Social psychology, history and the study of the Holocaust: the perils of interdisciplinary ‘borrowing’

2015-07-02T15:46:50Z (GMT) by Cristian Tileaga Jovan T. Byford
The article offers a critical examination of “borrowing” as a form of interdisciplinary engagement between psychology and history. This is where specific insights from one discipline are used (often selectively) by the other to shed light on a specific problem regarding experience, human motivation, or behavior. Using two studies on the social psychological aspects of the Holocaust as relevant examples, the article highlights some of the epistemological and conceptual tensions implicit in this form of interdisciplinarity. These include the role of narrative and emplotment in historical reconstruction, the relationship between texts and historical context, the role of discourse and interpretation, and the tension between universalism and particularism. The article considers the different ways in which some of these challenges could be overcome in future research, and how one might take the interdisciplinary study of the Holocaust, but also other instances of mass crimes and genocide, beyond selective “borrowing.”