Techniques of the brain and the paradox of emotions, 1880-1930.

O. E. Dror*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This essay studies the convergence of brain research with the physiology of emotions during the early twentieth century. It argues that the brain entered the laboratory of emotions not as an object of knowledge, but as a technique for producing emotions, in spite of the laboratory. The new brain-generated emotion signaled an epistemic break in the nature of studied emotion. It restructured the relationships between physiological and psychological forms of knowledge. It embodied the historical and political concerns of physiologists with pain. And it excluded the affectively experiencing subject from the study of "emotion." The essay also suggests that the brain-generated emotion was an object suspended in time and abstracted from history. Its unique a-temporal and de-contextualized characteristic transformed emotion into a product of a laboratory whose mode of production mimicked the modern factory. The constitutive elements that were assembled in creating the brain as emotion-generator were instrumental for the important studies of James Papez, Paul MacLean, and for the modern concept of Limbic System.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)643-660
Number of pages18
JournalScience in Context
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2001


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