Language and the Power to Name Another’s Experience
This is the third meeting from the lecture series “Untwisting Power Asymmetries Through Accompaniment”. In this lecture series we will question the ways that we—in our already powerful roles as clinicians, activists, educators, lawyers, and other positions of status—are prone to repeating the powerful/powerless dynamic with the individuals we otherwise hope to serve. Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of power is particularly helpful here as we attempt to understand our power-laden positions. Can the promise of radical and liberation-based theories such as “accompaniment” be used to work more effectively within these asymmetrical power dynamics? These questions will be explored from the perspective of working with asylum seekers.
30th of May, Part III: Language and the Power to Name Another’s Experience
Restating another’s experience in one’s own words is common practice. Naming symptoms or even interpreting the unspoken are crucial tools not just for clinicians, but for most of us in our daily lives. But how does this naming serve the healing process when speaking on behalf of the other? With help from Foucault’s analysis of power and knowledge, we will explore clinical moments with asylum-seeking immigrants when this naming reflex broke down and both parties arrived at an impasse.
This lecture series is intended for those concerned with asymmetric power dynamics in their clinical work, political activism, humanitarian efforts, social work, or volunteer efforts with survivors of torture or other marginalized individuals. Students of mental health, social work, and psychology fields are particularly valued as audience members, as much of the original research I present here is based on students’ critiques of their education and training.
Jessica Harbaugh, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist from New York City, now living in Berlin. She completed a training year at the Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture and collected original data from students in various mental health fields throughout the U.S., who worked with survivors of torture as part of their training experience. Jessica has also worked extensively with LGBTQ individuals and underserved adults presenting with complex trauma. She has worked as a clinical supervisor for psychology practicum students in underserved areas of New York City. Her theoretical orientation is psychodynamic and is heavily informed by a queer, feminist, humanistic paradigm. Her dissertation research is entitled “Power, multicultural competence, and trainees’ preparation for treating survivors of torture: A qualitative inquiry”.