L. Bican Polat

L. Bican Polat
Clinical Associate Professor of History, NYU Shanghai

L. Bican Polat is a Clinical Associate Professor of History at NYU Shanghai. He received his joint-degree PhD in Intellectual History and Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University in 2016, specializing in historical and social studies of science and medicine. 

His research centers on the intersecting histories of the human and life sciences in America and Britain during the late modern period, with a focus on the emergence and transformation of developmental science at the crossroads of several disciplinary specialties and various social practices. His first book project, The Rise of Attachment Theory: The Genealogy of a Psychological Paradigm, explores these dynamics in the context of the history of the attachment paradigm, a scientific research framework for studying parent-child relationships from developmental and psychosocial perspectives. Using archival and ethnographic methods, the book project tracks the development of this theoretical paradigm through the investigative practices of research communities that flourished on both sides of the Atlantic over the span of a century—from its origins in interwar psychiatry and psychology to its latest elaborations in behavioral neuroscience and global mental health practice. 

Prior to joining NYU, Dr. Polat was a postdoctoral researcher in the Michigan Society of Fellows at Tsinghua University (Beijing, China) and Department of Philosophy at Boğaziçi University (Istanbul, Turkey). His work received the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and has appeared in publications including Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, ISIS, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.


Select Publications

  • Mental Hygiene, Psychoanalysis, and Interwar Psychology: The Making of the Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis, ISIS, Journal of the History of Science Society, 112 (2), 2021, pp. 266-290.

  • Model-as-Replica, Model-as-Instrument: Representational Power and Contextual Versatility in Animal Models, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 89, 2021, pp. 19-30.

  • Modeling Mothering: The Development of an Experimental System in Neurobiology, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 43, 2021, 94.

  • Section on the History of Ethnology and Ethnography (Edited with an Introduction), Handbook of the History of the Human Sciences, David McCallum (editor-in-chief), Palgrave, 2021.

  • Before Attachment Theory: Separation Research at the Tavistock Clinic, 1948-1956, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 53 (1), 2017, pp. 48-70.



  • PhD, Intellectual History and Anthropology 
    John Hopkins University 

Research Interests

  • History of Science and Medicine

  • History of Psychiatry, Psychology, and the Neurosciences

  • Science and Technology Studies (STS)

  • History and Theory of Psychoanalysis

  • History of the Human Sciences

  • Medical Anthropology


Courses Taught

  • What is Science and Technology Studies?

  • History of Modern Medicine

  • History of the “Psy” Disciplines

  • Heredity, Delinquency, and Degeneracy in Victorian Scientific Naturalism

  • Brains and Minds: Critical Perspectives on Neuroscience