issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

87Textbook Answers?Bróna Nic Giolla EaspaigDavid FryerUniversity of Stirling, ScotlandThis paper is written within a communitycritical psychology frame of reference, that is,one which is equally committed to exposingand problematising aspects of exploitative,oppressive, unjust and pathogenic societies andalso exposing and problematising reactionaryaspects of the discipline of psychology whichconstruct, maintain or collude with oppressivesocietal arrangements.This frame of reference involves acommitment to problematising ideologicallyreactionary aspects of mainstreampsychological ‘knowledge’ and practice,including pedagogy; developing alternativeways to construct knowledges and promotingcritical thinking about them; making visibleand contesting processes of psychologicaloppression; and developing innovative sociostructuralinter- and pre-ventions to reduceoppression through emancipatory socialchange which progressively redistributespower. Community critical psychology means:“engaging with the way societal hierarchies areset up and maintained through wealth, class,labour market position, ethnic dominance(majority/minority status), gender etc., and theway societal structures impact on people bothobjectively and through their subjectiveunderstanding of them” (Fryer, 2008, p. 242).In this paper, we attempt to docommunity critical psychology bysimultaneously addressing gendered societaloppression and the collusion of mainstreampsychology with it. In this paper we use‘discourses’ in the Foucauldian sense to referto “historically and culturally located systemsof power/knowledge” which “constructsubjects and their worlds” and which are notonly “bodies of ideas, ideologies, or othersymbolic formulations” but “also workingattitudes, modes of address, terms of reference,and courses of action suffused into socialpractices” (Holstein & Gubrium, 2005, p. 490).We use the term ‘dominant discourses’ to referto discourses which “privilege those versions ofversions of social reality which legitimateexisting power relations and socialstructures” (Willig, 2001, p. 107).Introductory psychology textbooks arepositioned within dominant discourses asessential reading for most undergraduatecourses, providing ‘foundational knowledge’.For example, even two textbooks of communitypsychology likely to be familiar to readers ofthis journal, which are widely regarded as morecritically oriented than most textbooks,reproduce this discourse on their covers.Community Psychology: Theory, Method andPractice – South African and OtherPerspectives (Seedat, Duncan, & Lazarus,2001) self-describes on its back cover as:“giving the reader a thorough introduction tothe theory and methodology of the field . . . thisis a vital text for social science and publichealth students and practitioners” and Nelsonand Prilletensky’s (2005) CommunityPsychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being, self-describes on its back cover as an“up-to-date and highly engaging text” which“provides students with an introduction to thehistory and foundations of communitypsychology”.However, within subjugated, critical,counter discourses, the textbook is positioned associally, economically, politically constitutedand thus potentially ideologically problematic.This article is written from such a criticalstandpoint. In this paper we are not using theterm “critical” as it is often used in everydaylanguage as equivalent to ‘fault-finding’ nor asit is often used in mainstream psychology asevaluating claims against a set of narrow preandpro-scriptive, fundamentally positivist,naïve realist, criteria – ironically this is to use“critical” to mean “acritical” (see Fryer,Duckett & Pratt, 2004 for a development ofThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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