1st Edition

Therapeutic Worlds Popular Psychology and the Sociocultural Organisation of Intimate Life

By Daniel Nehring, Dylan Kerrigan Copyright 2019
    202 Pages
    by Routledge

    202 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book builds a fresh perspective on therapeutic narratives of intimate life. Focusing on the question of how popular psychology organises everyday experiences of intimacy, its argument is grounded in qualitative research in Trinidad in the Anglophone Caribbean.

    Against the backdrop of Trinidad’s colonial and postcolonial history, the authors map the development of therapeutic institutions and popular therapeutic practices and explore how transnationally mobile, commercial forms of popular psychology, mostly originating in the Global North, have taken root in Trinidadian society through online social networks, self-help books, and other media. In this sense, the book adds to social research on the transnational spread of a digital attention economy and its participation in the proliferation of popular psychological discourse.

    Drawing on in-depth interviews with self-help readers, the book considers how popular psychology organises their everyday experiences of intimate life. It argues that the proliferation of self-help media contributes to the psychologisation of intimate relationships and obscures the social dimensions of intimacy in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and other social structures and inequalities. At the same time, the book draws on anthropological arguments about the colonisation of consciousness in the Global South to interpret the insertion of transnationally mobile popular psychology into Trinidadian society.

    An innovative contribution to scholarship on therapeutic cultures, which explores the widely under-researched dissemination of popular psychology in the Global South, the book adds to a sociological understanding of the ways in which therapeutic narratives of self and intimate relationships come to be incorporated into everyday experience. As such, it will appeal to scholars of cultural studies, anthropology, and the sociology of gender, sexuality, families, and personal life.

    1. The psychological imagination  2. Psychology and the social organisation of power  3. Transnational popular psychology in Trinidad  4. A brief social history of marriage, love, and intimacy in Trinidad  5. Love, intimacy, and relationship management  6. Adaptation, gender roles, and the need for self-help  7. Popular psychology and the colonisation of intimate life in Trinidad  8. The psychologisation of intimate life


    Daniel Nehring is Associate Professor of Sociology at East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai. His research explores the personal consequences of globalisation and rapid social change. In particular, he is interested in the transnationalisation of therapeutic narratives of self and social relationships. He is the author of Sociology, a co-author of Transnational Popular Psychology and the Global Self-Help Industry and the co-editor of Intimacies and Cultural Change.

    Dylan Kerrigan is a lecturer in Anthropology and Political Sociology at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. His research studies the way societies change over time and the cultural processes that accompany such change. He is a co-author of Transnational Popular Psychology and the Global Self-Help Industry and is currently developing a manuscript entitled Elites in the Caribbean.

    'This impressive work offers fresh insights into the global reach of popular psychology and the ways in which it shapes intimate life. The book provides a valuable and much-needed contribution to studies of self-help and therapeutic cultures beyond the Global North. Drawing on an empirical study conducted in Trinidad and Tobago, Nehring and Kerrigan deftly blend historical analysis of local cultures and practices of love and intimacy and the ongoing effects of colonisation with personal accounts of the ways in which people draw on popular psychology in their own lives. This compelling book demonstrates the transnational movement of ‘psy’ discourse – how it travels and becomes embedded in local cultures and practices, and in turn how this shapes self-identity and social relationships. A must read for anyone interested in debates about therapeutic culture and sociological accounts of intimacy, individualisation and the global circulation of popular psychology.' - Katie Wright, La Trobe University; author of The Rise of the Therapeutic Society: Psychological Knowledge & the Contradictions of Cultural Change