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Sarah Mancoll

Celebrating the Scholarship, Leadership, and Life of
Dr. Herbert C. Kelman

Sarah Mancoll, SPSSI Policy Director

Dr. Herbert (Herb) C. Kelman. Credit: Harvard file photo


As reported in The Harvard Gazette and other outlets, Dr. Herbert (Herb) C. Kelman died on March 1, 2022 at the age of 94. Dr. Kelman was the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics emeritus at Harvard and the director of the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (1993-2003). A leader in the field of psychology, Dr. Kelman served as SPSSI’s President for the 1964-1965 term and received the 1973 Kurt Lewin Award (Lewin Address: “Violence without moral restraint: Reflections on the dehumanization of victims and victimizers”) for his outstanding contributions to the development and integration of psychological research and social action.

As Dr. Kelman’s Assistant Cassandra de Alba wrote in the spring 2022 newsletter of Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, “His commitment to peace and the alleviation of human suffering inspired generations of students, academics, and diplomats who have benefited from his mentorship and been influenced by his ideas.” She added, “In addition to his work on the ethics of social research, conformity and obedience, and nationalism and national identity, much of Professor Kelman’s career was spent on international conflict and its resolution, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.”

Remarkably, Dr. Kelman published in SPSSI journals from 1952 right up through 2021—a span of 69 years! His most recent paper, published just last summer in the Journal of Social Issues (Vol. 77, Issue 3), is entitled "A responsible psychologist is a responsible citizen.” In it, he wrote:

In speaking of the role of the citizen…I refer to one particular aspect of the role that may most readily intersect and come into conflict with the role of psychologist: a major part of our citizen's role is to concern ourselves with the problems confronting our society, and to use our energies and influence in favor of public policies and private practices conducive to the solution of these problems in line with our sociopolitical values. This aspect of the citizen role intersects with the role of psychologist whenever citizens acting on a matter of public policy are publicly identified as psychologists, or attempt to use their special knowledge and skills as a basis for their action, and whenever psychologists address themselves as citizens to the policies and practices of their profession, its organizations, and its practitioners. The task of the psychologist, qua psychologist, is to engage in systematic analysis and to evaluate empirical evidence. It is neither necessary nor indeed possible for psychologists to carry out this task without reference to their values and interests, but it is essential that we be as clear as we can be, to ourselves and to others, about the value assumptions that have entered into our work. (p.926)

Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and Department of Psychology are hosting a Celebration of the Life of Dr. Herbert C. Kelman on Friday, September 16, 2022 from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm EDT at Harvard’s Memorial Church that is free and open to the public. The event will be livestreamed here and recorded.

SPSSI would like to recognize a charitable contribution from Dr. Kelman’s trust.

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