Cultural negotiations in transnational knowledge: cases of clinical psychology from the Malay Archipelago and beyond

Geerlings, Lennie Rosalinde Carina (2015) Cultural negotiations in transnational knowledge: cases of clinical psychology from the Malay Archipelago and beyond. Masters (Research) thesis, James Cook University.

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This interdisciplinary thesis in Anthropology and Psychology seeks to understand how transnational knowledges can be culturally negotiated and how cultural imperialism in higher education can be countered. Cultural imperialism is a central challenge in transnational higher education as it intersects with the globalisation of knowledges. In the Malay Archipelago – a region between Southeast Asia and the Pacific with interweaving cultural, linguistic and trade histories – the expansion of transnational education is critiqued for supporting a neo-colonial incorporation of knowledge from the west. This situation demonstrates the critical need to understand how students and academics in this region engage with transnational knowledge and through this engagement negotiate knowledge.

Cultural negotiations in transnational knowledge are explored through a case study of clinical psychology, an academic discipline taught in postgraduate programs and practiced in mental health care settings. A mapping of exchanges in clinical psychology in the Malay Archipelago shows that the discipline continues to be influenced by one-way flows of knowledge from Europe, and more recently from Australia to the region. Therefore, this thesis also looks beyond the archipelago to explore the important contexts of transnational education and (post)colonialism through cases from Australia and the Netherlands (representing Europe).

This interdisciplinary thesis analyses case studies of clinical psychology from a social science perspective, using theories from cultural anthropology and psychology. From an anthropological perspective based on interdisciplinary theories of globalisation, deterritorialisation, and power/knowledge, academic disciplines are analysed as territories of change. Territories consist of non-hierarchical networks of knowledges that are constantly changing as they are reinterpreted – clinical psychology is constantly mapping its own terrains. This notion creates an analytical space for the study of cultural influences on clinical psychology knowledge through a focus on application in training and practice. From a psychological perspective, cultural reinterpretations of American research are studied in Singapore, Australia and the Netherlands through the theory of multicultural counselling competency (MCC). The cross-cultural applicability of MCC in the case studies is analysed through the hypothesis that satisfaction with cultural training, cross-cultural clinical psychology practice experience and identification as a cultural minority are associated with MCC – in line with American research.

Data collection for this thesis took place in two universities in Singapore, two in Australia and two in the Netherlands. Insights into clinical psychology training and practice were acquired through statistical analysis of a survey of MCC, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) of interviews regarding experiences of training and practice, and through phenomenological analysis of ethnographic data. Two years of ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in a clinical psychology training clinic of a university in Singapore, and several intervals of multi-sited fieldwork were conducted at clinical psychology departments at the other case universities in Singapore, Australia and the Netherlands. The main sources of ethnographic insights are based on informal conversations and discussions, observations, university and teaching resources, and analysis of information recorded in a reflective fieldwork journal.

The integrated quantitative and qualitative results from this research demonstrate that there are attempts to standardise 'western' knowledge as universally applicable, such as through MCC. However, transnational knowledge in clinical psychology is subject to cultural negotiation during training and practice. These negotiations are related to specific perceptions of the territory of clinical psychology, the cultural context of training and practice, and take place during daily applications of the discipline's knowledge and practices. Taken together, these insights highlight the importance of cultural negotiations as sites of resistance towards cultural imperialism in clinical psychology.

Based on these case studies of clinical psychology, this thesis argues that transnational knowledge forms a territory that is culturally negotiated from 'above' (professional organisations, education institutions) as well as from 'below' (students, academics, practitioners). Knowledges are actively constructed as universal and therefore considered transnational, but they are also appropriated and changed. Risks of cultural imperialism in higher education are exacerbated by (post)colonial hierarchies in knowledge production and valuation, discourses of science, and ideas of globalisation of education. However, this thesis shows that knowledges are never separate from culture, and that transnational knowledges are always subject to cultural negotiations from the ground.

Item ID: 41526
Item Type: Thesis (Masters (Research))
Keywords: anthropology; clinical psychology; cultural negotiations; ethnography; globalisation; globalization; multicultural training; psychology; transnational knowledge
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 3: Geerlings, Lennie, Thompson, Claire L., and Lundberg, Anita (2014) Psychology and culture: exploring clinical psychology in Australia and the Malay Archipelago. Journal of Tropical Psychology, 4. pp. 1-12.

Chapter 3: Geerlings, Lennie, Lundberg, Anita, and Thompson, Claire (2013) Transnational psychology: a case study of South East Asia. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Managing the Asian Century, pp. 73-79. From: ICMAC 2013: International Conference on Managing the Asian Century, 11-13 July 2013, Singapore.

Chapter 3: Geerlings, Lennie, Thompson, Claire, and Lundberg, Anita (2013) Borderless psychology in South East Asia: history, current state and future directions. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Managing the Asian Century, pp. 353-362. From: ICMAC 2013: International Conference on Managing the Asian Century, 11-13 July 2013, Singapore.

Chapter 4: Geerlings, Lennie R.C., and Lundberg, Anita (2014) Globalisation and deterritorialisation: an example of an academic discipline in the Malay Archipelago. In: Proceedings of the 37th HERDSA Annual International Conference (37), pp. 137-146. From: HERDSA 2014: 37th Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia Annual International Conference, 7-10 July 2014, Hong Kong.

Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2015 04:33
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200204 Cultural Theory @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
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