31.95 by Matei Iagher  In his biography of Wilhelm Reich (1983), Myron Sharaf began the section on Reich's scientific work with a warning that he did not have the requisite competence to judge this scientific work, and that the existing literature on this aspect of Reich's work was too unreliable to be used  in making a critical assessment. This caveat could be read as a challenge for historians of science, but as the Reich archives only became available in 2007, the task of providing a competent, historical account of Reich's biological work also had to wait. The wait has not been in vain, as with James Strick’s Wilhelm Reich, Biologist we now have a balanced and thoroughly researched account of Reich's experimental work in the 1930s, which is likely to become the standard for any future historical investigation of Reich's work. Outside of a small circle

of researchers and aficionados, Wilhelm Reich's name does not immediately evoke associations with laboratory biological research. Rather, he is much more well-known as a psychotherapist, a psychoanalyst and Freudian dissenter, and above all, as a forefather of  the 1960s sexual revolution and as an intellectual source for later American and European counterculture. Much of the popular image of Reich is, even today, glazed over with an unsavory patina—an echo of the sensationalist reporting that tarnished his reputation in the 1950s, when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also made him the target of a witch hunt (Reich's books were burnt, and he was eventually imprisoned for contempt of court). Part of the aim of Strick's book is to destroy this popular, pseudo-scientific aura that hangs around Reich, by showing that some of his most controversial theories were rooted in serious, cutting edge research. Methodologically, the book draws on an extensive engagement with the Reich archive (his laboratory notebooks, correspondence, research…

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…