Through discursive psychology to a psycho-social approach

Hollway, Wendy (2011). Through discursive psychology to a psycho-social approach. In: Bozatzis, Nikos and Dragonas,, Thaleia eds. Social psychology: the turn to discourse. Athens: Metaixmio, pp. 209–240.


I begin this chapter by tracing the discursive turn’s emergence in social psychology with reference to my personal trajectory. I identify two characteristic themes: critique of the unitary rational subject of traditional (cognitive) psychology with its sealed off view of mind, and the enduring question about the relative effectivity of inner and outer influences in forming subjectivity. I then focus on the widespread criticism of discursive psychology for failing to theorise subjectivity, therefore falling into a reductionist external account. I keep a dual perspective on theory of subjectivity and empirical methodology, aiming to show how these are inextricable and how methods can hide (and reveal) important facets of subjectivity. This leads to an account of how some discursive psychologists have used psychoanalysis to make good their ‘empty subject’ and I give a brief account of the rationale for my development of psychoanalytically informed interviewing and observation methods. This is illustrated by detailing the principles underpinning the design of an empirical research project on identity change, after which I return to the key notion of positioning as a lens through which to discuss some differences between a discursive and psycho-social approach.

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