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Course Information

Instructor Info:Peter Gilford
TA Info:Katherine Johnston
Isabel Tweedie
Term: 2014F
Meeting Info: Wednesday
02:30 PM - 05:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102

Students often approach the field of psychology with a desire to both understand themselves and to help alleviate the suffering of others. Many are also motivated by a desire to work towards social justice. Yet psychology and the mental health disciplines, along with their myriad forms of inquiry and intervention, are inextricably entangled with current social and political arrangements. This course will survey the vast field of psychology from a critical perspective, problematizing and inquiring about psychological methods, practices, and philosophical assumptions with the intent of coming to understand how psychology has come to be such a potent and undetectable sociopolitical force. By inquiring about how psychological knowledge shapes and defines how we come to self-understanding and what we believe it means to be properly human, we will explore how these understandings support or challenge existing arrangements of power and privilege. A prior college-level course in psychology is a prerequisite for enrollment. Students should be committed to submitting twice-weekly commentary on assigned readings, reaction papers, a mid-term paper, and to initiate and complete a final paper project of their own design by the end of the course.

Course Objectives:

In this course we will survey the field of psychology critically, from an interdisciplinary perspective—as historians, philosophers, anthropologist-ethnographers, critical theorists, and sociologists. In conjunction, this will also involve attempting to define and “situate” our own “selves” and how we live and understand our lives. That is, we will reflect on how the current historical moment constitutes us by persistently asking questions (as well as questioning the moral assumptions in those questions) about the essentially invisible understandings that cumulatively configure us as being our “selves” and having the specific sense of ourselves as human beings.

We will focus intently on understanding how the discourse of modern psychology has come to shape our self-understandings and ideals, and, as noted, even the very questions we come to ask ourselves. Can we begin to articulate the relationship between our own psychological understandings and hierarchies of power and privilege? What can an examination of the relationship between psychological knowledge and the power it yields reveal?

Evaluation Criteria:

Students will be expected to engage with the readings and to demonstrate that engagement through weekly one-page response posts to assigned readings; Two (or more)  3-page reaction papers; regular contributions to class discussions; completing a mid-term paper (6 pages), and a self-initiated final paper or project (8-10 pages). The form and focus your final project takes will require approval by the professor.

It is your responsibility to continuously demonstrate your engagement with the course material throughout the semester through the above-mentioned pathways.


1.   Attendance:  Please make every effort to attend class.  Students absent more than 2 times from the class without a legitimate reason emailed to the professor and TA’s will not receive a final course evaluation.  

If you are unable to attend class, please send an email ahead of time informing the professor and TA’s why you will not be in attendance. Email any work that may be due (including the reading response post(s)). If you are unable to complete any work, please note this in your email.

Please make every effort to arrive in class on time out of courtesy and consideration to others.


2.  Reading Assignments: This class will require significant reading time (6-10 hours weekly). Please complete all of the assigned readings prior to class and be prepared to share and discuss your questions and reactions to them. The amount of assigned reading may vary depending on its level of difficulty, (i.e., when the reading is particularly difficult there will usually be less). Given the variability in class discussions and dynamics, more often than not we will not have time to cover in detail all the specific readings assigned for a given class.


3.  Reading Response Posts:You will be responsible for posting your response-reactions to the assigned readings, no later than  9:00PM the Monday evening before class.  Post your response-reaction to the forum on the website titled “Response-Reactions Here!” Please put the class date in the subject heading and make sure it is a new thread (as opposed to posting to an existing one). In the subject heading of the email to our TA and in the forum post, list your first name and the class date (e.g., Sam’s 9/16).

 Written Assignments:

Written assignments must be turned in as hard copy on the day they are due. Late papers will be accepted only under extenuating circumstances and by prior permission of the professor. Late papers will not receive written comments.

 **The quality of your writing is extremely important in your final evaluation for this class. If your writing has significant issues it may be returned to you for revisions.**

Additional Info:

All Hampshire College students and faculty, whether at Hampshire or at other institutions, are bound by the ethics of academic integrity. The entire description and college policy can be found in Non Satis Non Scire at under Academic Policies/Ethics of Scholarship. Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s work as one’s own. Both deliberate and inadvertent misrepresentations of another’s work as your own are considered plagiarism and are serious breaches of academic honesty and integrity. All sources used or consulted in the process of writing papers, examinations, preparing oral presentations, course assignments, artistic productions, and so on, must be cited. Sources include material from books, journals or any other printed source, the work of other students, faculty, or staff, information from the Internet, software programs and other electronic material, designs and ideas.

All cases of suspected plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Advising who will review documentation and meet with student and faculty member. Individual faculty, in consultation with the Dean of Advising, will decide the most appropriate consequence in the context of the class. This can range from revising and resubmitting an assignment to failing the course. Beyond the consequence in the course, CASA considers first offenses as opportunities for education and official warning. Multiple or egregious offenses will have more serious consequences. Suspected instances of other breaches of the ethics of academic integrity, such as the falsification of data, will be treated with the same seriousness as plagiarism and will follow the same process.