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APA Annual Convention 2011, Washington DC

Symposium co-sponsored by Division 32 (Society for Humanistic Psychology) and Division 24 (Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology).

August 6th,12PM to 1:50PM, RM 146B

Reclaiming world and Culture: Indigenous Psychology in the Globalizing Era

Louise Sundararajan; Anthony J. Marsella

Thomas Teo, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, York University. PDF
Ken Gergen, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Swarthmore College.

Heidegger claims that humans do not “inhabit” like other animals do-- they “dwell,” and that “dwelling” takes place not so much in a site or “environment” as in a “world.” He writes: “A stone is worldless. Plant and animal likewise have no world . . . The peasant woman, on the other hand, has a world . . .” (1971, p. 45). What happens when the peasant woman becomes an immigrant in a foreign land? One of the major casualties of immigration is loss of world, a loss that renders dwelling precarious. As Heidegger points out, the modern plight of dwelling goes beyond the shortage of housing—globalization has the potential to render us all immigrants. Can psychology help to reclaim world and culture for denizens of the global village? Mainstream psychology is ill equipped to help, because it is world effacing and culture blind. How to make science serve, rather than hinder, non-hegemonic sources of cultural memories and practices is a challenge best met by indigenous psychology.
In this symposium, a panel of international experts will address these issues by reviewing the history, current state of the art, and future directions of indigenous psychology. The first presenter reflects on the continued ethnocentrism in our field, and the reasons why indigenous psychology is needed to retrace our steps. The second presenter showcases the current state of the art in indigenous Chinese psychology, drawing out the revolutionary implications of Confucian Relationism for mainstream psychology. The third presenter spells out the relationship between three sub-disciplines: Cross culture, cultural, and indigenous psychologies. The last presenter uses a semiotic model to delineate the possibilities for science and culture to be better integrated through indigenous psychology. Bringing to bear their expertise in critical theory and constructionism, respectively, the discussants will add both focus and fuel to the debate.

1. Western Psychology as Cultural Construction
Anthony J. Marsella, University of Hawaii

This talk identifies ten implicit and explicit assumptions of Western psychology that are rooted within its cultural history, traditions, and values. Western psychology is self-serving and in the process -- because of its hegemony -- interferes with the development of alternative psychologies from different cultural groups. In a global community in which all our lives have become interdependent, it is essential for Western psychology to be re-considered as a cultural construction with all the ethnocentric limitations this implies. To counter the potential abuse of Western psychology for non-Western people and for ethnic/racial minorities in Western nations, efforts should be made to acknowledge, develop, and transmit the diverse indigenous psychologies from across the world.

2. Confucian Relationism: Call for a Scientific Revolution in Psychology
Kwang-Kuo Hwang, National Taiwan University 

Indicating that knowledge of mainstream psychology has mainly been constructed on the ground of WEIRD samples from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic societies, the first president of AAICP (Asian Association of Indigenous and Cultural Psychology) called for a scientific revolution of psychology in its inauguration conference. Continuing on this theme, I use my work on Confucian Relationism to advance the mission of AAICP as constructing theories that represent both universal as well as local mentality of people within a specific society. I will demonstrate how this is a better alternative to the prevalent theories of Western psychology, which has been constructed on the assumptions of Individualism, characteristic of WEIRD samples. PDF

A brief comment on Prof. Hwangs papper by Carl Martin Allwood PDF

3. The Three Psychologies: Cultural, Indigenous and Cross-Cultural
Richard A. Shweder, University of Chicago

Cultural psychology is a type of interpretive analysis of the normative behavior and routine social practices of members of cultural communities which asks, "what are the goals, values and pictures of the world with reference to which the distinctive behaviors and social practices of members of a particular group might be seen as moral and rational?" This presentation seeks to clarify some of the relationships between cultural psychology and two other scholarly enterprises, namely cross-cultural psychology and indigenous psychology, and to identity and illustrate some of its main assumptions and accomplishments. PDF

4. Going Indigenous: Integrating Science and Culture in Psychology
Louise Sundararajan, Rochester Psychiatric Ctr

A character in one of Peter De Vries’ (1972) short stories was so intent on seeing through people that she often missed what was inside them. This, says De Vries, “was the price one paid for the gift of penetration” (p. 173)*. This, it seems, is the price scientific psychology pays for its approach to culture. Hypothesis testing of psychological universals tends to render the contents of non-western cultures invisible and irrelevant; reducing descriptions of culture to a few scientific categories, such as individualism and collectivism, hinders discovery of the unique worlds spawned by each of the multiple and diverse cultures in human history.

In this paper I present a model, based on the semiotics of Charles Peirce, to delineate two essential tasks for an indigenous psychology that is competent enough to meet the challenges of globalization: First, capitalizing on indigenous categories that have deep roots in the intellectual history, language, and lived experience of a particular culture. To the extent that such categories are derived from the heart and soul of a culture, they empower the self understanding and self definition of those who live by that culture. Second, translating these indigenous categories into scientific terminologies that are shared in common in the international scientific community. Integration of the indigenous and scientific categories helps to fulfill the potential for immigrants to have dual citizenship in the global community of knowledge—with one citizenship granting access to a local perspective of somewhere; the other, the scientific perspective of everywhere and nowhere in particular, to borrow a topology of knowledge from Shweder (2003). Integration of these two perspectives through indigenous psychology has the potential to enhance the well-being of us all, immigrants or not, who dwell precariously in a global village. PDF

*I thank Gary Schouborg for the reference.