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Materials of the Mind

Phrenology, Race, and the Global History of Science, 1815-1920

James Poskett

Materials of the Mind

James Poskett

Publication supported by the Neil Harris Endowment Fund

373 pages | 47 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226626758 Published April 2019
E-book $10.00 to $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226626895 Published April 2019
Phrenology was the most popular mental science of the Victorian age. From American senators to Indian social reformers, this new mental science found supporters around the globe. Materials of the Mind tells the story of how phrenology changed the world—and how the world changed phrenology.
 
This is a story of skulls from the Arctic, plaster casts from Haiti, books from Bengal, and letters from the Pacific. Drawing on far-flung museum and archival collections, and addressing sources in six different languages, Materials of the Mind is an impressively innovative account of science in the nineteenth century as part of global history. It shows how the circulation of material culture underpinned the emergence of a new materialist philosophy of the mind, while also demonstrating how a global approach to history can help us reassess issues such as race, technology, and politics today.
Contents
Introduction
1. Skulls
2. Casts
3. Books
4. Letters
5. Periodicals
6. Photographs
Epilogue
 
List of Figures
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Review Quotes
Wall Street Journal
"One of the many merits of Mr. Poskett's book is that it rejects the standard view of phrenology as something that was almost accidentally invented in Europe and then came to flourish in the therapy-obsessed United States. Instead, Mr. Poskett paints the picture of a globe crisscrossed by phrenological exhibits and ephemera."
Alison Bashford, author of Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth
"An exemplary history of objects, this book is also a global history of the mind. Poskett clarifies the material culture through which ideas about phrenology--and materialism itself--translated and travelled across continents and languages. The freshest history of the strangest science."
Sujit Sivasundaram, University of Cambridge
"In this ambitious and riveting book, James Poskett tracks the global in so many senses: as a category among phrenologists who were concerned with the scales and spaces of work and with the nature of comparison and racial imagination; as a physical possibility among those who transferred skulls, letters, printed text, and casts; as a lumpy and uneven set of links across the span of the world; and finally, as a way in which we talk about our present moment in the historiography of the sciences. It is precisely because Poskett combines all of this globular talk, and because phrenology is such a good discipline with which to range across these globals, that Materials of the Mind should be vital reading on some of the most urgent concerns facing the world history of science."
Janet Browne, Harvard University
"This terrific book explores the global turn in the Victorian science of phrenology and sets the topic firmly inside the expanding imperial and racial concepts of the day. It shows how the ideas and objects associated with the popular activity of measuring heads circulated across the globe while making a substantial contribution to understanding the universalizing properties of science and technology in history."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://www.press.uchicago.edu
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