Event date:

Meeting with Prof. Sam Binkley from Emerson College in Boston

The Department of Social Practice Theory and Research cordially invites you to a meeting with Prof. Sam Binkley on "Metaphors of Interiority and Containment in American Therapeutic Culture". The event will be held as part of the Open Seminars in the series "What New Constitutions?''
The event will be held remotely via the Microsoft Teams platform on November 24, 2022, at 5:00 pm.

Abstract of the speech:

This presentation builds on an emerging interdisciplinary focus on what is termed “therapeutic culture.” Such perspectives consider the increasingly pervasive presence of psychological, therapeutic and emotional rhetorics in public discourse and private life, evidenced in the popularity of self-help books, the establishment of professional norms centered on personal feelings and affect management, and a broader centering of government policy on matters such as happiness, loneliness and other aspects of emotional well being.  Specifically, this presentation will consider one powerful theme woven through many of these discourses: the problem of “interiority,” where therapeutic subjectivity is related through the urgent need to “get inside oneself.”  Interiority, it is argued, is a theme related through rich metaphorical language, though its effect goes beyond the linguist and the emotional, carrying a powerful bodily resonance.  Borrowing from recent treatments of metaphor in cognitive and linguistic theory, as well as historical overviews of the popularity of therapeutic sensibilities in the American context, metaphors of interiority are explored in historical cases drawn from the American context, extending from the humanistic psychology movement of  the 1960’s and 70s to the franchise of publications from the 1990s celebrating the “inner child” motif. Therapeutic appeals to “inwardness,” are traced from more radical forms in the 1960s to their incorporation as a managerial trope in neoliberal economic times.


Sam Binkley is Professor of Sociology at Emerson College, Boston.  His research examines the social production of subjectivity, identity and personhood through lifestyle literatures and popular texts. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s notions of biopower and governmentality, but also from a range of critical theorists, he has undertaken studies of self help literature and popular psychology, lifestyle movements of the 1970s, anti-racist and multi-cultural discourses, and the affective, corporeal and emotional cultures of neoliberalism, all with an eye toward the fashioning of subjectivity in these contexts. He has authored two research monographs; Happiness as Enterprise: An Essay on Neoliberal Life (SUNY) and Getting Loose: Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s (Duke), and is co-editor of A Foucault for the 21st Century (Cambridge Scholars). He has published articles in such journals as Body & Society, History of Human Sciences, Time and Society, Foucault Studies, Cultural Studies, Rethinking Marxism, Subjectivity and the Journal for Cultural Research.

photo: Emerson Collage