2021 Prize: Carola Ossmer, “Normal Development: The Photographic Dome and the Children of the Yale Psycho-Clinic,” Isis, vol. 111, no. 3, 2020.
In “Normal Development: The Photographic Dome and the Children of the Yale Psycho-Clinic,” Carola Ossmer demonstrates that an influential theory of child development was constructed through visual culture. In the 1920s, as psychologists turned their attention from the pathological to the normal, political reformers seized upon child development as the key to producing democratic citizens. Yet, as Ossmer convincingly demonstrates, the normal could be conceptualized in more ways than one: as the absence of disease, as the center of a probability distribution, or—as in the case of Arnold Gesell and the Yale Psycho-Clinic—as a set of predictable milestones unfolding in sequence. In this brilliant essay, Ossmer traces Gesell’s use of new media and new materials in an attempt to capture universal patterns, in the process developing a conception of the normal that allowed for individual variation. By attending to the technologies through which human scientists construct knowledge, Ossmer shows that the quest for liberal selfhood was literally captured on film.
2021 Article Prize Committee: Erik Linstrum, Emily Merchant (chair), and Isaiah Wilner
2019 Prize: Isaiah Lorado Wilner, “Transformation Masks: Recollecting the Indigenous Origins of Global Consciousness,” in Ned Blackhawk and Isaiah Lorado Wilner, eds., Indigenous Visions: Rediscovering the World of Franz Boas (Yale University Press, 2018).
In Wilner’s hands, Franz Boas, a supposed producer of modern anthropology, is transformed into an interlocuter and translator of indigenous peoples‘ knowledge. They use Boas to transmit their modernity to the West. Wilner’s approach models for historians of the human sciences the ways that they can deploy critical, subaltern and postcolonial methodologies to decenter dominant narratives and archives and arrive at new, complex accounts of the origins of science. Wilner’s essay is compelling, sophisticated and beautiful. It convincingly traces how indigenous intellectuals labored to communicate concepts which would become the core of Boas’s anthropological legacy, and for which no framework existed in European academic traditions.
2019 Honorable mention: Alexandra Rutherford, “Surveying Rape: Feminist Social Science and the Ontological Politics of Sexual Assault,“ History of the Human Sciences (2017):100-123.
Rutherford’s article is an outstanding theoretical contribution that sheds important light on the agency of surveys and their impact as human sciences tools, which produce ontological, social, and political realities while also illuminating upon the political controversies surrounding campus date rape.
2019 Article Prize Committee: Stephen Casper (chair), Christine von Oertzen, and Alicia Puglionesi
2017 Prize: Alicia Puglionesi, “Drawing as Instrument, Drawing as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper,” Medical History 60 (2016):359-387.
Alicia Puglionesi’s essay “Drawing as Instrument, Drawing as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper” unpacks the competing yet convergent epistemological frameworks and instrumental practices developed around drawing in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. Puglionesi eloquently show how drawing was both means and medium for divulging the inner workings of the mind in the contexts of child study, psychical research and neurology between 1880 and 1930. By engaging their subjects (children, telepathic mediums, and patients) in the act of drawing, a diverse set of researchers sought to transform subjectivity into externally visible, seemly objective evidence that could be used to describe, classify and categorize the (developmentally) normal, supernormal and pathological mind. In her subtle analysis, Puglionesi shows how experimental subjects were refigured as working “object-instruments” for recording subjective phenomena like the stylus on a kymograph drum. The article is impressive in its forceful originality and in the quality of Puglionesi’s multivocal analysis of drawing in the mind sciences. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the article, however, is Puglionesi’s own skill in drawing together of diverse historiographies that open promising new directions for the history of human science.
2017 Article Prize Committee: Jeremy Blatter (chair), Michael Pettit, and Karin Rosemblatt
2015 Article Prize: Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt, “Modernization, Dependency, and the Global in Mexican Critiques of Anthropology,” Journal of Global History 9 (2014):94-121.
Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt’s article, “Modernization, Dependency, and the Global in Mexican Critiques of Anthropology,” compellingly shows how Cold War anthropology was a geopolitical enterprise that entailed multi-directional intellectual traffic and exchange between US and Latin American scholars in ways that were informed as much by global political and economic systems as by local concerns. Rosemblatt’s deft account enriches the history of modernization by illuminating not only how Latin American scholars reacted to US development efforts but also how their own conceptual innovations (particularly dependency theory and internal colonialism) grew out of their participation in global scholarly networks. The politics of knowledge about the local and the global cut across national boundaries in unexpected ways, as Rosemblatt makes clear. By the 1960s, US anthropologists emphasized cultural differences and local knowledge in order to critique universalizing American models of economic development and to challenge inequalities within the US. In contrast, Mexican anthropologists saw generalized scientific knowledge as part of a radical anti-colonial, Marxist class struggle and retained a more universalist rhetoric. Beyond the article’s contribution to the history of the human sciences, it raises important issues for scholars interested in currents of thought between North and South, as well as for those interested in the relationships between science, activism and the state.
2015 Article Prize, honorable mention: Michael Pettit, “Becoming Glandular: Endocrinology, Mass Culture, and Experimental Lives In the Interwar Age,” American Historical Review 118: 4 (2013):1052-1076.
In “Becoming Glandular: Endocrinology, Mass Culture, and Experimental Lives in the Interwar Age,” Michael Pettit draws on impressive archival research in his lively, theoretically astute account of the relationship between interwar endocrinology and notions of the self. Attentive to cultural as well as intellectual history, Pettit analyzes literary sources, advertisements, and other popular sources, together with scientific publications, in order to demonstrate how what he calls “glandular self-talk” circulated in looping ways among scientific experts, populist practitioners, and public audiences. The article displays a subtle touch with the foibles of its more colorful figures, such as the agrarian organotherapist John R. Brinkle, as well as with the implications of organotherapy for gender and sexuality. Pettit also underscores the importance of mass communication as a technology that shaped cultural notions of self-rejuvenation during the 1930s, at a moment the nation was in search of economic rejuvenation.
2013 Article Prize: Erik Linstrum, “The Politics of Psychology in the British Empire, 1898-1960,” Past and Present no. 215 (2012):195-233.
In his ambitious essay, “The Politics of Psychology in the British Empire, 1898-1960,” Erik Linstrum taps a rich vein of important and sometimes subversive science conducted by psychologists (employed variously by the empire, American foundations, or Christian missions) in the British imperial field. Paying as much attention to psychometricians as to psychoanalysts, Linstrum combines a broad interpretive sweep with painstaking attention to detail, resulting in a hard-hitting revision of the literature. He draws from published sources, imperial archives, notebooks, diaries, and seminar notes to understand the varied interpretive worlds occupied by field researchers in the British Empire. As he does so, Linstrum crisscrosses the globe, traversing not only terra firma but also the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans—sometimes more than once. He makes clear that anthropology was not the only, or perhaps even the most important, human science of the imperial field. This essay should encourage further efforts to understand the “psy-sciences” as field science or colonial science. Indeed, Linstrum guides his readers toward a new understanding of the phenomenon of colonial science itself: Although the empire defined general topics for research and created institutional and professional roles, what researchers learned and argued within those frameworks proved diverse and unpredictable. As critics of colonial science so often and rightly note, many psychologists brought racist notions to bear on their work or served directly the needs of imperial authorities; Linstrum revises this history by showing that other psychologists also carried out work with humanizing, liberatory potential under imperial auspices—work that challenged the very foundations of the colonial project. Linstrum has crafted a beautiful, smart, and fittingly subversive article that we are delighted to award the prize for best article in the history of the human sciences.
2013 Article Prize Committee: Dan Bouk, Andrew Jewett, Laura Stark
2011 Article Prize: Jamie Cohen-Cole, “The Creative American: Cold War Salons, Social Science, and the Cure for Modern Society,” Isis 100 (2009):219-262.
In “The Creative American,” Jamie Cohen-Cole provides a richly documented, thoroughly engaging account of how creativity became the antidote for Cold War fears about conformity, dogmatism, and ideological subversion in the United States. In the eyes of liberal intellectuals, fostering creativity would blunt the deleterious effects of corporate bureaucracy and mass culture but also undermine the ideological blindness they ascribed to both the conservative right and the Communist left. Casting about for the ideal personal traits to preserve American intellectual vigor and democracy, liberal social scientists naturally turned to themselves, constructing the concept of creativity in their own self-image and making the university the model for political, cultural, and intellectual life. Cohen-Cole draws on his extensive research and novel analysis to brilliantly illuminate a range of major topics in postwar intellectual history: the new enthusiasm for general education, the promotion of interdisciplinary research, the entanglement of psychological research with Cold War politics, and the recasting of the university as the bulwark of American democracy, to name but a few. It is a remarkable essay that will inform the historiography of the Cold War for years to come and stands as a testament to Cohen-Cole’s deft and, dare one say it, creative mind.
2011 Article Prize Committee: Daniela Barberis, Hamilton Cravens (chair), and Tom Stapleford
2009 Article Prize: Kasper Risbjerg Eskildsen, “Leopold Ranke’s Archival Turn: Location and Evidence in Modern Historiography,” Modern Intellectual History 5 (2008):425-453.
Kasper Risbjerg Eskildsen’s “Leopold Ranke’s Archival Turn” offers a brilliant interpretation of the emergence of the archive as the most important site in the production of historical knowledge. In a wonderfully symmetrical and reflexive fashion, he examines how the archive came to serve as the privileged site for history’s production of truth, analogous to the laboratory, clinic, or field-site in other disciplines. By attending to the spaces of historical research, he offers a novel perspective on the character of “scientific history.” Furthermore, he does an excellent job of illustrating how the reorganization of the structure of the European state made Ranke’s investigative practices possible, thereby artfully connecting changes in political culture with those within the human sciences. He also brilliantly illuminates the interplay between the political and the professional dimensions of Ranke’s vision. With great care, Eskildsen connects Ranke’s personal career ambitions and his conservative politics to his conception of history and the role of the archive. The committee also commends Eskildsen for the high qualityof his prose, which made his article a particularly engaging read.
Kasper Eskildsen is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Science Studies, Roskilde University, Denmark
2009 Article Prize Committee: Michael Pettit (chair), Kathy Cooke, Hunter Heyck
2007 Article Prize: Jeff Pooley, “Fifteen Pages that Shook the Field: Personal Influence, Edward Shils and the Remembered History of Mass Communication Research,”The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 608 (2006):130-156.
This article is a real pleasure to read. Pooley traces the history of an “invented tradition”: the disciplinary origins of mass communication research. The subject of this story is a brief summary of the communication reseach field composed by Paul Lazarsfeld and Edward Shils in 1955. In the text entitled Personal Influence, Lazarsfeld and Shils proposed a clean and simple disciplinary history, which, as Pooley shows, still influences the field today. Before the Second World War, researchers assumed that propaganda was “powerful”; after 1945, they recognized that media in fact have only “limited” effects. In sketching the origins and long life of the “powerful-to-limited-effects” model, Pooley brings together a history of postwar American social theory, corporate media, government-sponsored social scientific research, Cold War liberalism, academic maneuvering and disciplinary institutionalization. Pooley does not attempt to fit all of this tale’s many facets into an “origins” story as simple as the one he has set out to document. Instead, with grace and sensitivity he allows the tensions inherent in his narrative to come through. For example, he shows how Lazarsfeld used the same experimental results to many very different ends: to aid governments and corporations to improve their communications strategies, to reassure a postwar public of the benign effects of mass media, and to advance his own interests in the game of academic influence. Pooley’s result is ironic: precisely by showing the limitations of mass communication’s effectiveness, these social scientists maximized their own position as experts in interpreting and manipulating such limited effects. Historians love ironies.
2007 Article Prize Committee: Mitchell Ash (chair), Mark Solovey, Dana Simmons
2005 Article Prize: Philippe Fontaine, “Blood, Politics, and Social Science: Richard Titmuss and the Institute of Economic Affairs, 1957-1973,”Isis 93 (2002):401-434 and Mark Solovey, “Riding Natural Scientists’ Coattails onto the Endless Frontier: The SSRC and the Quest for Scientific Legitimacy,”Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 40 (2004):393-422.
Given the large number of submissions and their impressive quality, the Article Prize Committee has awarded two prizes: to Philippe Fontaine and Mark Solovey. The number and quality of the submitted and nominated articles were impressive; all contributed substantively to the history of the human sciences. The articles by Fontaine and Solovey were distinguished by their careful examination of a wide range of factors that influence the shape of social scientific theory, factors that extend not only across disciplines but beyond to government, politics, and professional practices.
Philippe Fontaine receives the 2005 Article Prize for “Blood, Politics, and Social Science: Richard Titmuss and the Institute of Economic Affairs, 1957-1973,” published in Isis(2002, 93:401-434). The article examines how and why Richard Titmuss, a British professor of social administration, produced The Gift Relationship (1971), a book arguing for voluntary blood procurement rather than commercialized distribution. Fontaine shows how Titmuss deployed arguments for a “socialist” policy and reached beyond economic policy to matters of ethics and social unity. The study reveals, too, Titmuss’ challenges to dominant economic thought.
Mark Solovey receives the 2005 Article Prize for “Riding Natural Scientists’ Coattails onto the Endless Frontier: The SSRC and the Quest for Scientific Legitimacy,” published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (2004, 40:393-422). Drawing upon extensive archival material and government documents, Solovey examines the postwar establishment of the National Science Foundation and the connected debates over the inclusion of the social sciences in the NSF. He demonstrates how social scientists’ divided views on the epistemological status of social sciences gave way to promotion of a natural-science model of social science, a model that significantly influenced subsequent scholarship. Along with uncovering this enabling moment for scientism in the social sciences, Solovey’s analysis also traces some significant challenges to this natural-science approach.
2005 Article Prize Committee: Jill Morawski, Daniela Barberis, and Maurice Finocchiaro
2003 Article Prize: John Carson, “Differentiating a Republican Citizenry: Talents, Human Science, and Enlightenment Theories of Governance,” Osiris 17 (2002).
For the past several decades, historians from a number of different specialties have begun to explore the complexity of Enlightenment thought. These recent histories have explored how Enlightenment thinkers sought to replace hereditary monarchies with a new form of Republican governance in which social awards were given, not by those who happened to be born into noble families, but to those whose natural talents meant they were most worthy to receive them. In a perfectly free society we would still have inequitable distribution of resources because those with more talent would be free to rise to the top. The hereditary aristocracy would be replaced by a “natural aristocracy” in which inequality is an expected outcome of a free society.
Carson argues that the current historiography is missing a clear understanding of what the word “talent” meant for Enlightenment thinkers. What was “talent” and how did people acquire it? Because Republican ideology rejected the notion of a hereditary aristocracy, did that mean that all people were really born with equal talents? Where did people acquire these “talents”? In answering these questions, Carson argues persuasively that Enlightenment thinkers were inclined to write “certain speculations about human nature into the very heart of the republican project and to orient the emerging human sciences toward embracing those social formations most consonant with the developing notions of the republican citizen, the enlightened society, and the self-interested economic actor” (p. 84).
Carson gives us a close reading of how key Enlightenment figures — such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Godwin, Etienne-Bonnot de Condillac, Claude-Adrien Helvétius, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams — grappled with the very notion of talent, where it originated, and its implications for a “natural inequality” in society. He shows that, with the notable exception of Helvétius, few were ready to embrace a pure egalitarian ethos, most thinkers embracing a language which was ambiguous enough to “argue for greater political and social power and a means to exclude whole groups of people from all but the most basic rights” (p. 103).
Carson skillfully weaves together the history of human sciences, political history, and political theory. He shows that an understanding of the human sciences is vital to any understanding of Enlightenment political thought, and in turn how political thought is central to an understanding of the orientation of the sciences toward human nature.
2001 Article Prize: Jorge Canizares Esguerra, “New World, New Stars: Patriotic Astrology and the Invention of Spanish and Creole Bodies in Colonial Spanish America, 1600-1650,” American Historical Review 104 (February 1999):33-68.
The Forum for History of Human Science is pleased to award its essay prize for 2001 to Jorge Canizares Esguerra for his essay “New World, New Stars: Patriotic Astrology and the Invention of Spanish and Creole Bodies in Colonial Spanish America, 1600-1650,” published in the American Historical Review in 1999. The essay, distinguished by its breadth of learning and originality of interpretation, shows how the settlers of Spanish America drew upon European traditions of theology, astrology, and astronomy to create novel explanations for racial differences, which justified the hierarchical order of their settlements. These schemes of racialized physiology developed by Spanish colonial intellectuals have not received scholarly attention because they had virtually no impact on later European models of scientific racism, but they provide significant insights into the mindset of the ruling class during the early modern period. In his essay, Canizares makes a distinctive contribution to the history of ideas about human differences — an exposition of the exploited possibilities of elaboration of seventeenth-century scientific notions — and also enriches the history of colonialism, showing the relationship between colonies and metropoles to have been far more complex than we have been accustomed to believe.
1999 Article Prize: Matti Bunzl, “Franz Boas and the Humboldtian Tradition: From Volksgeist and Nationalcharakter to an Anthropological Concept of Culture,” in George Stocking, ed., Volksgeist as Method and Ethic: Essay on Boasian Ethnography and the German Anthropological Tradition (History of Anthropology, vol. 8) (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996):17-78.
In “Franz Boas and the Humboldtian Tradition,” Matti Bunzl provides a sweeping survey of what he calls “historicist Counter-Enlightenment thinking” to argue that American cultural anthropologists are more German than most of them are willing to admit. Bunzl makes two distinct and important contributions to the history of the human sciences: he adds an enormous level of detail to what we know about the ethnographic, linguistic, and methodological work of Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt and their disciples, stretching from the 1770s to the 1880s; and he uses a close study of Boas’s early career in America to offer a nuanced account of what happens when a “national style” of doing science is transported into a foreign intellectual and institutional environment. Bunzl’s assiduous delineation of the Humboldtian tradition, with its links to Romanticism and historicism, sets the stage for one of his central arguments, that Boas, steeped in this tradition, developed his culture concept in response to debates between historicism and “natural law”, rather than, as in the standard story, in reaction to the emergence of Darwinism. Where evolution did play a central role, Bunzl makes clear, was later, when Boas emigrated to the United States and confronted an anthropological community deeply committed to evolutionary positivism. There, Bunzl argues persuasively, in response to this environment Boas elaborated and developed his historicist notion of cultural anthropology, as he did studies of the cultural productions and languages of a number of groups in order to substantiate his claim that anthropology could not proceed by discovering universalist laws but rather must focus on empirically grounded studies of individual cultural trajectories, with the goal of understanding a given group in as much of its totality and specificity as possible. Throughout his article, Bunzl practices what Boas preached. While convincingly refuting the assumption that American cultural anthropology was largely home-grown, he refuses to adhere to a simplistic “diffusionist” model which would have everything that was new in the field come from the more-developed German tradition. Rather, it is the interactions between old world and new, Darwinism and historicism, and innovation and tradition building that lie at the heart of Bunzl’s fine piece of scholarship.
1997 Article Prize: Patrick J. Ryan, “Unnatural Selection: Intelligence Testing, Eugenics, and American Political Cultures,” Journal of Social History 30 (1997):669-685.
The inaugural FHHS article prize has been awarded to Patrick Ryan for his article, “Unnatural Selection: Intelligence Testing, Eugenics, and American Political Cultures,” which appeared in the Spring 1997 issue of the Journal of Social History. Using the case study of Henry Goddard’s efforts to reform Ohio’s Bureau of Juvenile Research between 1918 and 1922, Ryan demonstrates how eugenic theories appeared to be “un-American” in the context of local political cultures which were wedded to ideologies of self-help, maternalism and local autonomy. His article is an engaging and well-researched account of the political in-fighting that took place between Goddard and Ohio civil servants. In the process, he successfully argues that a full social history of eugenics in America must move beyond narratives emphasizing eugenics as “impure science” or as a simple matter of science in the service of “social control.” Ryan’s case focuses on the impediments to the spread of eugenic ideas, and suggests that the growing unpopularity of certain forms of eugenics in America after 1918 had more to do with the persistent resonance of Horatio Alger than with the advancement of science. He underscores as well the important point that social control has always come in many shapes and sizes–some very unfriendly to eugenics.