Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South

Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South

by Anne C. Rose


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In the American South at the turn of the twentieth century, the legal segregation of the races and psychological sciences focused on selfhood emerged simultaneously. The two developments presented conflicting views of human nature. American psychiatry and psychology were optimistic about personality growth guided by the new mental sciences. Segregation, in contrast, placed racial traits said to be natural and fixed at the forefront of identity. In a society built on racial differences, raising questions about human potential, as psychology did, was unsettling.

As Anne Rose lays out with sophistication and nuance, the introduction of psychological thinking into the Jim Crow South produced neither a clear victory for racial equality nor a single-minded defense of traditional ways. Instead, professionals of both races treated the mind-set of segregation as a hazardous subject. Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South examines the tensions stirred by mental science and restrained by southern custom.

Rose highlights the role of southern black intellectuals who embraced psychological theories as an instrument of reform; their white counterparts, who proved wary of examining the mind; and northerners eager to change the South by means of science. She argues that although psychology and psychiatry took root as academic disciplines, all these practitioners were reluctant to turn the sciences of the mind to the subject of race relations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469615080
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/01/2014
Edition description: 1
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Anne C. Rose is Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at The Pennsylvania State University.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

This book is the best, most thorough exploration of southern identity and the complications of race through the prism of psychology—without a hint of pseudo-scientific jargon. Anne Rose is a masterful writer and deep thinker, as this study shows so well. Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South must be acclaimed as a major landmark in the probing of what W. J. Cash called 'the mind of the South.'—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, author of The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s-1890s

In a fascinating analysis, Rose explores the relationship between an emerging scientific enterprise and the regional culture within which it developed. In addition to its substantive contribution, Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South is well written and extensively researched, weaving together information from an impressive range of sources, and leavening the analysis with illustrative histories of individuals. This interdisciplinary work should be of interest to scholars in history and in the social sciences.—William Tucker, author of The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund

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