Race and subjectivity : a study of black women.
The central aim of this research is to develop a method and
theoreti cal approach to subj ectivity which avoids renroducing the race
and get-ic' r - specific assumptions manifest in ortho& c psychology.
Thc. iosophical underpinnings of acathnic psvology are
criticdly examined for what they offer in theorisiAlg F.;lbjectivity.
It is argued that contanxrary psychology assumes a pa.. ticular
subj ect, the unitary rational individual, which is historically rooted
in particular schools of Western çhiosoçhy. The consequences of
psychological approaches to the subject, in terms of both the
practices enplcyed and the knowledges produced are illustrated Iy the
maimer in which psychology has produced racist knowledges about Black
people, using the example of 'intelligence' testing.
Black American psychology is critically examined as an attanpt
to apply psychology without reproducing racist knowledge. It is
argued that Black American endeavours have generally fallen short of
providing any radical alternative bj. somewhat uncritically, failing
to question basic assumptions and continuing to rely on traditional
psychological research methods and procedures. The manner in which
psychologists of colonialisn have anplcyed another paradign,
psychoanalytic theory, in their study of colonial subjects is
critically reviewed. I argue that Fanon' s work contains elanents of
the necessary basis for developing a psychology more appropriate to
Third World needs and contexts.
Marxist theoretical work on ideology and consciousness is then
discussed because, like psychoanalysis, it transcends some of orthodox
psychology' s limitations. Althusser' s theory is discussed as one
attanpt to synthesise aspects of Marxist theory and psychoanalysis in
accounting for the constitution of the individual as an ideological
subj ect, while Gramsci' s concept of heganory is discussed as a means
of overcoming the problan of structuralisn on the one hand and
culturalisn on the other. The rost-structuralist work of Foucault and
recent developnents in linguistic and psychoanalytic theory are then
In Part II, an alternative research paradign is introduced as
nerging fran the principles derived in the course of the critiques
developed in Part I. This involved using the practice of
consciousness-raising as a research paradign. I have drawn on the
anti-colonial and Pan Africanist discourses and philoso*iies that have
anerged in the colonial and neocolonial epoch, through the work of
African and Caribbean intellectuals, for analysis. Fran this
basis I have developed a technique of discourse analysis which enables
incorpration of collective history in the analysis of subj ectivity.
I have applied this analysis to material fran consciousness-raising
sessions with Black women of West African and Caribbean origin
resident in London, drawing on various other sources of information
(cultural events, films, poetry and fiction) in order to do this.
Subjectivity is theorised as the rositions that individuals take up in
discourses. I look particularly at the Black British rosition, and
argue that contradiction plays a particular role in the production of
Limitations of discourse analysis in theorising subjectivity are
then discussed. Psychodynamic theory is then enplcjed to develop an
understanding of some of the intrapsychic processes in
subjectification. The ways in which social differences manifest in
social relations and their role in the process of subjectification is also examined. Throughout, the role of sower is highlighted, using
the cxncepts of hegemony and subjugation. The construction of
subjectivity through difference is examined with particular reference
to racialised subjectivity.
Finally the extent to which the questions posed have been
answered is reviewed and assessed.