DSA Wellbeing, Psychology and Therapeutic Culture in International Development
This study group is dedicated to critical, empirically and theoretically informed analysis of the new politics of the personal in international development, as expressed in the rise of discourses of wellbeing, increased attention to mental health, the rise of therapeutic culture and the growing use of psy-expertise and behavioural economics. For advocates, these developments bring a new humanity and scope for liberation and/or a more cost effective means to reduce poverty. For critics, they potentially represent increasingly invasive surveillance of the poor and the denial of structural causes of global inequality.
While the group is open to any discussion of these issues, it is particularly concerned to address the following questions:
- What constructions of personhood are being advanced by different approaches to wellbeing, mental health, and psy-expertise? How do these confirm or challenge the ways that people in different contexts in the global south understand themselves and their lives?
- What are the conjunctures and areas of dissonance between wellbeing, mental health, and psy-expertise as forms of discourse and practice in development?
- Who are the key actors behind these developments and how are they advancing their agenda?
- What concepts and methods are being used to advance these agenda, and what epistemological and ontological assumptions do these convey?
- What are the practical outcomes of such approaches as they inform development interventions?
- What is the significance of digitilisation to the scope and politics of these developments?
- What are the political and institutional implications of such approaches? How are/might policies and practices that incorporate these methods be subject to public scrutiny and democratic oversight?
- What are the ways that psy-expertise is taken up by people in different contexts, and used, reworked, appropriated or resisted?
The study group was inaugurated at the EADI/DSA conference at York, in September 2011. It was broadened and re-structured in October 2016.
Shreya Jha (University of Bath), Elise Klein (University of Melbourne), China Mills (Sheffield University), Sarah C. White (University of Bath), Sally Brooks (University of York)
E: s.jha(at)bath.ac.uk, elise.klein(at)unimelb.edu.au, china.mills(at)sheffield.ac.uk, S.C.White(at)bath.ac.uk, sally.brooks(at)york.ac.uk
Researching Wellbeing: Development & Geography perspectives
Friday 28th April, 2pm-5pm, Royal Geographical Society
Co-sponsored by: Development Studies Association and Royal Geographical Society.
Sarah White (University of Bath)
Sarah Atkinson (Durham University)
Iokiñe Rodríguez (University of East Anglia)
Sarah Bell (University of Exeter)
This event celebrates the launch of the book: Cultures of Wellbeing: Method, Place, Policy.
- Critical reflection on wellbeing research in geography and international development, including how wellbeing figures in national and international policy and funding contexts
- Presentation of primary research on wellbeing
- Panel discussion on agenda for future research
To download the flyer, click here (PDF).
One day workshop: Therapeutic culture and development
March 17th 2017 at Sheffield Institute of International Development (SIID), University of Sheffield
Please join us for this workshop on therapeutic culture and international development. Minds, behaviour and psychologies are fast becoming key frontiers in contemporary development policy. While the links between development and psychology have a long (colonial) history, there has been, of late, a contemporary shift to the more explicit mobilization of therapeutic culture within development interventions. We can see this in multiple arenas, from the uptake of behavioural science in the World Development Report ‘Mind, Society and Behaviour’; the inclusion of mental health on the UN Sustainable Development Goals; to the focus on measures of subjective well-being inter/nationally. Of particular interest is the way in which digital technology has been used to further integrate psy-expertise in development policy and practice: from the use of phones to to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy and to nudge behavioural changes in populations, availability of mental health diagnostic tools on digital platforms, to income management regimes that control population spending.
The workshop aims to build on research already undertaken, identify gaps and priority research areas, and to strengthen research collaborations for future projects. This will be an intimate group of researchers (including doctoral researchers) working in this field. The proposed two outcomes of the workshop are:
- Participants present 10-15mins of their current research relating to therapeutic culture and/or digital technology within international development.
- Identification of research gaps and discussion around collaborative research projects going forward for the group, including identification of potential funding sources.