Critique has a long tradition in psychology, going back to the very foundations of the discipline: from Immanuel Kant’s classical critique in the 18th century, stating that empirical psychology could never be a proper science (Teo, 2005), to the radical demands for a destruction of the entire discipline made by members of the student movements in the late 1960s; from philosopher Rudolf Willy (1899), who was the first in a long line of skeptics postulating a ‘crisis in psychology’ (Sturm & Mülberger, 2012), to representatives of the ‘replication crisis’ (Maxwell, Lau, & Howard, 2015) identified in the early 2010s, which provided new arguments for critics from both within the discipline and without. Nevertheless, many popular approaches in academic psychology rarely address or systematize concepts of critique. In our colloquium, we will not only historicize the different lines of critique from the formation of psychology until today, but we will also ask whether critical perspectives can enrich current debates in psychology.

Among the diverse critical voices in “psychology’s territories” – meaning heterogeneous sets of psychological institutions, concepts, and practices (Ash, 2006, p.1) – at least three territories of critique can be distinguished:

First, there are territories of critique within scientific psychology that rely primarily on quantitative data and statistical models (Danziger, 1994; Gigerenzer & Marewski, 2015). In this academic field, researchers criticize studies because of methodological problems, or present empirical counterevidence from competing empirical results. This may also include the critique of different approaches to psychological phenomena, like the critique of psychoanalytical concepts as not scientific.

In contrast to these are, second, the territories of alternative psychologies, some of which even explicitly call themselves ‘critical.’ Addressing various problematic issues in ‘mainstream psychology,’ they comprise a wide range of sometimes competing viewpoints within academic contexts. Examples are the Marxist-oriented “Critical Psychology” (Holzkamp, 1983), which considers psychology as a technology of capitalist control, queer-feminist psychologies (Sieben & Scholz, 2012), criticizing heteronormative prerequisites in psychological approaches, and postcolonial approaches, criticizing Eurocentric structures in the discipline.

Third, there are non-academic territories of critique that engage with psychological issues. This area concerns critical perspectives on psychological applications, such as those brought forth from the antipsychiatric movement, as well as countercultures that use some forms of psychological knowledge like the encounter groups from the
1970s that were influenced by psychoanalytic ideas, and recent queer-feminist approaches to mindfulness and techniques of behavioral therapy (Illouz, 2011; Tändler, 2016).

The colloquium will include topics from all three of these territories of critique in psychology and examine their differences as well as how they intersect. In so doing, it will not only investigate the historical trajectories of existing lines of critique, but will also explore their theoretical frameworks and develop some lines of critique further.

Starting with this particular topic, the colloquium also endeavors to establish a general perspective on psychological humanities as a multidisciplinary field, consisting of philosophy, ethics, and history.

Keynote speakers include Emily Martin (New York University, New York), Morten Nissen (Aarhus University, Copenhagen), Thomas Teo (York University, Toronto) and Alexandra Rutherford (York University, Toronto).