The psychologists gather

Just back from Harrogate where the British Psychological Society were meeting.   Why go there when I’m so ambivalent about these professional clubs?  Well they were kind enough to give me an award for ‘the promotion of equality of opportunity’, for my work in Manchester Learning Disability Partnership (now being dismantled?) and my wider critical and scholarly work on the structural and power dimensions of psychological thought and practice (community psychology, critical psychology, liberation psychology).   I had the opportunity to give a 20 minute lecture and rather than talking directly about my work I reflected on the perfect storm of contemporary crises and the question of rethinking both professional practice but also the very basis of our society.  In some ways this was biting the hand that fed me – I gave a brief critique of the professional code of practice and characterised psychological theory and practice within the coloniality of State and market.  But the audience seemed very receptive and asked some good questions.  While the talk was a bit breathless (or garbled) given the scope of its ambition, it did seem to resonate somehow.  You can read it here.  there won’t be many surprises for followers of this blog maybe.

Anyway Harrogate is always a pleasure to visit.  I grew up (’til 14 when we moved to Ballymena of all places) in another spa town (Malvern) so maybe I find such places (Buxton is another) congenial.  We had dinner with some people we knew and some we didn’t, including Allan Baddeley who received an award for his work on memory – his review of short term memory was one of the first academic papers we had to read.  Good for him.

The following morning we went to a film showing on the involvement of USA psychologists in torture at Guantánamo Bay (let’s say it again – a USA occupied corner of otherwise free Cuba) and in Iraq.  There was a discussion that made some useful points but perhaps failed to really understand this within the imperialist/colonial/capitalist systems of dominance (yes coloniality again), nor the way psychology itself so typically constructs a relationship of superiority over the other, be it disabled, mentally disordered, young, poor, old, foreign, etc person.  I had a flash of insight that there is actually a continuity between the events at Abu Ghraib / Guantánamo, Winterbourne View and Mid Staffs NHS Trust – this is both about the colonial template of relations and the erosion of common decency, of ethicality under particular organisational conditions.


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