Culture in Psychology

Culture in Psychology

Culture in Psychology

Culture in Psychology


Culture in Psychology breaks new ground by attempting to understand the complexity and specificity of cultural identities today. It rejects the idea that Western culture is a standard, or that any culture is homogenous and stable. Equally, it rejects the notion that culture is a mechanism that enhances reproductive fitness. Instead, it alerts psychologists to the many forms of 'foreignness' that research should address and to alliances psychology can make with other disciplines such as anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis. Part one explores the origins of the new 'cultural psychology' in social change movements, in fields such as ethnography and cultural studies, and as a response to evolutionary psychology. Part two looks at how people create and sustain the meanings of social categories of 'class', gender, 'race' and ethnicity, while the third part examines the interaction between written and visual representations in popular culture and everyday lived culture. The final part examines the idiosyncratic significance cultural forms have for individuals and their unconscious meanings.


Psychologists as cultural ethnographers

Christine Griffin

In a variety of ways, all the contributors to this volume are calling for a fuller and more nuanced understanding of culture and the cultural in psychological research and practice. This book is concerned with a perspective that has become known as the 'new cultural psychology' (Shweder, 1990), and sets out to explore this emerging approach in all its diversity. The debates on the 'new cultural psychology' revolve around two related but distinct issues: first, the critiques of mainstream psychology as Anglocentric and the advocacy of a more culturally sensitive psychology which is politically engaged (e.g. Fox and Prilleltensky, 1997); and second, calls for a deeper understanding of the relationship between psychology and the cultural domain. This latter aspect of the 'new cultural psychology' involves a connection with debates in the humanities and cultural studies, as well as in social anthropology and the new cultural geography (e.g. Pile and Thrift, 1995). In particular, a consideration of the relationship between psychology and the cultural domain involves an engagement with post-modernism(s), post-structuralism(s), feminism(s) and more recent approaches to the practice of ethnography. A major implication of such an engagement for contemporary western psychology concerns the 'new' theories of the subject and subjectivity which have emerged from post-structuralism and psychoanalytic perspectives (e.g. Henriques et al., 1984; Walkerdine, 1996), and which are covered in depth elsewhere in this volume. This new approach to subjectivity also involves an engagement with new understandings of 'difference', including cultural difference, informed by postmodernism and post-structuralist ideas (Ferguson et al., 1990).

A further area of debate around the relationship between psychology and the cultural domain relates to methodology, and especially the restricted range of research methods which are deemed acceptable in psychological research, and their limitations for appreciating the complexity (or even the possibility) of cultural forms and practices. My aim in this chapter is to devote some attention to this latter issue, and to consider the theoretical and methodological implications for constructing a critical cultural psychology which could appreciate the diversity of the cultural domain. My intention is to consider the potential value of those aspects of cultural studies (or research which engages with the cultural, to use a broader term) which have their roots in social and cultural anthropology as well as . . .

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