(UN)TALKING FAMILY IN DISCOURSE-DEPENDENT FAMILIES
Prof. Ann Buysse, Gent Universiteit
Ann Buysse is full professor of clinical psychology and a member of the Family Lab at Ghent University. The research group was founded about 20 years ago and has since secured a unique position with a series of studies into interpersonal influence. This central theme has been elaborated in small experiments, qualitative and quantitative studies and large-scale interdisciplinary projects with family law, sexology, bioethics, sociology and medicine. Her research focuses on mechanisms underlying the process of influence in families in topics such as adoption, blended families, families with children with disabilities, donor families, divorce, mediation, family therapy, sexual health, communication, family support, family solidarity, attachment, blue psychology, ... Projects are carried out in close collaboration with various stakeholders, with a focus on generating real world impact and societal innovations. She worked together and mentored over 20 PhD-students who kept her mind sharp and with whom she co-authored a series of publications. Her teaching assignment has long included family studies, systems therapy, and mediation, and more recently primary care. She currently is Dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences and has held various positions at both the faculty and scientific, policy or social organizations.
Inaugural lecture – February 16, 2022 - 6:00 pm (MONT10)
“Until the lions have a voice, the glory of the hunt will always be the tale of the hunter” (Nigerian proverb)
Our understanding of families and the way they influence and are influenced by their members and the social context, has changed significantly over the past few decades. In the inaugural class, I will situate our understanding of families – and the interactional processes by which they shape their identity and meaning-making – within broader developments in psychology. The focus will be on
cultural master narratives (e.g., the marriage plot) that make up “the family as institution”, as well as on the fluid, ambiguous “family concept” that arises when families “talk” themselves into (and out of) being. Narratives, discourses, speech and talk will play a central role as I “talk” family psychology through stories: some lived, some studied, some dominant, some mundane, some coherent, some fragmented, some consistent, some paradoxical. These stories are rooted in a variety of epistemological and methodological traditions, all of which contribute to and equally limit our understanding of families. As the story of the inaugural lecture develops, it becomes clear that a “happy ending” is only possible if the “untold” or “undertold” family narratives are also told. Not only to give a much greater diversity of discourse-dependent families a voice, but also to provide everyone with a greater arsenal of “tools for family living”.
Workshop 2 – March 16, 2022 - 4:15-6:15 pm (SOCR11)
World-to-person and person-to-world family narratives
“Talking family” does not appear in a vacuum and is not power-free. This applies both to the world- to-person narratives – the cultural master narratives that “reflect” reality and that families “undergo”, such as the marriage plot, heteronormativity or the dominance of blood ties – and the person-to-world narratives – the mundane, ongoing, scattered narratives that construct families and that families develop. We will discuss 3 power issues: (1) tellability (narratives in interaction, in context), (2) tellorship (cocreated narratives, negotiated by all participants), and (3) social location (gender, race, socio-economic status, …) and intersectionality. And we focus on the implications for research, clinical practice, prevention, training and education.
Workshop 3 – March 30, 2022 - 4:15-6:15 pm (SOCR11)
“Contradictions are signs of health. Everything absolute belongs to pathology” (Nietzche)
We will discuss narratives as “reflecting” versus “constructing” reality and the impact these two disparate perspectives have on studying families, clinical practice, prevention, training and education. We will contrast the idea of family members as “reflexive beings” with a desire for unitary coherence with the wealth of ambivalent statements, contradictory attitudes, incompatible values and emotional internal clashes that family stories entail. The first (reflexive and coherent family members) is what we hope for (in questionnaires, experiments, therapy, training, prevention, ...).
The latter (unreflective everydayness) is closer to reality and becomes clear, for example in research aimed at unraveling meaning-making. Since both clearly have their strengths and weaknesses, the question is whether a reconciliation of the two is necessary or desirable.
Workshop 4 – May 4, 2022 - 4:15-6:15 pm (SOCR11)
Context and Agency
Following up on the previous classes, we further tap into “Family Discourses” (master narratives) and “family discourses” (everyday forms of talk or small stories). In the first, the person, beliefs, actions, and interactions (the world as we see it), including our sense of who-we-are, is the product of existing Family Discourses. In the latter, family discourses are used (in interaction) to construct a sense of self, of the other, with us, the speakers or narrators as agents who are agentively (and responsibly) involved in this construction process. We will particularly focus on the value and
importance of “small talk”. Not because of the content, but because of the context, its social function. Every speech act is an act, meant not only to communicate something, but to do something: reassure, acknowledge, nurture, enjoin, reject, dominate, encourage, or just fill awkward silence. It is the social function of speech act. Unlike semantic content, social function cannot be understood in isolation. Social function depends entirely on context, on tone and body language, on the interpersonal roles being played, on historical, cultural and environmental cues. It only makes sense in relation to context. We will also and especially pay attention to the way in which context can be both facilitating and limiting in research, clinical practice, education, training and prevention.
Workshop 5 – May 12, 2022 - 4:15-6:15 pm (MONT10)
(UN)TALKING DISCOURSE-DEPENDENT FAMILY:
narratives as equipment for family living
In the last class we focus on “untold” or “undertold” family narratives and emphasize the importance of telling them. Not just for those currently being silenced in research, clinical practice, prevention, education or training. But also because the greater the variability, the richer the narratives and the greater the arsenal of “tools for family living” for everyone. Research with families varying in “social
locations” (gender, race, socioeconomic status) reveals narratives that can be “helpful” or “liberating” for many. Just a few examples (many more to be discovered in the workshop):
- In donor family narratives, “family ties” are more often seen as voluntary (as opposed to involuntary in traditional families), which gives many more degrees of freedom in the way meaning is given to relationships.
- Similarly, in reconstituted families, alienation is a (temporary) option in family relationships alongside intimacy, broadening the scope of parent-child relationships.
- Black lesbian women talk about “coming into the life” as an alternative and critique to the coming-out literature, which primarily has focused on white, middle-class lesbian and gay disclosure experiences.
- A narrative of gender equality might be different in the context of women in poverty who are nevertheless able to exercise “power” through household chores.