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CUSP Members

Director:

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Prof Paul Stenner

I am Paul Stenner, Professor of Social Psychology at The Open University and Director of CuSP. For me CuSP is about keeping social psychology fresh and alive to new theories, methods and practices, and keeping it responsive to the real social and personal issues people are facing today. I believe that social psychology is not simply about supplying the objective facts about human nature that will help society to shape the conduct of its citizens. Psychology is more political and ethical than that, and it is pretty important in today's culture, reflecting back to us the kinds of beings we think we are. CusP is about affirming that we are cultural beings who make sense of ourselves using the ever-refreshed heritage of our cultural resources.

I would recommend anyone interested in CuSP to read the following:

Tania Zittoun and Alex Gillespie (2015) Integrating experiences: Body and mind moving between contexts. This was the Niels Bohr Professorship Lecture in Cultural Psychology.

Members:

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Dr Eleni Andreouli

I am Eleni Andreouli, Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at The Open University. I consider myself a social and political psychologist. Very broadly, my work integrates discursive and sociocultural psychological approaches with citizenship studies seeking to develop a transdisciplinary understanding of citizenship with a focus on everyday practice. My recent research is on constructions of the European Union and how ‘lay’ citizens relate with Brexit as an emerging cultural object. I think of CuSP as a space for constructive dialogue and collaboration for social scientists who are interested in the study of sociocultural issues. For me, this type of work involves the study of power and politics as they shape our relations with the world and with each other.

For students and researchers interested in CuSP and the study of culture more generally, I recommend reading outside their discipline, whichever that may be. In my own work as a social psychologist, I have found readings in political science and philosophy the most intriguing and eye-opening.

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Dr Sarah Crafter

I am Sarah Crafter, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University. For me, CuSP reflects the need for psychology to focus on real-world challenges that people face in their everyday lives. I believe that psychology can contribute a great deal to understanding and improving people’s lives but that we, as psychologists, must constantly reflect on whose story is told, and think about what assumptions are left untested. As someone interested in transitions, stability and change are fundamental elements of the study of the cultural and the social. This would include change at the level of society and history, change in the cultural context, change within or of our own spheres of experience, change in the relationships and interactions with objects and others, and change from within a person. 

For this reason, I would recommend reading the following paper:

Zittoun, T. (2008). Learning through transitions: The role of institutions. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 23, 165-181.

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Dr David Kaposi

I am David Kaposi, Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University and psychodynamic psychotherapist in private practice. Thinking about CuSP, I see the potential of a space in-between: object(ive) and subject(ive); individual and social; conscious and unconscious; the public space of academic psychology and the private encounter of psychotherapy. In fact, culture might just be such a space of in-betweenness, where human beings can experience themselves in all and any of their glories. My hope is that CuSP will be able to engage with culture so understood, and therefore not only study but even enrich what it means to be human.

Both academic psychology and psychotherapy have often been charged with being unable to properly attend to culture – as opposed to simply reducing it to their own concerns. For those interested in CuSP, I would recommend to read the following a seminal exception to this:

Donald W. Winnicott (1971/2005). The location of cultural experience. In Playing and Reality (pp 128-139), London: Routledge.

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Dr Darren Langdridge

I am Darren Langdridge, Professor of Psychology and Sexuality at the Open University and a UKCP accredited existential psychotherapist working in private practice. For me, CUSP represents an opportunity to come together with colleagues to explore and develop a version of psychology that is alive to contemporary culture.  This form of psychology would be one that draws on a wide array of theoretical and methodological resources, including those from outside the discipline as it is traditionally conceived. Primary resources that inform my own work include phenomenology, hermeneutics and critical social theory. On a more practical level, my principal concern has been with the emergence, development, meaning and socio-political implications of sexual cultures. This has involved work ranging across psychology, psychotherapy, sociology and political theory. I believe this inter-/multi- disciplinarity is vital for work in CUSP if we are to meet complex phenomena adequately within a critical framework that accepts our role in the production of knowledge and power to effect change in the world.

An important influence on my own research is “Telling Sexual Stories” by the sociologist Ken Plummer, a piece of work that I believe is a modern classic:

Plummer, K. (1995). Telling sexual stories: power, change and social worlds. London: Routledge.

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Dr Lisa Lazard

I’m Lisa Lazard, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at The Open University. For me, CuSP is about making explicit how the routine, every day, contexts of our lives shape, produce and constrain who we are and what we can do. CuSP brings together social psychologists working with diverse theoretical and methodological traditions and creates dialogue within and between these positions. In doing so, it creates space for a rich, nuanced and innovative analyses of social psychological issues and the methods we use to study them.

As an example of how CuSP members have made methodological issues in knowledge production explicit, I would recommend the following paper where I and Dr. Jean McAvoy explore the processes of doing reflexivity in psychological research.

Lazard, L., & McAvoy, J. (2017). Doing reflexivity in psychological research: What’s the point? What’s the practice? Qualitative Research in Psychology, 1-19. DOI: 10.1080/14780887.2017.1400144

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Dr Kesi Mahendran

I am Kesi Mahendran a Senior Lecturer and Social and Political Psychologist.  My research programme works towards dialogue between citizens and their governments on vexed political questions. These questions include European integration, Brexit and the parameters of sovereignty, who belongs and who decides and more recently public opinion formation on international relations. Working as a psychologist in highly politicised fields creates new methodological opportunities and I address these using a Bakhtin-inspired dialogical design. I see CuSP as a space for those interested in social, cultural and political psychological explanations for such vexed questions which often artfully resist consensus. A space where we can explore politicised cultural lenses and how to re-socialise phenomena by understanding the ways they become politicised e.g. human mobility. A space where we learn how to combine methods to understand - and where necessary counter - reified categories. My dialogical methods involve detailed consultation phases and I work collaboratively with practitioners, participants and networked academics. For those interested in CuSP and developing their methodological imagination I would recommend.

Fine, M. (2018). Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination, New York, Teacher’s College Press

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Dr Stephanie Taylor

I'm Stephanie Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology at The Open University. For me, CuSP is about taking forward the interdisciplinary tradition of theory and research which has always made OU social psychology distinctive. I am interested in how contexts produce people through the shared ideas and meanings that we use, and challenge, to interpret ourselves and our lives, including the physical or material world which is sometimes assumed to be 'outside' meaning. Researchers refer to discourses or discursive or cultural resources – the common point is the assumption that our experience is shaped by existing categories, values and images, with all their emotional loading or affective colour. Psychology is not exempt from this shaping, or colouring, and of course academic psychology is itself a rich source of concepts which have entered 21st century culture. 

I set out my position in detail in this article which can be accessed through the OU library:

Stephanie Taylor (2015) ‘Discursive and psychosocial? Theorising a complex contemporary subject’ Qualitative Research in Psychology 12(1): 8-21