Pritzker, S.E., Duncan, W.L.
Technologies of the Social: Family Constellation Therapy and the Remodeling of Relational Selfhood in China and Mexico
(2019) Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 43 (3), pp. 468-495.
In this article, we investigate how an increasingly popular therapeutic modality, family constellation therapy (FCT), functions simultaneously as a technology of the self (Foucault, Technologies of the self: a seminar with Michel Foucault, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 1988) as well as what we here call a “technology of the social.” In FCT, the self is understood as an assemblage of ancestral relationships that often creates problems in the present day. Healing this multi-generational self involves identifying and correcting hidden family dynamics in high-intensity group sessions where other participants represent the focus client and his/her family members, both alive and deceased. Drawing on ethnographic data collected in multiple FCT workshops in Beijing, China and Oaxaca City, Mexico, we show how FCT ritually reorganizes boundaries between self and other in novel ways, creating a collective space for shared moral reflection on troubling social, historical, and cultural patterns. By demonstrating the ways in which FCT unfolds as both a personal and social technology, this article contributes to ongoing conversations about how to effectively theorize sociality in therapeutic practice, and problematizes critical approaches emphasizing governmentality and commensuration (Mattingly, Moral laboratories family peril and the struggle for a good life, University of California Press, Oakland, 2014; Duncan, Transforming therapy: mental health practice and cultural change in Mexico, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 2018; Matza, Shock therapy: psychology, precarity, and well-being in postsocialist Russia, Duke University Press, Durham, 2018; Pritzker, Presented at “Living Well in China” Conference, Irvine, CA, 2018; Mattingly, Anthropol Theory, 2019; Zigon, “HIV is God’s Blessing”: rehabilitating morality in neoliberal Russia, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2011).
China; Family constellation therapy; Mexico; Self; Sociality
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