E02
Psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures: exacerbating or mitigating global inequalities? (Paper)

Convenors:
Elise Klein (University of Melbourne)
China Mills (University of Sheffield)
Sally Brooks (University of York)
Stream:
E: Everyday inequalities
Location:
D5
Start time:
28 June, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

The individual's psychology, behaviour, subjectivity has become a targeted domain to address growing inequalities. This panel calls for papers that critically examine how psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures exacerbate or mitigate global inequalities.

Long abstract:

Minds, behaviour and psychologies are fast becoming key sites to tackle and understand growing inequalities. While development and psy-expertise share intersecting and co-constitutive histories, there has been, of late, a shift to the more explicit mobilisation of psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures within development interventions. This is evident in diverse arenas, from the 2015 World Development Report "Mind, Society and Behaviour'; the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals (target 3.4); and the burgeoning of measurement and policy focusing on subjective wellbeing and happiness. Inclusion has also increased with the growth of technologies and processes of digitisation and data capture, for example in the diagnosis and clinical management of mental health problems, and application of 'nudge' techniques, the shaping of subjectivities to aid financial inclusion, and positive psychology to produce specific behaviours and mentalities such as positive thinking and wellbeing. To some, the use of psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures in development policy is a new way to tackle and understand inequality, increase economic efficiency and promote wellbeing. Others are concerned with its re-inscription of universal, individualist constructions of personhood, its objective of 'correcting' individuals' decision-making, the abstraction of subjective data from their specific context, and the possibility of appropriation by political and economic actors, with neo-colonial implications. This panel calls for papers that critically examine how psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures exacerbate or mitigate global inequalities. The panel is proposed by the study group on Wellbeing, Psychology and Therapeutic Culture in International Development