The history of psychology is characterized by unparalleled complexity of its methodology and uniquely ambiguous subject matter closely entangled with issues of power, social justice, and ethics. This complexity requires inordinate levels of reflexivity and conceptual sophistication. In effect, a historian of psychology needs to explicate no less than one’s worldview—a broad position as to how people are situated in the world, relate to, change, and get to know it, and how knowledge develops through time—all coupled with one’s broad sociopolitical ethos. Traditional histories of psychology have operated with an astonishing lack of reflection about these issues. One of many deplorable results is that psychology still grapples with its racist and sexist legacies and lacks awareness of social injustices in existence today. The recently emerging approaches have begun to remedy this situation by focusing on situated practices of knowledge production. This article addresses how human agency can be integrated into these approaches, while focusing on knowledge production as not only situated in context but also, and critically, as a world-forming and history-making process. In tackling the shortcomings of relational approaches including social constructionism, the transformative activist stance approach draws on Marxist philosophy and epistemology—infused with insights from Vygotsky’s psychology and other critical theories of resistance. The core point is that knowledge is achieved in and through collaborative community practices realized by individually unique contributions as these come to embody and enact, in an inseparable blend, both cultural-historical contexts and unique commitments and agency of community members. The acts of being-doing-knowing are non-neutral, transformative processes that produce the world, its history and also people themselves, all realized in the process of taking up the world, rather than passively copying it or coping with it. And since reality is in-the-making by people themselves, knowing is about creating the world and knowing it in the very act of bringing about transformative and creative change. Thus, the historicity and situativity of knowledge are ascertained alongside a focus on its ineluctable fusion with an activist, future-oriented, political-ethical stance. Therefore, the critical challenge for the history of psychology is to understand producers of knowledge in their role of actors in the drama of life (rather than only of ideas), that is, as agents of history- and world-making, while also engaging in self-reflection on the historians’ own role in these processes, in order to practice history in responsive and responsible, that is, activist ways.
Vera Luckgei, Nora Ruck, and Thomas Slunecko
Feminist psychological knowledge production has flourished in the German-speaking countries since the late 1970s. But, in contrast to countries like the United States, Canada, or Great Britain, it only gained finite traction in the academy. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the so-called “project phase” of the second wave women’s movement saw the founding of counseling centers for women in Vienna and all over Austria. During the mid-1980s, students at the University of Vienna started recruiting feminist psychologists from the feminist counseling center Frauen beraten Frauen to teach courses on the psychology of women. From the mid-1980s until 2000, the Department of Psychology at the University of Vienna offered an unusually high number of courses in the psychology of women (up to ten seminars per semester and about 200 in total), turning the department into an unofficial and temporary teaching hub for feminist psychology. With 14 courses on the psychology of women, the academic year 1987/1988 marks the apogee of feminist psychological teaching by adjunct lecturers at the Department of Psychology. During the 1990s, it was again students who fought for and succeeded in having several guest professors in the psychology of women appointed at the Department of Psychology. This pinnacle period for the interrelation of feminist teaching and research saw not only the development of new didactic methods but also some continuity in the collaboration of a guest professor, adjunct lecturers, and students as well as a plethora of feminist psychological theses written by students.