As a cultural phenomenon, postmodernism impacts the fields of philosophy, architecture, literature, music and other expressive arts. Many narrative practitioners prefer the more specific term poststructuralism to describe an approach to inquiry that questions the concept of “self” as a singular and coherent entity, and is in contrast to structuralism’s truth claims. I sometimes use the umbrella terms “postmodern” or “collaborative” therapies as an effort to unify a diversity of approaches – not to obscure distinctions.
Regardless of terminology, we begin this course by acknowledging postmodern/poststructuralist thought and the influence of others who embrace a collaborative outlook on education. In particular, Jacques Derrida, Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, Gilles Deleuze and other postmodern/poststructuralist philosophers offer an outlook on education that challenges conventions, fosters innovation and change, encourages tolerance of ambiguity, emphasizes diversity, and accentuates the social construction of reality.
For further interest, I highly recommend an special issue of the Journal of Systemic Therapies on Teaching and Learning Postmodern Therapies (Vol 25 -Issue 4). As editors, David Paré and Margarita Tarragona contemplate pedagogical questions for teachers and trainers of postmodern therapies that “share a respectful, collaborative spirit that reflects a loosened grip on truth claims and purported expertise” (Paré & Tarragona, 2006), p.2). They describe postmodern epistemologies as “reminding us that knowledge is not so much handed over as it is co-constructed through mutual talk.”
I am excited by the possibilites for this kind of collaborative approach within this online study group. We are pioneers, and will be learning together. The diminished hierarchy and social interdependence makes it possible to actually “do” the vision of teaching/learning conceptual frameworks and therapeutic interventions without simply duplicating modernist traditions that privilege instructors’ knowledges.
- When I discovered narrative therapy in the early 1990s, I was already a family therapist. Hence, I first understood narrative therapy as a development in the field of family therapy – one of the collaborative therapies that emerged as an alternative to systemic, strategic or structural family therapy. I was already an enthusiastic student of dialogic/ collaborative language systems (Tom Andersen, Lynn Hoffman, Harlene Anderson) so I experienced studying narrative as further steps on a path.
- Now when I look back, I remember Michael White’s caution entering conversations about narrative therapy as a development in the field of family therapy. He was insistent (more gentle in his insistence in later years) about narrative therapy as not simply a development within the field family therapy, but linked with emergent ideas in poststructuralist philosophy, literary theory and anthropology. I think Michael was more enthusiastic about reading postructuralist philosophy than anything said by any therapy theorist/practitioner.
Jacques Derrida, Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, Gilles Deleuze and other poststructuralist philosophers describe an approach to inquiry that questions the concept of “self” as a singular and coherent entity, and is in contrast to structuralism’s truth claims. Some people use the umbrella terms “postmodern” or “collaborative” therapies as an effort to unify a diversity of approaches – not to obscure distinctions with poststructualism.
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