Psychology through Critical Auto-Ethnography
Academic Discipline, Professional Practice and Reflexive History
This unique book is an insider account about the discipline of psychology and its limits, introducing key debates in the field of psychology around the world today by closely examining the problematic role the discipline plays as a global phenomenon.
Ian Parker traces the development of ‘critical psychology’ through an auto-ethnographic narrative in which the author is implicated in what he describes, laying bare the nature of contemporary psychology. In five parts, each comprising four chapters, the book explores the student experience, the world of psychological research, how psychology is taught, how alternative critical movements have emerged inside the discipline, and the role of psychology in coercive management practices. Providing a detailed account of how psychology actually operates as an academic discipline, it shows what teaching in higher education and immersion in research communities around the world looks like, and it culminates in an analytic description of institutional crises which psychology provokes.
A reflexive history of psychology’s recent past as a discipline and as a cultural force, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone thinking of taking up a career in psychology, and for those reflecting critically on the role the discipline plays in people’s lives.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Control and confession PART I: STUDYING PSYCHOLOGY 1. Experiments: Cold method 2. Cognition: Sex and race 3. Biology: Performing animals 4. Science: Breaking up madness PART II: PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH 5. Paradigms: Performing student 6. Perception: Boxed beetles 7. Analysis: The continental selection 8. Social: What is a dissertation? PART III: TEACHING PSYCHOLOGY 9. Empirical: Mapping the quadrangle 10. Personality: Behaving badly 11. Conflict: War and peace in the subject 12. Discourse: Tall tales about power PART IV: GOING CRITICAL 13. Development: Cults and discourse units 14. Psychiatry: On the campus 15. Constructionism: Assessment and appointment 16. Evolutionary: Realistic and critical too PART V: INSTITUTIONAL CRISES 17. Quantitative: Administrative and personal 18. Qualitative: Watching them watching us 19. Stress: Discipline and publish 20. Management: Big P and little p Afterword and acknowledgements Bibliography Index
Ian Parker is Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Emeritus Professor of Management at the University of Leicester, and Co-Director of the Discourse Unit, where he is Managing Editor of Annual Review of Critical Psychology.
‘If you are an academic teaching in/through/despite psychology, this book refracts like a fractured mirror and feels like a colonoscopy. If you are an academic who has been betrayed/fired/attacked/exposed by your university because of a radical scholarly project, you will feel heard, seen, archived and in very good company. If you are a student of Psychology, the volume blinks like a beautifully curated, auto-ethnographic yellow light. Beware. The Psychology Stories narrated by Ian Parker – an exquisite and painful auto-ethnography; a careful disciplinary dissection, and a skillful institutional autopsy – unfold crucial counter-narratives about what it means to live a life of willful passions, witness the disciplinary erasures and decadence of Psychology and be consumed by surveillance and the carnivorous appetite of the neo-liberal academy. Read the book. You may not love all parts; you may not agree; you may have a different story of psychology to tell. You will, however, not easily forget the brilliant path Ian has carved through the psy complex and you will most definitely applaud his stunning "walk off" song.’ - Michelle Fine, Professor of Critical Psychology, Urban Education, Gender/Women’s Studies, The Graduate Center, CUNY, US
‘Subjectivity is arguably the "theme" of psychology. Yet, as Ian Parker’s autoethnography shows, mental life is not just intra-subjectivity when sharing personal experiences but also intellectual influences and networks in psychology and related fields. Particular interactions in the context of the academic and cultural-historical developments of Britain since the 1970s and around the world, and academic and activist responses, point to the significance of inter- and socio-subjectivity. We learn about the hyperreality of an academic discipline, to which all critical psychologists can relate, and come to appreciate the sometimes unintended agency that shaped Ian’s project. A daring instructor might use this historically systematic book for educational purposes; one can enjoy reading about persons, times, and locations that have remained either intriguing or influential; or the book can be understood in terms of the author’s attempt to understand the psyche and its nexus to social and institutional struggles since, unsurprisingly, the psychological remains political. Clearly and beautifully written, drawing on an impressive memory, and generous to people who co-constructed shared activities, Ian Parker lays out a stream of reflexivity and interferences that confirms that critical psychology stems as much from necessity as it does from personal experiences that make subjectivity not only societal, but also unique and irreplaceable.’ - Thomas Teo, York University, Canada
‘Parker tells an intriguing, insightful and very personal story about his journey through becoming and being a psychologist – in harsh and cruel times. Its telling is woven-through with an erudite and fascinating account of the creation of ‘critical psychology’, its triumphs, troubles and troubling. This book is intended to set several cats among an awful lot of pigeons, to awesome effect! Its critique of the harms being done by the neoliberal destruction of all that was best in the academy (including the governmental power of pretty well everything that is ‘psi’) – is a compelling call for action. May its impact live long and thoroughly prosper.’ - Wendy Stainton Rogers, Professor Emerita, The Open University, UK
‘This is the story of one of our most prominent critical psychologists whose journey into and eventually out of psychology serves as both lesson and cautionary tale. Ian Parker’s long trajectory through contemporary psychology is a fascinating reminder of the pitfalls and seductions of a discipline that serves still to befuddle and bewitch rather than liberate and deliver us from a narrow individualism. His story is an ultimately hopeful tale of one psychologist’s struggle to make a difference.’ - Hank Stam, Psychology, University of Calgary, Canada