Coloniality of being and knowledge in the history of psychology

  • Wade E. PickrenEmail author


The emergence and growth of the psy-disciplines, accompanied by the psychologization of everyday life, has raised questions about the role of psychology in relation to power. Who does psychology serve? And what are its effects on the person? The author holds that psy-disciplines have largely been managerial in their effects, especially empowering the rise of the neoliberal state in the late 20th century. In the face of such managerialism, can there be a liberatory psychology? The efforts toward a psychology or psychologies of liberation have come primarily from the Global South, as in the work and writings of Paulo Freire and Ignacio Martín-Baró. The author links these efforts to the decolonial turn proffered by the ‘Modernity/Coloniality’ group led by such scholars as Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar. The essay then examines the scholarly discipline of history of psychology in the light of decoloniality and shows how it has been an agent of colonial being and knowledge. Alternatives are offered on how the field can break the legacy of coloniality and move toward a more liberatory stance.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, G., Dobles, I., Gómez, L. H., Kurtiş, T., & Molina, L. E. (2015). Decolonizing psychological science: Introduction to the special thematic section. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 213–238.Google Scholar
  2. Arnett, J. J. (2008). The neglected 95%: Why American psychology needs to become less American. American Psychologist, 63, 602–614.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, D. B. (2014). Eloge: John A. Popplestone, 1928–2013. Isis, 105, 825–826.Google Scholar
  4. Baritz, L. (1960). Servants of Power: A History of the Use of Social Science in American Industry. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bharj, N., & Hegarty, P. (2015). A postcolonial feminist critique of harem analogies in psychological science. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 257–275.Google Scholar
  6. Boring, E. G. (1929). A History of Experimental Psychology. New York: Appleton-Century.Google Scholar
  7. Boring, E. G. (1950). A History of Experimental Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  8. Brown, B. J., & Baker, S. (2012). Responsible Citizens: Individuals, Health and Policy Under Neoliberalism. London: Anthem Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bulhan, H. A. (2015). Stages of colonialism in Africa: From occupation of land to occupation of being. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 239–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burton, M., & Gómez Ordóñez, L. H. (2015). Liberation psychology: Another kind of critical psychology. In I. Parker (Ed.), Handbook of Critical Psychology (pp. 248–255). New York, USA: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Burton, M., & Kagan, C. (2005). Liberation social psychology: Learning from Latin America. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 15, 63–78.Google Scholar
  12. Cooper, M. (2017). Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  13. Danziger, K. (1990). Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Danziger, K. (1997). Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found its Language. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Denzin, N., Lincoln, Y., & Smith, L. T. (Eds.). Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. de Sousa Santos, B. (2014). Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Dobles, I. (1990). Ignacio Martín-Baró y el estudio de la opinión publica en El Salvador y en América Central: Contextualización, referentes epistemológicos y metodológicos [Ignacio Martín-Baró and the study of public opinion in El Salvador and Central America: Contextualization, epistemological and methodological references]. Boletin Avepso. Asociación Venezolana de Psicología Social, 13(3), 3–11.Google Scholar
  18. Dudgeon, P., & Walker, R. (2015). Decolonizing Australian psychology: Discourses, strategies, and practice. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 276–297.Google Scholar
  19. Escobar, A. (2007). Worlds and knowledges otherwise: The Latin American modernity/coloniality research program. Cultural Studies, 21, 179–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Escobar, A. (2017). Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Fanon, F. (1952/1967). Black Skin, White Masks (C. L. Markmann, transl.). New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  22. Fine, M. (2017). Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  23. Foucault, M. (1961/1964). Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (R. Howard, transl. [abridged version]). Paris, France: Plon.Google Scholar
  24. Foucault, M. (1966/1970). Les mots et les choses: Une archéologie des sciences humaines. Paris, France: Gallimard; The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  25. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.Google Scholar
  26. Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmawei Mawiomi (2016). Nta’tugwaqanminene: Our Story, Evolution of the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq. Halifax, NS: Fernwood.Google Scholar
  27. Greenhouse, C. J. (2009). Ethnographies of Neoliberalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  28. Guthrie, R. V. (1998). Even the Rat Was White (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  29. Hall, P. A., & Lamont, M. (2013). Introduction: Social resilience in the neoliberal era. In P. A. Hall & M. Lamont (Eds.), Social Resilience in a Neoliberal Era (pp. 1–31). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 61–83.Google Scholar
  31. Herman, E. (1995). The Romance of American Psychology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hilgard, E. R. (1982). Robert I. Watson and the founding of Division 26 of the American Psychological Association. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 18, 308–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kağitçibasi, Ç. (1996). The autonomous-relational self: A new synthesis. European Psychologist, 1, 180–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Klein, E. (2017). Developing Minds: Psychology, Neoliberalism and Power. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Kurtiş, T., & Adams, G. (2015). Decolonizing liberation: Toward a transnational feminist psychology. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 388–413.Google Scholar
  36. Lacerda, F. (2015). Insurgency, theoretical decolonization and social decolonization: Lessons from Cuban psychology. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 298–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Law, J. (2011, September 25). What’s wrong with a One-World World? Retrieved from http://www.heterogeneities/publications/Law2011WhatsWrongWithAOneWorldWorld.pdf.
  38. Maldonado-Torres, N (2006). Cesaire’s gift and the decolonial turn. Radical Philosophy Review, 9, 111–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maldonado-Torres, N. (2007). On the coloniality of being. Cultural Studies, 21, 240–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Martín-Baró, I. (1994). Writings for a Liberation Psychology (A. Aron & S. Corne, transl.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Merleau-Ponty, M. (1945/1962). Phenomenology of Perception (C. Smith, transl.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  42. Mignolo, W. D. (2011). The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Mignolo, W. D., & Walsh, C. E. (2018). On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Mirowski, P., & Plehwe, D. (Eds.) (2009). The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Nwoye, A. (2015). What is African psychology the psychology of? Theory & Psychology, 25, 96–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Owusu-Bempah, K., & Howitt, D. (2000). Psychology Beyond Western Perspectives. Leicester, UK: BPS Books.Google Scholar
  47. Phillips, N. L., Adams, G., & Salter, P. S. (2015). Beyond adaptation: Decolonizing approaches to coping with oppression. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 365–387.Google Scholar
  48. Pickren, W. E. (2018). Psychology in the social imaginary of neoliberalism: Critique and beyond. Theory & Psychology, 28, 575–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pickren, W. E. (in press). Watching the detectives: The multiple lives of academic editing. History of Psychology.Google Scholar
  50. Pickren, W. E., & Rutherford, A. (2010). A History of Modern Psychology in Context. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  51. Pickren, W. E., & Schneider, S. F. (Eds.) (2005). Psychology and the National Institute of Mental Health: A Historical Analysis of Science, Practice, and Policy. Washington, D.C.: APA Books.Google Scholar
  52. Pizarroso, N. (2013). Mind’s historicity: Its hidden history. History of Psychology, 16, 72–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rabinbach, A. (1990). The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  54. Rose, N. (1999). Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (2nd ed.). London: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  55. Rutherford, A. (2018). Feminism, psychology, and the gendering of neoliberal subjectivity: From critique to disruption. Theory & Psychology, 28, 619–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sandoval, C. (2000). Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  57. Scarborough, E. (2004). Cheiron’s origins: Personal recollections and a photograph. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 40, 207–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Segalo, P., Manoff, E., & Fine, M. (2015). Working with embroideries and counter-maps: Engaging memory and imagination within decolonizing frameworks. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 342–364.Google Scholar
  59. Shamir, R. (2008). The age of responsibilization: On market-embedded morality. Economy and Society, 37, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  61. Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (2nd ed.). London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  62. Smith, L. T., Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (Eds.) (2018). Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  63. Smith, R. (1997). The Norton History of the Human Sciences. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  64. Smith, R. (2005). The history of psychological categories. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 36, 55–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Smith, R. (2013). Between Mind and Science: A History of Psychology. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
  66. Sugarman, J. (2015). Neoliberalism and psychological ethics. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 35, 103–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Taylor, C. (2002). Modern social imaginaries. Public Culture, 14, 91–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Teo, T. (2005). The Critique of Psychology: From Kant to Postcolonial Theory. New York: Springer SBM.Google Scholar
  69. Teo, T. (2015). Critical psychology: A geography of intellectual engagement and resistance. American Psychologist, 70, 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Walsh, R. T. G., Teo, T., & Baydala, A. (2014). A Critical History and Philosophy of Psychology: Diversity of Context, Thought, and Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Watkins, M. (2015). Psychosocial accompaniment. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3, 324–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Winston, A. (2018). Neoliberalism and IQ: Naturalizing economic and racial inequality. Theory & Psychology, 28, 600–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ithaca CollegeIthaca, New YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations