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Professor Visits Eastern Europe

January 31, 2007

Psychology professor William Woodward traveled to Prague and Belgrade in December.

Below is an account of this trip.

While in the Czech Republic in December, I was invited to participate in a panel of public intellectuals to discuss planning the future of democratic states, to be called ‘The Club of Prague’ (named after UNH retired professor Dennis Meadows' group, The Club of Rome, which centered on his book with Donella Meadows, “The Limits of Growth, revised as Beyond the Limits of Growth”).

My remarks were the lead off address, entitled “Corporate Control, 9-11, and the Environmental Crisis.” I emphasized that as a historian of psychology, I believe corporate elites have created fear of artificial enemies, whereas we should fear those corporate elites including the media that they control the information we receive.

The antidote is local independent media, of which we have many, and the Internet. I gave a hopeful picture of the peace activism and the green scholarship in this country. I drew on the work of Ellen Herman (“The Romance of Modern Psychology”) and James Capshew (“Psychologists on the

March”) that revealed psychologists at work throughout the 20 century "on the enemy mind," on "democratic morale," on "Cold War psychology, on "Nervous in the Service."

Following that I was hosted by a historian and philosopher of psychology at the University of Belgrade, Gordana Jovanovic. I gave a lecture on “B. F. Skinner and Behaviorism in American Culture."

This was the title of my co-edited book in 1996. I explained that technologies of social control can be put to useful ends such as reconstructing a sustainable society.

I gave as examples the socially active careers of my students and my three children. I mentioned that I teach about the work of men and women psychologists around the world in the past century: e.g., China, Turkey, Austria, England, Germany.

The students had lots of questions for me: Why are you here, what do you think of Serbia, why do you talk about your family and students? They seemed surprised by my attention to the applications of psychology in society, the topic of my co-authored book Psychology in Twentieth-Century Thought and Society (1987).

I also met with seven women social psychologists involved in refugee work. I am engaged in work with a graduate student on the history of participatory action research.

These Serbian women exemplify this approach in that their research goes on within a community of refugees and one of their goals is advocacy for refugees. Their program is called "Hi Neighbor." I did my Christmas shopping at their refugee handicraft store. They expressed disappointment in the U.S. for taking a one-sided view of Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic as the aggressors, when he was trying to save the Republic. They made comparisons to the U.S. Civil War, when foreign intervention for North and South also became an issue.

I also met with the Department of Psychology. I described our broad representation in the department, a virtual Noah's arc. They have a specialty in social psychology. We talked about the teaching learning process and the curriculum. I mentioned that we provide teacher training (Teaching Excellence Program). I drew on my experience as a Fulbright Fellow at the Humboldt University of Berlin in East Germany during 1990-1991.

I also met with my counterpart there, Gordana Jovanovic, and edited her most recent manuscript in English. We are both doing critiques of psychology at the level of sponsorship of research and truly social critique of the goals and understandings of psychology. She teaches history and philosophy of psychology to students in philosophy as well as psychology. Both of us have been recipients of Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowships for two years in Germany. Professor Jovanovic has participated in the past on panels I organized for the European Society for the History of the Human Sciences. We expect to continue our collaboration in some fashion.

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