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An Organ of Murder: Crime, Violence, and Phrenology in Nineteenth-Century America (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine)

An Organ of Murder: Crime, Violence, and Phrenology in Nineteenth-Century America (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine)

Previous price: $35.95 Current price: $32.95
Publication Date: February 12th, 2021
Publisher:
Rutgers University Press
ISBN:
9781978813069
Pages:
278
Special Order - Subject to Availability

Description

Finalist for the 2022 Cheiron Book Prize​

An Organ of Murder explores the origins of both popular and elite theories of criminality in the nineteenth-century United States, focusing in particular on the influence of phrenology. In the United States, phrenology shaped the production of medico-legal knowledge around crime, the treatment of the criminal within prisons and in public discourse, and sociocultural expectations about the causes of crime. The criminal was phrenology’s ideal research and demonstration subject, and the courtroom and the prison were essential spaces for the staging of scientific expertise. In particular, phrenology constructed ways of looking as well as a language for identifying, understanding, and analyzing criminals and their actions. This work traces the long-lasting influence of phrenological visual culture and language in American culture, law, and medicine, as well as the practical uses of phrenology in courts, prisons, and daily life.
         
 

About the Author

COURTNEY E. THOMPSON is an assistant professor of the history of science and medicine and U.S. women’s history at Mississippi State University in Starkville. She received her Ph.D. from the program in the history of science and medicine of Yale University in 2015.

Praise for An Organ of Murder: Crime, Violence, and Phrenology in Nineteenth-Century America (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine)

"Courtney Thompson provocatively measures the face, head, and soul of American phrenology and invites us to a discovery of the historical origins of scientific criminology."
— Stephen Casper

"In this compelling book, Courtney Thompson takes readers to the prisons, courtrooms, and streets of antebellum cities to expose just how phrenology claimed authority on criminality. Rich in detail and analysis, An Organ of Murder vividly illustrates the long history of making criminal minds and bodies into objects of medical and scientific inquiry."   
— Carla Bittel

"This short but informative book will appeal to anyone with an interest in phrenology, criminology, or the histories of psychiatry, psychology, and related fields, especially in nineteenth-century America. It fills a void, is well researched, and is written in an engaging and captivating way."
— Journal of the History of Neurosciences

An Organ of Murder? - BYU Radio "Constant Wonder" interview with Courtney E. Thompson
— BYU Radio, "Constant Wonder"

Privacy International - Technology Pill podcast interview with Courtney Thompson
— Privacy International - Technology Pill podcast

"New Books Network - New Books in Medicine" interview with Courtney E. Thompson
— New Books Network - New Books in Medicine

Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Sciences of the Mind forum held in partnership with American Philosophical Society: Courtney Thompson and Alicia Puglionesi in discussion 
— Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine - Sciences of the Mind

"For a compelling introduction to what a new generation of scholars is discovering about the perennially interesting topic of phrenology, Courtney E. Thompson’s An Organ of Murder comes highly recommended. This sophisticated, well-written history explores an aspect of phrenology that deserves more attention: its influence on both elite and popular conceptions of criminality....An Organ of Murder should find an appreciative readership not only among historians of science and medicine but also scholars interested in the new carceral history."
— Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Scienes

"Professor Thompson’s book does what it does quite well. It is an important contribution to the literature. And we might expect that it will be a guide to contemporary legal theory as well. It surely should be."
— Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

"Unlike many existing studies of phrenology, which tend to focus on the science’s European fortunes, Thompson takes on the nineteenth-century United States, particularly the period from 1830 to 1860. The book situates phrenology in the history of American criminal justice and the emerging conceptualization of criminality as an innate biological predisposition....Thompson adds a new, distinctively legal note to recent histories of phrenological science."
— New Rambler Review

"An Organ of Murder is a fascinating, well-written history of phrenology....Recommended."
— Choice

"The book will be of clear interest to those interested in phrenology, but it will also be relevant to scholars working in the history of criminology and punishment. One reason is Thompson's excellent demonstration of phrenology's reliance on the prison, which raises larger questions about criminology's relationship with confinement....An Organ of Murder will prove interesting and helpful to scholars working in the history of criminology and punishment." 
— Punishment & Society

"Thompson presents an impressively researched and appealingly structured argument for the importance of crime and punishment to phrenology, that problematic frontrunner of so many human and social sciences."
— Journal of the History of the Behavioral Science

"This book provides much needed insight into the confluence of phrenology, criminal justice, and the attempts by Americans to better explain, understand, and even correct criminal behavior in the nineteenth century and beyond."
— Law and History Review

"Vividly narrated with great wit and insight, An Organ of Murder constitutes an important contribution to the history of criminology as well as phrenology, with important implications for the practice of law and the human sciences... Thompson succeeds brilliantly. An Organ of Murder deserves a wide readership among historians and legal scholars, who will readily see the importance of following her leads."
— Susanna L. Blumenthal