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Psycho-Politics of Self-Exposure

The Psycho-Politics of Self-Exposure


Subjects’ self-exposure was always required in empirical research in the human sciences. Insofar as this research recognized - ontologically and epistemologically - the inter-subjectivity that this implies, the self-exposure of researchers would become a possibility, in various ways and to various extents. In some traditions, it would even be rendered as a hallmark of the recognition of subjectivity and concomitant values such as equality, reflexivity, honesty or creativity. In particular, researchers defining themselves as critical (of their disciplines and/or of ideological hegemonies) could turn to self-exposure to substantiate their deconstruction or overcoming of what was otherwise sanctioned as common, objective knowledge. Further, in some traditions, researchers’ self-exposure was conceptualized in terms of methodology - in versions ranging from confession (subjectivity displayed as the pathology or the bias they struggled to overcome) to celebration (subjectivity as conveying hopes and ideals). Among them, methodologies developed in connection with feminism and other social movements would articulate researcher subjectivity as witnessing and carrying the processes and mediations of critique and transformation itself. One example close to our heart is Frigga Haug’s Memory Work.

Meanwhile, the general cultures of self-exposition change in important ways, especially in recent decades. Overall, the divisions and connections between the public and the private are transforming; pathologies proliferate and are partly de-stigmatized; new technologies and infrastructures of monitoring and communication evolve; self-enhancement prevails ever more as cultural ideal. These general trends impact not only research, but also other (related, neighboring) practice fields, such as education, social intervention, therapy, art and politics - even to the effect of questioning or displacing their defining structures and their differences. As a result, the epistemological and methodological debates in research traditions are both reactualized and challenged. One useful strategy to meet the challenges is to expand ‘science studies’ into broader anthropologies of knowledge and performativity, as in Emily Martin’s Bipolar Expeditions.

Our current research includes dialogues with professionals mostly in social work: Our current research includes collaborations, joint ventures, dialogues with professionals, users and so-called “formers” (i.e. people who were once defined in ‘problem’ categories), mostly in social work. They and we experiment with forms of self-presentation that oppose the dominant stigmatizing and individualizing forms. These dialogues not only call forth ourselves as researcher-subjects, but also urge us to develop our ways of producing data, analyses and presentations.
Examples of this include these websites under construction:

  1. The ‘life conduct list’ (http://lifeconductlist.dk/)  
  2. STUFF (http://stuffsite.org/)