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Module description

The understanding of how power operates is crucial in the field of psychosocial studies, in particular those views on power which go beyond forms of coercion, repression and external domination, and acknowledge the productivity of power and the subjective attachment to it. Understood this way, power becomes a category for understanding not only social formations and the multiple inequalities that characterise it (‘racial’, ethnic, gender, sexual, social class, etc), but also for understanding the ways in which processes of subject formation are always traversed by dynamics of attachment to forms of power in what is described as 'misrecognition'.

In this module we therefore introduce you early on in your BA studies to key psychosocial theories of power and key sites of its production.

Indicative syllabus

  • Intersectionality: analysis of structures of power and domination, in particular ways in which class, sexism and racism are interconnected and co-constitutive of any social formation; review of the historical and spatial trajectory of the concept of intersectionality and its political significance for the analysis of systems of privilege and oppression
  • Language and symbolic power: views of power which move beyond its reduction to ‘physical forces’ and focus instead on the analysis of systems of representations and the relation between power and broader cultural processes of meaning formation
  • Subjective attachments to power: introduction to notions of 'misrepresentation', 'misrecognition', 'identification' and 'interpellation', drawn from psychoanalytic and political literatures; how these notions address the paradoxes of power, as subjects, in their processes of identity formation, inevitably attach themselves to systems of representation (or open social/political formations) which locate them in positions of subordination or exclusion

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • explain the different social, cultural, political and subjective dynamics involved in any power formation
  • apply these concepts to particular social settings in order to analyse existing power relations
  • write an evaluative essay addressing the issues above
  • participate in both classroom and virtual discussions on power formations.