Subjectivity and Psychosocial Research Group
Chair: Professor Valerie Walkerdine
Subjectivity has been an important concept for academic research and for intervening in social and political life since the 1960s. This group addresses the interdisciplinary study of subjectivity across a broad range of topics and is active in developing ways of understanding, theorising and researching subjectivity. Alongside this, the development of psychosocial research, spanning as it does methods which owe much to psychoanalysis, discourse, phenomenology to the study of affect, brings exciting ways of thinking about research on subjectivity.
The Subjectivity and Psychosocial Research Group
- is the editorial base of the journal Subjectivity
- is part of the Psychosocial Studies Network
- has an active postgraduate group, which meets monthly
- has a reading group, focussing currently on phenomenology
- organises regularly seminars and conferences (for current events see the main page)
- organises the ESRC National centre for Research Methods Network for Methodological Innovation on Researching Affect and Affective Communication
Research interests of group members includes:
Valerie Walkerdine’s work focuses on subjectivity in relation to issues of class and gender. She was part of the group which wrote the foundational ‘Changing the Subject’ (Routledge) and has been instrumental in shaping the development of psychosocial studies. Her current research focuses on class in relation to affective aspects of de-industrialisation, intergenerational affective transmission, postmemory. She also works on gender and popular culture, with her latest work being a study of children and video games. She has also contributed to debates about sexualisation.
Steven Stanley is interested in the relationship between Buddhist psychology, mindfulness theory and practice, and social scientific traditions of inquiry (especially relational psychology), and the mutual enrichment of these approaches. He is currently developing the theoretical foundations of a movement from a discursive constructionist to a mindful awareness based approach to psychosocial studies and social psychology, especially for researchers who seek embodied, feelingful and heartful approaches to subjectivity studies. This involves making methodological developments in first-person approaches to research to compliment existing third-person approaches, particularly allowing for the introspective study of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Substantively he is interested in the application and evaluation of mindfulness-based interventions in social and organisational contexts, e.g. prisons.
Karen Henwood conducts research into people’s identities, relationships and lives in ways that value epistemic reflexivity and, variously, configures them as biographical/relational, situated/cultural, spatial/temporal, and generational/historical subjects. She has a particular interest in questions of risk. Her work involves adopting elements of the psycho-discursive tradition in social psychology to highlight the cultural inscription of identities and subjectivities and the ways in which they can become infused with contradiction and dilemma. Her interests include the use of photoelicitation, embodiment and the biographical, generational and historical dimensions of time. She is currently working on aspects of fatherhood, masculinities and affective aspects of risk.
Gabrielle Ivinson researches young people and place and is currently working on an ESRC project as part of WISERD. This project aims to investigate place, space and affect in a local community from the perspective of young people. The research seeks to develop develop a psycho social understanding of place that aims to understand how affect circulates and provides limits and possibilities for young people’s understandings, senses of themselves and is implicated in future trajectories.
Bella Dicks is interested in understanding the subjective experiences and stories that people draw upon in coming to terms with locality-based changes, especially processes of regeneration in marginalised locales. How are memory and biography implicated in people's adjustment? How do policies that seek to build 'partnerships' with local people actually speak to their own experiences and local knowledges? How are local people being 'positioned' by these interventions, and how, if at all, do these positionings relate to their own sense of self-identity and place-identity? She has been exploring these issues sociologically so far; recently, she has come to feel what's also needed are analytic strategies able to deal with some of the complexity of subjective psychological experience.
William Housley has an interest in the interface between interaction and psychosocial notions of interiority and relationality. He is also interested in how critical debate and engagement between sociology and psychosocial studies can inform the theoretical and empirical understanding of social organisation, agency and the ordering of relations and subjectivity within contemporary society. He is currently engaged with a number of projects that include studies in Welsh identity, memory, testimony and the production of history in public inquiries and the art and practice of sustainable dwelling.
Raya Jones is interested in the expression of lived experiences in creative products as well as narrative identity constructions, with particular attention to how these aspects of subjectivity are theorized in psychology. Her authored books include a monograph which ‘triangulates’ Jung's approach to symbol formation with social constructionist, narrative, and dialogical perspectives on the self. Other relevant studies include: the interplay between the autobiographical and the fictive in works by an Israeli novelist; situated identity performances in personal stories of mental illness on the Internet; Jung’s ‘house' dream as an autobiographical event reconstructed over decades; the use of emotionally loaded images in theorizing about embodied subjectivity. Her latest books are edited volumes concerning body, mind and healing; identities and culture; imagination and education. She currently collaborates with colleagues in Japan and the Netherlands on an edited book bringing together scholars and psychotherapists writing from dialogical-self and Jungian perspectives.
Sue Congram is working with, and researching organisational leadership, investigating the deeper layers of personal experience, belief systems and cultural influences that shape the way leadership is enacted in the workplace. Sue is drawing on narratives of people’s leadership experiences to build a rich data source for understanding what lies beneath the surface of leadership practice. The idea that leadership is influenced by an experiential, psychologiocal or phenomenological ‘field’ is central to her thesis, raising the question of an ‘imaginal field’ exisiting between people and within the dynamics of leadership. Sue is also questioning whether the leader-follower paradigm limits our view of leadership in today’s complex social world, proposing that organisational leadership can be understood as a phenomenon that arises out of people collectively working together.
Cecilia Love works on trans-racial adoption. Despite the increase in the complexity of racial dynamics and family forms that exist in Britain today, the trans-racial adoptive family continues to remain an intense site of inspection in academic and policy contexts. The unique racial identity associated with trans-racial adoptive subjectivity is affectively lived as being neither white nor fully black, so that it often comes to unsettle or conflict with the specific ascription and identification of established racial categories. The overall priority within the study is to gain an in-depth understanding of the affective dimensions of the trans-racial adoptive subjectivity, which remains a way of being in the world where notions of class, race and gender intersect and become embodied in one individual. This trans-racial adoptive ‘body-subject’ that remains both separated and connected to each member of the adoptive triad has the possibility to become accentuated within the trans-racial adoptive scenario because of the multifarious ways in which the environment may receive the visible difference between parent and child. It is how this permanent display of difference communicated through the body has been felt, lived and remembered that the study seeks to understand. I draw upon elements of psychoanalytic phenomenology in order to approach any understanding of how the trans-racial adoptive subjectivity is lived as being inextricably linked to the environmental context it is located in. The analytical gaze of this study therefore moves to focus on the situation in which particular trans-racial adoptive subjectivities have been lived, rather than focusing on examining various facets of what is assumed to be a pre-defined trans-racial adoptive identity that resides inside the individual. It is how this relationship between the lived context of the person living through the situation that the study seeks to understand in affective terms.It is this in-depth understanding of a participant’s positioning in the world, their particular interpretation of that position, and how their life world has unfolded in specific social and historical contexts, that the study seeks to access through drawing on elements of the psycho-social methodological tradition.
Émilie Crossley is developing a psychosocial, longitudinal methodology to explore how volunteer tourism is experienced by young people. Her research seeks to discover how these experiences engender certain understandings of self and other, and how they become integrated into emergent adult biographies and identities. The work aims to move beyond reductive motivational models that predominate in the field by exploring the embodied, affective and relational aspects of volunteer tourist subjectivities.
Renee Lertzman’s work focusses on affective aspects of our relationship to the environment. In particular, her research challenges the common idea that people who are not involved in environmental campaigns are apathetic, instead demonstrating the complex psychosocial and affective aspects of subjective relation to environment.
Research in this group has been funded by Alexander von Humbold Foundation; Australian Research Council; Economic and Social Research Council; German Research Foundation; Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority; Welsh Office of Research and Development.
Contact Louise Madden (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further details.