Some humorously refer to it as the World Cup of Psychology: the International Union of Psychological Science's (IUPsyS) International Congress of Psychology (ICP), which takes place every four years. The first ICP was held in 1889 in Paris. The 30th Congress is to be held in Cape Town (South Africa) in August 2012. (See the call for papers here: the deadline for abstracts is 1 December 2011.)
This will only be the second time the ICP is hosted south of the equator. Shocking, perhaps; but certainly not surprising. Its first southern (Southern?) exposure was in Sydney (Australia) in 1988. OK, it was also held in Mexico in 1984, certainly a 'Southern' country in the sense I am using the term on this blog; but the host city, Acapulco, has so thoroughly been 'colonised' as a cheap and easily accessible US beach destination, it could harldly be seen as a conference location aimed at facilitating engagement with psychologists and psychologies from the global South... (But how different is Cape Town?! How different is anywhere, considering the superficial exoticism of so much academic tourism?!)
One of the aims of the IUPsyS is to further 'internationalise' psychology, and one can certainly expect more excursions to Asia, Africa and Latin America in the future. Psychology is, in this discourse of 'internationalisation', mostly spoken about like water or food: it exists as a self-evident and life-enhancing resource that should be more evenly spread around the globe, instead of how it is currently concentrated mainly in the North and overrepresented by Northerners. Psychology is a purveyor of essential commodities, such as integrated selves and personal happiness... Psychology, according to this discourse, should be shared or given away: disparities in the where, who and how of its production and consumption should be dealt with.
On the one hand, this is good: psychologists from the South will no longer be so obviously marginalised. On the other hand, the psychology to be 'internationalised' is quite clearly Northern psychology -- if you will excuse my insistence on the blunt categorisation. 'International psychology' is not 'world psychology'; it is European and especially North American psychology writ large, mostly forgetful of its historical particularities and political complicities (i.e., it is 'de-worlded'). The aim of internationalisation is to spread psychology, not to diversify the ways in which it can understand and reproduce itself as a science and saddlebag of practices and technologies. The aim, in other words, is to psychologise the world, not to world psychology.
And psychologisation, it should be added, involves more than merely extending the institutional reach of the discipline and profession of psychology -- for example, the number of university departments, academics and practitioners devoted to psychology in a given context. Psychologisation refers instead to a logic or rationality; it refers (pretty much simultaneously) to ideologies and technologies of control that contribute, in various ways and under different guises, to forms of neo-liberal governmentality under conditions of late-modern capitalism and globalisation. (See especially Jan de Vos' forthcoming book, Psychologisation in Times of Globalisation).
ICP 2012 Chair, Norman Duncan
But all's not doom and gloom. At least the IUPsyS seems serious about local participation and buy-in. The local organisers have had some autonomy to shape the conference in ways that reflect (and may lend momentum to) local interests in and ideas about psychology. This is not to be scoffed at. For example, critical psychology has a seperate division devoted to it for the Cape Town congress -- this is, as far as I am aware, a first in history of the ICP.
This creates all sorts of interesting possibilities for networking, encounters, and interventions. It's understandable that some critical psychologists would be allergic to these big congresses. It's also fairly obvious that we will be a tiny minority. But we have a small window of opportunity here, and in any case, this is the season of the great reclaim: so, let's attend ICP 2012; let's Occupy Psychology!