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.


Abstract Morten Nissen

Motivation – A User-Driven and Aesthetic Critique

‘Motivation’ appears to be currently demanded everywhere; but we demand it of ourselves. The general shift toward self-governance requires us all to learn about motivation, and to monitor, represent, expose and finally motivate ourselves. ‘Motivation’ has become emancipated and user-driven: As Osterkamp (1976) and later Danziger (1997) revealed, in the 20th century, the concept psychologized and essentialized a relation of power – it was about how to make other people want what they must by claiming certain needs. But today’s technologies of motivation pragmatically ignore needs and are simply given over to selves who calculate expectancy values, self-track habits, and verbalize solution-focus (etc.) at will; or, they claim self-determination itself to be a need that ensures ‘intrinsic’ motivation whenever self-governance unfolds.

This (sketch of a) genealogy can mature into a critique proper by reinserting the social dimension that has been removed from technologies of self and self-determination. This could lead to revisiting traditional critiques of liberalism and the market-like structures that evolve in New Public Management and elsewhere. But, on this wider horizon, it could also attempt to rearticulate technologies of motivation, in a kind of affirmative or immanent critique. These technologies can be seen to realize a culturally mediated self, which should be understood within a broader, performative practice approach. From this angle, aesthetics is one dimension, and one tradition, which becomes relevant. Could it be fertile to regard monitorings, presentations, verbalizations, exposures etc. of the self as works of art? Could such rearticulation even itself be given aesthetic form? These ideas have been put to use in attempts to rearticulate the practices of professionals and users of Danish drug counseling services, in which a method called ‘Aesthetic Documentation’ has been developed.

Abstract Thomas Teo

Beyond natural-scientific psychology: The relevance of the psychological humanities for a general theory of subjectivity

This paper emphasizes the relevance of the psychological humanities by reclaiming subjectivity as a core issue for psychology. To advance a general theory of subjectivity, the psychological humanities use, apply, and rely on a variety of disciplines, and reconstruct, integrate, and develop psychological knowledge. In suggesting that a topic such as subjectivity requires an interrogation from the perspective of the humanities, the arts, and the concept-driven social sciences, the intellectual gaze shifts from disciplinarity to transdisciplinarity, from empirical to reflexive work, and from hypothesis-testing to asking questions about mental life.  Philosophical thinking provides conceptual clarifications and guidelines for integrating research on subjectivity; historical work reconstructs the trajectory of (epistemic) subjectivity and its subdivisions;  political and social theories debate the process of subjectification, the ways in which history, society and culture contribute to the construction of a subject; indigenous, cultural and postcolonial studies show that Western theories of subjectivity cannot be applied unquestioned to contexts outside of the West; the arts corroborate that subjectivity is core to the aesthetic project; and science and technology studies point to recent developments in genetic science and information technology that compel transformations in subjectivities. It is argued that the psychological humanities contribute to a broader understanding of subjectivity that cannot be gained alone through the psychological sciences. Consequences for the theories and practices of the psy-disciplines are discussed.