Friday, November 23, 2012

CFP: Therapeutic Solutions and Discourses of Self-empowerment

Call for Papers.  Special Edition of Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research.  Therapeutic Solutions and Discourses of Self-Empowerment.    Guest Editors: Alan Apperley, Mark Jones and Stephen Jacobs:  The University of Wolverhampton, UK.    A purported user in an advertisement for the Miruji Therapeutic Massage Chair, which combines a physical massage while simultaneously listening to a mind coaching audio recording, suggests that after a session 'I feel good about myself'. L'Oreal advertisements indicate that you should use their products because 'you are worth it' Professor Richard Layer who was appointed as the 'Happiness Tsar' by the UK Labour Government in 2007 promoted the idea that 'wellbeing' should be integral to government policy. We are bombarded with messages that the primary malaise of contemporary society is stress, and encounter a plethora of panaceas claiming to combat stress. Bookshops have substantial sections containing self-help guides, often replacing or being included in the section on religion. Life coaches inform us that they can transform all aspects of our lives, and successful motivational speakers can fill stadiums.  What all of these phenomena have in common is a discourse on individual wel  lbeing and personal self-empowerment. We argue that this is not simply a passing commercial fad, but that this discourse on wellbeing and self- empowerment are deeply embedded in all aspects of contemporary society – health, education, politics, religion and economics etc., and that the structure of feeling of contemporary culture is best characterized as therapeutic.    Therapeutic culture is clearly linked to the processes of individualization, which, Zygmunt Bauman (Liquid Modernity, 2000: 31) suggests, 'consists of transforming human identity from a "given" into a "task"'.  This task is not only about the quest for a sense of identity which is disembedded from institutional forms and grand narratives, but is also a quest for a sense of agency and personal wellbeing. The contemporary climate, writes  Christopher Lasch, 'is therapeutic, not religious. People today hunger not for personal salvation... but for the feeling, a momentary illusion, of personal well-being, health, and psychic security.' (The Culture of Narcissism, 1991: 7). The effectiveness of the various therapeutic solutions, like the ones listed above, is validated, not through any external authority, but through the evidence of personal experiences – such as the statement 'I feel good about myself'.   We believe that this is a critical area of investigation, as this discourse suggests that the individual has the power to transform their own lives, and negates real structural inequalities in contemporary societies. The rise of therapeutic culture is inherently implicated in the de-professionalization of areas such as education and health, and the de-politicization of the individual.      We are seeking a selection of papers from a range of different academic disciplines, and from scholars from different nationalities, who are concerned with the rise of therapeutic solutions and the notion of self-empowerment in range of different arenas, such as education, health, spirituality, government policy etc.  We are interested in questions such as:    • What are the sources and nature of authority for therapeutic solutions?  • To what extent can therapeutic discourses resist the narratives and institutions of modernity?  • Are therapeutic practices embedded in the power structures of social institutions?  • How do therapeutic solutions articulate individual identity?     Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research is an online academic journal for border-crossing cultural research, including cultural studies as well as other interdisciplinary and transnational currents. Details about Culture Unbound can be found at     Schedule  • Please send a 300- 500 word proposal by 15th December 2012. Please include a short biography.  • Submission of the article 25th April 2013.    For submissions and any enquiries  about this special edition please contact the guest editor directly  Alan Apperley 

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