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Dr Johanna Motzkau

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Senior Lecturer in Psychology
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Psychology
  • Psychology
  • johanna.motzkau

Professional biography


PhD, CPsychol, Dipl. Psych.

PhD at Loughborough University, UK (2007); German Diplom in Psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany (2002). Studied Philosophy to BA equivalent level at the University of Cologne, Germany.

Professional affiliations

BPS - graduate membership, Chartered Psychologist. Psychology of Women Section member.
Member of the International Society for Theoretical Psychology (ISTP). Elected member of the executive committee.
Member of the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG), The Open University.
Member of the International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research (ICCCR), The Open University.
Member of the Discourse Unit (E. Burman & I. Parker; Manchester Metropolitan University).

Research interests

Suggestibility and memory: tracing the subversive potential of notions/concepts such as suggestibility, memory, credibility.

Post-structuralist and process philosophy (e.g. Deleuze, Stengers, Foucault, Whitehead);

Developing research methods based on process philosophy – “researching practice as process”.

Children's rights, issues around sexual violence and child sexual abuse, children as witnesses in courts of law, critical developmental psychology;

Law and psychology, international perspective: issues of epistemology, methodology, research and practice at the intersection of psychology and law, e.g. the 'interdisciplinary performance of knowledge by experts in court' and the way these practices constitute internationally different (and often transient) 'epistemologies of practice';

Transdisciplinarity and the Paradox of the Psychosocial

I have come to be interested in the psychosocial via longstanding interest in transdisciplinary forms of critique and inquiry, inspired by the work of I. Stengers, G. Deleuze and M. Foucault. In this context I am tracing further the theoretical as well as concrete practical issues around memory and suggestibility, for example:

  • in the context of psychological expertise/knowledge being used/presented in courts of law (e.g. for example in the context of issues around false/recovered memories of child sexual abuse)
  • in relation to the way personal memory of the holocaust is expressed, negotiated and/or rendered speechless.

Since suggestibility first featured as a 'topic' in psychology it inspired a paradox. On the one hand 'being suggestible' was considered to be an expression of manipulability and irrationality, i.e. expressing our 'exposure to the social'. On the other hand the 'ability to be suggestible' was considered the most fundamental characteristic of the human mind, the psyche as such, accounting for the possibility of learning as well as for that of affection and social cohesion. In ambiguously raising the question of 'how we relate while also being separate'; 'how we know while continuously having to perform, reaffirm and reconstitute such knowing in relation to ourselves and others', suggestibility expresses what could be called the paradox of the 'psycho-social'. Suggestibility can be seen to carry this paradox of the psychosocial into the ordering disciplinary structures of psychological (and legal) practice opening up a transdisciplinary mode of inquiry. Looking at the reciprocal dynamics emerging between 'memory' and 'suggestibility' allows to explore the problem of the circumstances of 'knowing', the conditions of knowledge production, and the practices that express, perform and communicate knowledge. This opens up a perspective at the dynamic intersection of subjectification and agency, i.e. the question of power and knowledge can be asked as a performative question.

Current Research/Projects:

1) Re-framing Child Protection as a Listening Project: ‘What is Child-Centredness?’ Managing uncertainty at the intersection of child welfare and protection practices.

This is a research project in development, following up from a previous ESRC bid (2013, with Paul Stenner) to explore current practices of evidence in the context of recent developments in child protection policy and practice utilising a process philosophical approach.  Focus 1) “How do we listen to children and young people at risk?”; focus 2) Multiagency practice – are discourses of Welfare pitched against those of justice?

  • How do practitioners experience, articulate and manage the uncertainty of their practice?
  • How do practitioners perceive and practice ‘child centredness’, and what problems and benefits arise from this?
  • What practices and judgements constitute effective ‘listening’ in welfare and justice practices?
  • What are the dynamics and dilemmas of translating evidence between welfare and justice, and across multi-agency boundaries?


2) Liminality and Affectivity:  Conceptualizing the dynamics of suspended transition

(collaboration with Prof Paul Stenner, The Open University, Dr Monica Greco, Goldsmiths University, Dr Megan Clinch, The Open University).

  • In 2013 grant money from the European Science Foundation enabled us to run a networking seminar

The seminar explored a new way of conceptualizing and explaining a set of social problems involving ‘troubled’ scenes of transition. By synthesising conceptual work on affectivity and liminality, social scientists working at the intersection of diverse scientific fields will clarify the social and experiential dynamics of a selection of difficult and controversial practice situations or ‘hotspots’ (e.g. contested illness). A carefully structured workshop environment will build towards an innovative transdisciplinary psychosocial paradigm. The workshop will be followed up by a more specifically practice oriented networking event, high-impact publications, a web-presence, and a substantial grant application.  

  • We are editing special issue of Theory & Psychology to publish work emergent from that seminar.

3) Emergence and bio-social imagination: suggesting ways to approach complex problems including climate change and antibiotic resistance (in collaboration with Dr Nick Lee, Warwick University)

Past research includes:

"Cross-examining Suggestibility: Memory, Childhood, Expertise." - Comparing child witness practice in England and Germany

This research has drawn on the work of G. Deleuze and I. Stengers to compare child witness practice in England and Germany. The transdisciplinary approach combined a genealogy of history, theory and research into suggestibility with an ethnography of the English and German legal system and the analysis of interviews with legal and psychological practitioners and researchers in England and Germany.

Following up and expanding research into suggestibility and child witnessing.

  • Feedback research into practice and make findings relevant for child witness practice in England/Wales and Germany (explore possible impact on policy and/or practice)
  • Explore issues of 'application': How does practice critique relate to - affect practice

International research-practice conference (in collaboration with Barnardo’s tlc):

Lost in Application: Child witnesses and psychological research on trial
Held: June 10th, 2009, Hilton Hotel, Kents Hill, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, UK

This research-practice conference presented an opportunity for an international, interdisciplinary exchange between practitioners and researchers working with child witnesses. The conference included keynote addresses by:

  • HH Judge Maureen Roddy (Greater Manchester),
  • Joyce Plotnikoff (researcher, Lexicon Limited) 
  • Dr Sandra Loohs (German expert for credibility assessment)
  • Dr Johanna Motzkau (forensic psychologist, The Open University).


Recent external teaching and seminars

2013-present ‘Documenting Children’ in collaboration with Prof Estrid Soerensen at Bochum Ruhr University, Germany.

Teaching interests

I am Qualification Director for Forensic Psychology and will be chairing production for two new masters modules in Forensic Psychology presented as part of the new postgraduate qualifications in Social Sciences starting 2016. I have contributed to production and presentation of DSE212 Exploring Psychology, DXR222 Exploring psychology project, and DD307 Social Psychology (which I am currently chairing).

In the past I have chaired production and presentation of the now discontinued D873 Forensic Psychology: witness, experts and evidence on trial (D873), and D872 Forensic psychology: crime, offenders and policing (D872).

PhD supervision

I am interested in supervising work on theoretical and historical issues in psychology, as well as mixed methods or qualitative (particularly ethnographic or discursive) research in the area of memory, suggestibility, witnessing, psychology and law, child protection, child witnesses, children's rights, gender and sexual violence, practice research, processes of decision making.

PhD students

Simon Jan Hutta (co-supervision with Prof K. Hetherington, Geography): "Geographies of Geborgenheit in a context of violence: queer struggles for safety in Rio de Janeiro" (completed Nov 2010)

Simon Wharne (co-supervision with Dr D. Langdridge): "Making decisions in mental healthcare: a phenomenological study" (completed Dec 2013)


Suspended transitions and affective orderings: From troubled monogamy to liminal polyamory (2017-04-01)
Enciso Domínguez, Giazú ; Pujol, Juan; Motzkau, Johanna F. and Popper, Miroslav
Theory and Psychology, 27(2) (pp. 183-197)
Introduction to the Special Issue on Liminal Hotspots (2017-04)
Stenner, Paul; Greco, Monica and Motzkau, Johanna
Theory and Psychology, 27(2) ((In Press))
Managing suspended transition in medicine and law: Liminal hotspots as resources for change (2017)
Motzkau, Johanna F. and Clinch, Megan
Theory and Psychology ((In press))
Varieties of biosocial imagination: reframing responses to climate change and antibiotic resistance (2013-07)
Lee, Nick and Motzkau, Johanna
Science, Technology & Human Values, 38(4) (pp. 447-469)
Decision-making in mental healthcare: a phenomenological investigation of service user perspectives (2012)
Wharne, Simon; Langdridge, Darren and Motzkau, Johanna
The Humanistic Psychologist, 40(2) (pp. 153-165)
The biosocial event: responding to innovation in the life sciences (2012)
Lee, Nick and Motzkau, Johanna
Sociology, 46(3) (pp. 426-441)
Navigating the bio-politics of childhood (2011-01-13)
Lee, Nicholas and Motzkau, Johanna
Childhood: A Global Journal for Childhood Studies, 18(1) (pp. 7-19)
Exploring the transdisciplinary trajectory of suggestibility (2009-07)
Motzkau, Johanna
Subjectivity, 27 (pp. 172-194)
The semiotic of accusation: thinking about deconstruction, development, the critique of practice, and the practice of critique (2009-01)
Motzkau, Johanna
Qualitative Research in Psychology, 6(1-2) (pp. 129-152)
Editorial: Research as practice: on critical methodologies (2009-01)
Motzkau, Johanna F. and Jefferson, Andrew M.
Qualitative Research in Psychology, 6(1-2) (pp. 1-11)
Matters of Suggestibility, Memory and Time: Child Witnesses in Court and what really happened (2007-01)
Motzkau, Johanna F.
Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 8(1, Art)
Feminisms and activisms: reflections on the politics of writing and the editorial process (2005)
Biglia, Barbara; Clark, Jude; Motzkau, Johanna and Zavos, Alexandra
Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 4
Kritische Psychologie: psychology from the standpoint of the subject (2015)
Motzkau, Johanna and Schraube, Ernst
In: Parker, Ian ed. Handbook of Critical Psychology (pp. 280-289)
ISBN : 978-1-84872-218-7 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : New York
Forensic Psychology (2014)
Motzkau, Johanna
In: Teo, Thomas ed. Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology (pp. 741-747)
ISBN : 978-1-4614-5582-0 | Publisher : Springer Science | Published : New York
Tweak: Biosocial Imaginations and Educational Futures (2013)
Lee, Nicholas Mark and Motzkau, Johanna Franziska
In: Selwyn, Neil and Facer, Kerry eds. The Politics of Education and Technology: Conflicts, Controversies, and Connections. Palgrave Macmillan’s Digital Education and Learning (pp. 191-207)
ISBN : 978-1-349-44095-5 | Publisher : Palgrave McMillan | Published : New York
Visualising children’s credibility: the role of the visual in psychological research and child witness practice (2011-07-06)
Motzkau, Johanna
In: Reavey, Paula ed. Visual Methods in Psychology: Using and Interpreting Images in Qualitative Research
ISBN : 9780415483483 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, U.K.
Around the day in eighty worlds: Deleuze, suggestibility and researching practice as process (2011)
Motzkau, Johanna
In: Stenner, Paul; Motzkau, Johanna; Cromby, John and Yen, Jeffery eds. Theoretical Psychology: Global Transformations and Challenges
ISBN : 9781553222408 | Publisher : Captus Press | Published : Toronto, Canada
Speaking up against justice: credibility, suggestibility and children's memory on trial (2010)
Motzkau, Johanna
In: Haaken, Janice and Reavey, Paula eds. Memory Matters: Contexts for Understanding Sexual Abuse Recollections (pp. 63-85)
ISBN : 978-0-41544491-0 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London
Cross-examining suggestibility: memory, childhood, expertise - children’s testimony between psychological research and juridical practice (2005)
Motzkau, Johanna
In: Czerederecka, A.; Jaskiewicz-Obydzinska, T.; Roesch, R. and Wojcikiewicz, J. eds. Forensic psychology and law: facing the challenges of a changing world (pp. 201-212)
ISBN : 8387425178 | Publisher : Krakow: Institute of Forensic Research Publishers | Published : Crakow, Poland
Die Beschuldigungssemiotik: Überlegungen zur Sprache der Dekonstruktion (2005)
Motzkau, Johanna
In: Mattes, Peter and Musfeld, Tamara eds. Psychologische Konstruktionen: Diskurse, Narrationen, Performanz (pp. 181-199)
ISBN : 978-3-525-49076-1 | Publisher : Vandenhoek & Ruprecht | Published : Göttingen
Reintegrating sense into subjectification (2001)
Hildebrand-Nilshon, Martin; Motzkau, Johanna and Papadopoulos, Dimitris
In: Morss, John R.; Stephenson, Niamh and Rappard, Hans van eds. Theoretical issues in psychology (pp. 289-300)
ISBN : 792373375 | Publisher : Kluwer Academic Publishers | Published : Boston, USA
Doing Psychology under New Conditions: Proceedings of the International Society for Theoretical Psychology Conference 2011 (2013)
Marvakis, Athanasios; Motzkau, Johanna; Painter, Desmond; Ruto-Korir, Rose; Sullivan, Gavin; Triliva, Sofia and Wieser, Martin eds.
ISBN : 978-1-55322-279-8 | Publisher : Captus Press | Published : Toronto, Canada
Theoretical psychology: global transformations and challenges (2011)
Stenner, Paul; Cromby, John; Motzkau, Johanna; Yen, Jeffrey and Haosheng, Yu eds.
ISBN : 978-1-55322-240-8 | Publisher : Captus | Published : Ontario, Canada
Response to the Northern Ireland Office and DHSSPS consultation entitled “Hidden Crimes Secret Pain” (2007)
Lazard, L.; Buys, D.; Callaghan, J.; Motzkau, J. and Keating, S.
British Psychological Society

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