Rebecca Lemov

Rebecca Lemov

Professor of the History of Science
Director of Undergraduate Studies
RL photo 2020
Areas of Research: Science & Technology Studies, Technology & Society, Media Studies, Human Sciences
Rebecca Lemov's research focuses on key episodes and experiments in the history of the human and behavioral sciences. Her most recent book, Database of Dreams: The Lost Quest to Catalog Humanity examines attempts between 1942 and 1963 to map the elusive and subjective parts of the human psyche via once-futuristic data-storage techniques. In looking at innovations in data-gathering methods, her research investigates the ongoing transformation of knowledge, technology, and subjectivity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Currently, she is at work on a history of coercive interrogation in relation to brainwashing.

Rebecca teaches courses on brainwashing and technologies of mind control, as well as the history of the social and human sciences more broadly. A Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin in 2010-11, and again in 2013-14, she continues in two working groups there, on the Sciences of the Archive and Historicizing Big Data. Her doctoral work was at U.C. Berkeley in Anthropology and she graduated from Yale University where she studied English literature.



Selected Articles
  • On Not Being There: The Data-Driven Body at Work and at Play,” The Hedgehog Review 17, 2 (Summer 2015).
  • “Archives-of-Self: The Vicissitudes of Time and Self in a Technologically Determinist Future,” in Ed. Lorraine Daston, The Sciences of the Archive: Pasts, Presents, Futures (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016)
  • “Guantánamo’s Catch-22: The Uncertain Interrogation Subject,” in Eds. Limor Samamian-Darash and Paul Rabinow, Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).
  • “Anthropological Data in Danger, c. 1941-1965,” in Eds. Fernando Vidal and Nélia Das, Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture (London: Routledge, 2015), 87-112.
  • Everywhere and Nowhere: Focus Groups as All-Purpose Devices,” Special Issue on “Crowds and Clouds,” LIMN 2, Spring 2012.
  • “X-Rays of Inner Worlds: The Mid-Twentieth-Century Projective Test Movement,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 47, 3, 2011.
  • “Brainwashing’s Avatar: The Curious Career of Dr. Ewen Cameron,” Grey Room 45 (Fall 2011).
  • "’Hypothetical Machines’: The Science-Fiction Dreams of Cold War Social Science,” Focus section on Reassessing Cold War Science, eds. David Kaiser and Hunter Crowther-Heyck, Isis 101, 2010, 401-411.
  • "Filing the Total Human Experience: Anthropological Archives at Mid-Twentieth Century,” in eds. Charles Camic, Neil Gross, and Michelle Lamont, Knowledge Production in the Social Sciences (University of Chicago Press, 2011).
  • "Toward a Database of Dreams:  Assembling an Archive of Elusive Materials, 1947-1961,” History Workshop Journal 67, 1, 2009, 44-68.
  • "The Birth of Soft Torture: CIA interrogation techniques—a history,” Slate, November 16, 2005.
  • "The American Science of Interrogation,” Op-Ed, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2005.

In the Media

Contact Information

p: (617) 496-5229