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Nicole B. Barenbaum
University of the South (Sewanee, TN 37383-2000)
Diversifying the Discipline: Jews in American Psychology, 1900-1940

I plan to conduct archival research leading to a scholarly article on the history of Jewish psychologists who sought academic careers in the U.S. between 1900 and 1940. During this period, broader societal concerns regarding the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe were reflected in an increasing intolerance of "outsiders" in American universities and colleges. Earlier research has examined the contributions of Jewish popularizers of psychology between 1890 and 1940 and has documented hiring practices that excluded Jews and other outsiders from academic positions in the 1920s and 1930s, with the exception of a few who were highly assimilated. To date, however, there has been little systematic attention to the situation of Jews in American academic psychology in the 1900s and 1910s, to changes in their status between 1900 and 1940, or to relationships between their psychological contributions and their perspectives on the "politics of assimilation." Rather than treat Jewish psychologists as a monolithic group, my study will suggest that a diversity of factors--e.g., national origin, generation, social class, political and religious values, professional training, and broader institutional and societal contexts--must be considered in any attempt to understand their career patterns and contributions. It will examine differences among Jews who succeeded in establishing academic careers in psychology and those who did not, with particular attention to psychologists trained between 1900 and 1920. My study will draw upon primary sources and archival collections to present examples of Jewish psychologists whose career trajectories and psychological contributions reflected differences in their social, cultural, and political positions. Addressing a larger question in the history of science, it will examine a common pattern of indirect entry into academia through applied work in psychology and in other sciences during this period.

Project fields:
History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$24,000 (approved)
$24,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 6/30/2004