BPS History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)


Wednesday 30 November 2011, 6pm

Dr. Egbert Klautke, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies – “The Repudiation of Völkerpsychologie in Germany”

My talk will focus on the ‘last’ representative of the once honourable discipline of Völkerpsychologie in Germany, Willy Hellpach. I will present his contribution to the field — his textbook Introduction to Folk Psychology (1938) — as part of his personal strategy to adapt to the conditions of the Third Reich, despite later claims to the contrary by Hellpach and some of his sympathetic interpreters. In the second part of the paper, I will outline the conditions and results of the slow repudiation of his Völkerpsychologie after World War II, and outline the problems which academics critical of ‘national character studies’ encountered.


Wednesday 14 December 2011, 6pm

Thibaud Trochu (University of Paris 1, Sorbonne) – “Psychological Experimentation in the Nineteenth Century: James John Garth Wilkinson (1812-1899), Physician, Mystic and Radical.”

Though quite forgotten nowadays, Dr. J. J. Garth Wilkinson was once a widely known intellectual figure in Victorian Britain. Praised by his contemporaries as a fine scholar, a first-rate writer, and a highbrow public ethicist, he was notorious for stirring controversy and debate — most often against the grain. His personality and thinking revolved around two passionate feelings: deep-seated religious yearnings — though quite unorthodox ones — on the one hand, and on the other, an inclination to mistrust and to defy all forms of established authority – be they religious, medical or political — which he accused of narrowing the horizons of self-conscious practitioners and free citizens. His medical career, strongly entwined with his “spiritual”‘ quest, was thus colored by a radical political tone. This led him to carry out numerous experiments in his daily practice of the art of healing such as homeopathy, hypnotism and other forms of “psychological analysis,” whilst establishing himself as an opponent of what he saw as the dominant trend of medical materialism, “dogmatic objectivism” and autoritarism. At a time of triumphant scientist medicine, Wilkinson saw himself as — in his own words — “smashing its institutional structure.”

Time: 6pm

Location: UCL Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Room 544, 5th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ Directions: From the main reception, go through the double doors at the back and turn left, walk the length of this corridor and at the very end turn left again – you will find yourself in front of the ‘West’ Lifts. Take these to 5th Floor. On exiting the lift, turn right through double doors and then left through single door, walk the length of this corridor pass through another door and then turn right – you will see a marble table ahead. Room 544 is straight ahead.

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