Abstract Nora Ruck

Feminist psychologies as cultures of critique: Between activism and academia

Feminist psychologies are prime examples of intersecting cultures of critique in psychology: Deeply rooted in non-academic cultures of critique that engage with psychological issues, e.g., women’s groups of the Second Women’s Movement or non-academic psychotherapeutic practice, they have formed alternative psychologies that have gained a foothold in academic  psychology in many countries around the world. These two cultures correspond to the historiographic disctinction between “small p” and “big P” psychology, i.g., between the everyday practices of psychology people employ to make sense of their lives on the one hand and the formalized and institutionalized discipline of Psychology on the other hand.

In my presentation I will sketch a comparative history of feminist psychology and feminist Psychology in North America and in the German-speaking countries. Both in the U.S. and in Canada, feminist psychologies developed out of a critique of Psychology developed by activists in the Women’s Movement. Soon feminist psychologists targeted psychological institutions with their activism and started to shape feminist Psychology as a professional practice by establishing task forces within professional organizations in order to address the sexism and androcentrism of psychological institutions; by publishing articles, books, handbooks, textbooks, and journals devoted to feminist psychology; by giving presentations and organizing symposia on feminist psychology; and by developing feminist psychological university courses and curricula. In Germany and Austria, similar developments occurred on the level of feminist psychology as activists in the Women’s Movement started to employ psychological techniques such as ‘consciousness-raising’ and criticized the sexism and androcentrism of psychology and psychotherapy. Soon activists founded feminist counseling and therapy centers, authored articles and books, organized congresses on feminist therapy, and taught at universities and other institutions of higher education. In contrast to North America, however, in the German speaking countries feminist Psychology did not take form as a formal and institutionalized force within Psychology.

My presentation will explore these differing intersections between feminist psychology in activism and feminist Psychology in the academia. Using a comparison between feminist psychologies in North America and Germany will help me uncover the concrete conditions that have facilitated or hindered the development of feminist Psychology in North America and in the German speaking countries, respectively. With an analysis that aims at uncovering conditions of (im)possibility for feminist Psychology, I aims to contribute to a deepened understanding of the social, political, institutional, and cultural conditions that may either facilitate or hinder the development of cultures of critique in different local and national contexts.


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