Taking stock: Gearing up for ISCHP 2017

~Glen Jankowski, site co-editor

Being critical in a neoliberal discipline can often feel exhausting. We’re fighting an uphill battle and it can seem like little progress has been made, especially when we look at how long we’ve been fighting it.

Go back to 1987 for instance when the gods of discourse analysis, Jonathon Potter and Margaret Wetherell (1987, p. 174) tried to address the need to get out of the ivory tower in psychology in their book on discourse analysis:

We feel that researchers should pay considerably more attention to the practical use of their work over and above the amassing of research findings and the furtherance of careers…the image of a benign body of practitioners waiting to read the journals of pure scientists and put research findings into practice is heartwarming but unrealistic”.

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Go further back to 1969 when APA president George Albee stated to a room full of psychologists that bad health isn’t caused by individual factors but by the urgent structural oppression:

We must realize that the terrible suffering that exists in our society among the disenfranchised, the poor, the have-nots, can only be remedied by direct confrontation with the establishment

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Or, for me, still most astoundingly, 4 years before that when Martin Luther King challenged members of the American Psychiatric Association at their AGM to consider the harm psychology might be doing by suppressing rational discontent with an oppressive system:

“There is a word in modern psychology which is now probably more familiar than any other word in psychology. It is the word: maladjusted…[But] there are some things in our social system that I’m proud to be maladjusted to…I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of lynch mobs; I never intend to become adjusted to the evils of segregation and discrimination; I never intend to become adjusted to the tragic inequalities of the economic system which will take necessity from the masses to give luxury to the classes….The salvation of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.

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Yes, the war against neoliberalism hasn’t been won. It is frustrating that this has all been said before and yet our discipline, for the most part, continues to locate illness, disease and suffering as individually caused. But this is why ISCHP as a society is so important. Because we can take stock from others’ efforts, we can collaborate and support each other to make small changes in our discipline, through what we teach, what we research, what we practice, to do better.

One of this year’s conference themes is Diversity and Inclusivity which will bring together critical health psychologists working not only to undo illness and health but other intersecting oppressions that also cause harm and can not be ignored.

The conference has a range of presentation options from the traditional oral slots to the more engaging 5 minute Pecha Kuchas.

Four keynote speakers promise exciting talks too including tracing neoliberalism’s roots in moral panics about youth binge drinking and social networking practices, to the proposal of a new, pragmatic way to treating mental illness that doesn’t reduce mental apathy solely to biological imbalances, to rethinking what an alternative state or governance might mean not only for all of our health but also our civil liberties (such as gay rights).

Previous ISCHP conferences have proven fruitful in allowing us to take stock, learn from each others’ work, offer constructive criticism and enjoy a truly terrible collective attempt at dancing.

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For more terrible dancing and snippets of conference presentations, have a look at Andrea LaMarre’s storify of tweets from the last conference (in South Africa, July 2015).

The key dates for ISCHP 2017 are:

  • Pre-conference workshop deadline: 31st October 2016
  • Abstract submission early review deadline: 31st January 2017
  • Oral presentations final submission deadline: 10th March 2017
  • E-Poster final submission deadline: 1st April 2017
  • Early bird conference registration deadline: 30th April 2017
  • Final conference registration deadline: 9th June 2017

….and you can find out more about the conference on the website dedicated to everything ISCHP 2017.

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