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Colloquium "Observing Feelings: René Spitz and the Science of Emotional Development"

Tuesday, 21. November 2017 - 17:00 - 18:30
Location: 
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin, Small Conference Room
Host: 
Center for the History of Emotions
Contact: 
Christina Becher, sekfrevert@mpib-berlin.mpg.de

The Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, led by Prof. Ute Frevert, cordially invites all interested to attend its winter semester 2017/2018 colloquium

Rachel Weitzenkorn

Observing Feelings: René Spitz and the Science of Emotional Development

Which types of emotions make good scientific objects? How do the ideals of scientific neutrality change in the face of undeniable suffering? Rachel Weitzenkorn approaches these questions through the films of American psychoanalyst René Spitz (1887-1974). Between 1930 and 1959, Spitz, together with colleague Katherine Wolf, documented the intensity of suffering among infants in institutional settings. Behind the façade of scientific legitimacy, Spitz and Wolf produced extremely emotional and intimate films. This paper argues that they utilized the camera in innovative ways to create visual evidence that was both emotionally and psychoanalytically meaningful, while also fitting within the ideals of American experimental psychology. These films will be read as a case that exposes the role of affective attachment in our definitions of empirical fact.

Rachel Weitzenkorn is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. She received her PhD in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory University. She has received funding from the American Psychoanalytic Institute, and the Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar titled “New Scholarship on the Affects.” Broadly her work traces the ways intimate relationships become objects of scientific evidence in the 20th century. Rachel is currently working on a book project called The Emotion of Evidence: Babies and Mothers on the Edge of Cognitive Science, which traces how the mother-infant relationship became a site for cognitive researchers to incorporate emotions into their theories of development in the early years of the cognitive revolution (1945-1985).