Therapeutic culture plays a central role in societies around the world. From self-help books to mental well-being workshops to conversations about the state of our minds and feelings, therapeutic ideas organize how we experience our everyday lives and think about our personal development. Across the past four decades, the rise of therapeutic culture has been much discussed across the humanities and social sciences. At a time of rapid, far-reaching social changes with a deep personal impact on the lives of many, it is of obvious importance to re-think what therapeutic culture and the therapeutic might mean today. Suvi Salmenniemi’s 2022 book Affect, Alienation, and Politics in Therapeutic Culture: Capitalism on the Skin contributes to this task in important ways, and it will be the focal point of this live webinar.
This 90-minute event began with a brief presentation of the book by its author, followed by a panel discussion involving internationally leading scholars of therapeutic culture and an open discussion between the author, the panelists, and the audience. Joining Salmenniemi were Sam Binkley of Emerson College in the United States, Edgar Cabanas of Spain’s Universidad Camilo José Cela, Social Science Space Blogger Daniel Nehring of Swansea University in Wales, and Christina Scharff of King’s College London.
The free virtual event took place on December 2.
Suvi Salmenniemi is professor of sociology at the University of Turku, Finland. Her areas of expertise include political sociology, therapeutic culture, utopian thought, cultural studies, feminist research, ethnography and critical social theory. She is principal investigator of the project Political Imagination and Alternative Futures, funded by the Academy of Finland (2020-2024). She is the author of Affect, Alienation and Politics in Therapeutic Culture: Capitalism on the Skin (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) and the editor of Assembling Therapeutics: Cultures, Politics and Materiality (Routledge, 2020).
Edgar Cabanas has a Ph.D. in psychology and is an associate professor at Universidad Camilo José Cela in Madrid. He was a postdoctoral researcher (2014-2016) and adjunct researcher (2016-2018) at the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and a visiting scholar, in 2011 and 2013, at the Center for the Study of Rationality at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Industry and Science of Happiness Control our Lives (Polity), co-written with Eva Illouz. He is co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Global Therapeutic Cultures.
Sam Binkley is professor of sociology at Emerson College, Boston. His research examines the social production of subjectivity, identity and personhood through lifestyle literatures and popular texts. He has undertaken studies of self-help literature and popular psychology, lifestyle movements of the 1970s, anti-racist and multi-cultural discourses, and the affective, corporeal and emotional cultures of neoliberalism. He has authored two research monographs; Happiness as Enterprise: An Essay on Neoliberal Life (SUNY) and Getting Loose: Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s (Duke), and is co-editor of A Foucault for the 21st Century (Cambridge Scholars).
Christina Scharff is a reader at King’s College London and explores gender, media, and culture through theoretically informed empirical research. She has a longstanding interest in analyzing the interplay between gender, neoliberalism, and subjectivity and published on the psychic life of neoliberalism. Her two monographs Gender, Subjectivity, and Cultural Work: The Classical Music Profession and Repudiating Feminism: Young Women in a Neoliberal World, were published in 2018 and 2012 respectively. Scharff’s current research project is on online feminist activism and is funded by the British Academy.
Daniel Nehring is a senior lecturer in sociology at Swansea University in the UK. He has extensive research experience in East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. He is an author or editor of seven books, including his recent of Global Therapeutic Cultures (Routledge, 2020) and Worlds (Routledge, 2019; nominated for the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness Book Prize (UK) 2020. He is an editor of the Routledge book series Therapeutic Cultures and a founder and convenor of the international academic network Popular Psychology, Self-Help Culture and the Happiness Industry.
Is there a recording of this event?
There is and it will be posted on December 12 as an embedded video in this same post