The Cultural Psyche

The Selected Papers of Robert A. LeVine on Psychosocial Science

Edited by:
Dinesh Sharma, John Jay College, CUNY NYC; Steam Works Studio, Princeton, NJ

As envisaged by Robert A. LeVine many years ago, the human development indicators have improved in many societies as income, healthcare and educational opportunities have been enlarged. Global transformations have led to significant decline in extreme poverty and an increase in working class and middle class families around the world in the emerging economies throughout Africa and Asia. As the technological and global influences continue to challenge the dominant narrative in academic psychology, conflated with WEIRD data assumptions, interdisciplinary research will continue to increase in value and scope, where LeVine’s classical approach in psychological anthropology, combined with psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, demography, language or area research and population studies, offers a path forward. The essays collected here in addition to honoring LeVine’s work, hold out the promise of a real convergence between psychology and anthropology or the development of a psychosocial science -- a confluence between positivism and relativism, empiricism and ethnography, and social sciences and human sciences. The scientific search for universal laws and the ever expanding search for cultural meanings in the diverse communities around the world must continue simultaneously and in conjunction with the transnational or global challenges we face today.

As psychologists embrace the larger human laboratory in the real-world field settings, the advances made by psychological anthropology over the past half-century will continue to provide an important guide for forays into the uncharted territories. Locating the psyche in culture has the real possibilities of advancing the discipline of psychology from within and without. On the one hand, greater emphasis on ‘subjectivity in anthropology’ will lead to newer lines of studies that advance what Robert LeVine called “person centered ethnography,” while the greater emphasis on the brain, neuroscience and genomics might fuel studies on epigenetics, plasticity and human growth and maturation in cultural context, or what LeVine has termed the “biocultural” or “biopsychosocial” model of human development.

Hybridity fostered by interdisciplinary researchers has stood the test of time as the social sciences have gradually outgrown the monolithic ways of looking at the world. The project of a psychosocial science represented by the work of Robert A. LeVine at the intersection of psychology, anthropology, demography, child development and psychoanalysis maps out some of the challenges of a hybrid discipline. Hybridity impacts not only the humanities and social sciences, but physical sciences in genetics and genomics, or applied disciplines like biotechnology and life sciences. Thus, it is important that we not lose sight of LeVine’s spirit of interdisciplinary research. Advocates for universalism, the psychologists or behavioral scientists pursuing universal laws of human nature, must collaborate with the growing number of relativistic scientists – anthropologists, sociologists, or cultural studies experts -- searching for local meanings in small-scale village communities. There will be a confluence of social and human sciences, or what C.P. Snow, the English literary critic called the ‘two cultures’ of the scientific revolution – the sciences and humanities.

Preface, Byron Good. Culture and Psyche: The Future of a Hybrid Discipline, Dinesh Sharma. Autobiographical note "My Life in Psychological Anthropology", R. A. LeVine. SECTION I: THE HISTORY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY. Culture and Personality Studies, 1918-1960: Myth and History, Journal of Personality 69 (6): 803-818. Margaret Mead and Developmental Psychology, R. A. LeVine. Plasticity and Variation: From Franz Boas to William Caudill. Properties of Culture: An Ethnographic View, from Shweder and LeVine, 1984, Culture Theory. SECTION II: CULTURE AND PSYCHE. Psychoanalysis and Anthropology. Freud and Anthropology: Where Psychoanalysis Meets Cultures. Themes and Variations in Freudian Anthropology: Erikson and Hartmann. Is the Oedipus Complex Universal? Explorations in Freudian Anthropology. Freud and the Social Sciences: Censorship in African Societies. Asian Explorers of the Psyche. R. A. LeVine. SECTION III: PERSON CENTERED STUDIES OF THE GUSII IN KENYA. Outsider’s Judgement: An Ethnographic Approach to Group Differences in Personality 1966. House Design and the Self in an African Culture, with Sarah LeVine, published in Boyer 1991. Adulthood among the Gusii of Kenya, in Semelser and Erikson. Gusii Funerals: Meanings of Life and Death in an African Community, Ethos 1982 R. A. LeVine. The Self in Culture, Interaction and the Psyche, R. A. LeVine. SECTION IV: COMPARATIVE STUDIES OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT. Child Development in India, with D. Sharma. New Directions in Child Development, 1998. Education and Mother Infant Interaction: A Mexican Case Study 1996, R. A. Do Bad Schools Have Good Effects? Women’s Schooling in Asia and Africa. 2017. The semantics and semiotics of “attachment”. SECTION V: CONCLUSION. Mothering, Literacy and Demographic Change, an Interview with Sarah LeVine and Bob LeVine About the Future of Psychosocial Science, Dinesh Sharma. Commentary, Richard Shweder. Commentary, Thomas Weisner.

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