(1) Making Methods Work: American Psychiatry and Concepts of Race, 1880-2000
This project, which will lead to a monograph, is an attempt to chart the purchase and profile of racialized modes of thought within the modern mental sciences, particularly American psychiatry, and to consider the procedures by which historians of science and medicine can recover this concept.
(2) The Black Panther Party's Publishing Strategies and the Financial Underpinnings of Activism, 1968-1975'
Between 1968 and 1973, members of the Black Panther Party published some twelve books, several of them bestsellers, including Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice (1968) and Bobby Seale’s Seize the Time (1970). To date scholars who have read these works have generally done so to recover and explain the Party’s activism. What they have tended to overlook is the fact these works were not just accounts of the Party’s activism, but examples of it, with money raised from their production and sale helping to support other forms of activism. This essay charts how the Panthers produced many of these books, and reveals the commercial strategy that guided these practices, in turn helping to raise questions more broadly about how social movements financially supported their activism in the 1960s and 1970s. The essay was published in the Historical Journal in March 2019. It received an 'honorable mention' in the HOTCUS 2020 essay prize.
(3) Race Capital: Harlem as Setting and Symbol
Throughout the twentieth century, Harlem occupied a commanding place in American cultural and intellectual life. In the mid-1920s, the neighbourhood was celebrated as a 'race capital', and in later years, countless commentators described it as the 'capital of black America'. Although scholars and commentators have long called attention to this reputation, they have seldom probed why, when, and how Harlem acquired this status, nor have they really scrutinized the validity of such claims. Race Capital brings together thirteen prominent scholars of Harlem and black diasporic culture to reassess the discourses of Harlem exceptionalism, as well to consider the relevance of 'place' within contemporary humanities scholarship. The work was published by Columbia University Press in late 2018, and has been reviewed in several places. I am now in the early stages of thinking about a new essay around perceptions of Harlem by European (esp. French and German) writers and artists in the second half of the twentieth century.
(4) Ashley Montagu, Freud, and the Mental Sciences around Mid-Century
Ashley Montagu was one of the most prolific and innovative anthropologists in the years around mid-century. Trained at UCL in the 1920s, and Columbia in the 1930s, Montagu inherited a rich intellectual tool-kit, including a grasp of the burgeoning field of psychoanalysis. By fashioning a partial intellectual biography of Montagu, this project will attempt to consider the influence that psychoanalytic precepts had on Anglo-American anthropology in the years between 1920 and 1970. This is a vital tributary of investigation for the history of anthropology, for understanding the place of psychoanalysis in public life, and for those more narrowly interested in the work of Montagu. When complete the project will make two significant contributions: firstly it will raise questions about the history of methodological innovation within the human sciences (what exactly did anthropology think it could extract from Freud?); and secondly it will provide one of the fullest intellectual biographies of Montagu to date. A piece based on this research was recently published on the History of Anthropology Review blog, Clio's Fancy.
(5) Learning to do 'the Wave' in the Late Twentieth Century US
In early-1980s, a new ritual took root among US sports spectators, involving ‘a general waving of arms by standing customers, spreading section to section,’ and it soon became known as ‘the Wave’. This project tracks the emergence and entrenchment of this gesture, and considers how sports spectators learned to do “the Wave” in the late twentieth century. That is: How did this ritual become a commonplace mass gesture, widely recognized by US sports fans? How were potentially tens of thousands of spectators able to choreograph themselves to perform such a movement? In addressing these questions I argue that we need to approach the sports spectator as an historical figure, whose comportment, gestures, sartorial decisions, understanding of what they were watching, and sense of themselves have changed over time, and that we think of sports spectatorship as a learned cultural practice, honed through (perhaps surprisingly) printed manuals, by cheerleaders, television graphics and commentators, and, by the 1980s, large-screen video display boards, such as Mitsubishi’s DiamondVision and Sony’s JumboTRON. It relates the Wave’s emergence in the early-1980s to the broader transformation in sport stadium operations, and especially the shift in the technology used to prompt cheers and coordinate crowds, and in so doing expands previous scholarship on the history of gesture, beyond a concern with the meanings of actions, and towards a contemplation of their historical mechanics.