Thesis ID: CBB032544750

The Celluloid Specimen: Moving Image Research into Animal Life (2018)


“The Celluloid Specimen: Moving Image Research of Animal Life” analyzes the films made to document animal experiments in behavioral psychology laboratories during the early- to mid-twentieth century. It argues that this largely ignored cinematic history reveals a dynamic field of behaviorist looking, where the distinctions between nature and culture were inscribed into animal images, generating concepts that broadly shaped the politics of immigration, labor relations, educational practice and gender identity, well beyond the walls of the lab. Its chapters focus on the films made by Robert Yerkes in the 1930s at the first experimental primate colonies in North America; the rat films made to simulate human society at Yale University in the 1940s; and the promotional films made by B.F. Skinner to sell the U.S. Military on his design for a pigeon-guided missile during World War II. “The Celluloid Specimen” was produced through a hybrid methodology, bringing together archival films and documents, primary source materials from film history and science history, as well as the theories of film studies, science and technology studies, critical animal studies, and critical race studies. It concludes that filming animal research was a pivotal practice for generating the psychosocial definitions of species, race, identity, and culture that continue to shape our contemporary political and scientific discourses.

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Authors & Contributors
Ramsden, Edmund
Patrick Ellis
Schulze, Mario
Dewsbury, Donald A.
O'Donohue, William T.
Ferguson, Kyle E.
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
British Journal for the History of Science
History of Psychology
History of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of Social History
Sage Publications
Hill & Wang
University of Chicago
Cornell University
University of California, Santa Barbara
Behavioral sciences
Animal experimentation
Animal psychology
Science and film
Film and media studies
Yerkes, Robert Mearns
Calhoun, John B.
Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich
Scott, Walter Dill
Chomsky, Noam
United States
Great Britain
North America: United States; Canada
20th century
19th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Primate Station, Sukhumi
National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)

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