Dr Derek Hook


derek hook
© Institute of Social Psychology, 2007
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Current Research

Research areas

1.Revitalizing Psychoanalytic Social Psychology

One of my current research and teaching initiatives involves the attempt to revitalize a neglected tradition within Social Psychology, namely psychoanalytic social psychology. Part of the objective here is to retrieve a series of critical perspectives offered by assorted post-Freudians and members of the Frankfurt School – not of course to neglect the importance of Freudian ‘social psychology’ itself – and to do so as a means analysing a series of contemporary political concerns (the affective ties of Nation and ‘race’; the ‘psychotechnics’ of contemporary regimes of government; the issue of possessive investments in “whiteness”, and so on).

The second component of the project asks the question: what might a Lacanian psychoanalytic social psychology look like? Although much contemporary social psychology shies away from the themes of fantasy, unconscious belief, ideology, and psychoanalytic notions of sexual difference, the work of a number of Slovene Scholars interested in the critical potential of Lacanian theory (Joan Copjec, Renata Salecl, Mladen Dolar, Slavoj Zizek), has done much by way of popularizing this vocabulary of critique.

Of particular importance here are a series of distinctive Lacanian concepts: the idea of fantasy as ideological mode designed to mask social antagonism; the notion of the big Other as point of symbolic registration and appeal; the notion of jouissance as surplus libidinal ‘enjoyment’ present in racist fantasies of the ‘theft of enjoyment’, and so on. The objective of exploring such concepts within critical social psychology is to provide an understanding not only of subjectification (referring here to the historical, material and discursive conditions of possibility for our emergence as types of subject) but also of our subjectivization (that is, the processes and actions through which we come to experience and understand ourselves in the terms of our subjectification).

Relevant publications

(Editorial publications)

• Hook, D. & Parker, I. (forthcoming; 2007). Special issue of Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology: ‘Psychoanalysis and Social Psychology: Historical Connections and Contemporary Applications’.
• Hook, D. & Neill, C. & Parker, I. (forthcoming; 2008). Special issue of Subjectivity: International Journal of Critical Psychology: ‘What is the new psychoanalytic social psychology?'

(Forthcoming papers)

  • Hook, D. (forthcoming; 2007). Racializing embodiment and the ‘real’ of the social subject. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
  • Hook, D. (forthcoming; 2008). Fantasmatic transactions. Subjectivity: International Journal of Critical Psychology.

(Book chapters)

  • Hook, D. (2006) Psychoanalysis, sexual difference and the castration problematic. In T. Shefer, F. Boonzaier & P. Kiguwa (Eds), The gender of psychology. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, pp. 45-59.
  • Hook, D. (2006) Lacan, the meaning of the phallus and the ‘sexed’ subject. In T. Shefer, F. Boonzaier & P. Kiguwa (Eds), The gender of psychology. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, pp. 60-84.
Relevant course outline



2. Foucault’s analytics of power

A second research and teaching priority concerns the attempt to expand upon a given set of qualitative research methodologies – content analysis, grounded theory, semiotics, discourse analysis – by means of reference to a less familiar set of analytical resources. I am interested, for example, in the innovative possibilities that different techniques of image analysis can bring to discourse analysis, and in the potentials of applying psychoanalysis to qualitative research methodology, either as a critical reading methodology, or in reference to the interpretative mode of classical Freudian dream-interpretation.
Regards advancing critical qualitative research methodologies I also have in mind a series of Foucauldian orientations, such as Foucault’s approach to discursive critique, critical history (genealogy), and the analysis of ‘spatio-discursive topographies’ (heterotopology). My recent Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power (Palgrave, 2007) discusses and illustrates this set of approaches with reference to a variety of empirical studies. Not limited in its concerns to methodological issues, this text also introduces and interrogates Foucault’s critique of the uses of psychological knowledge and practice in disciplinary contexts.

Relevant publications

  • Hook, D. (2007). Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power. Palgrave. London & New York.
  • Hook, D. (2005). Genealogy, discourse, ‘effective history’. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2: 1-29.
  • Hook, D. & Vrdoljak, M. (2002). Gated communities, heterotopia and a "rights" of privilege. Geoforum, 33, 195-219.
  • Hook, D.  (2001). Discourse, knowledge, materiality, history. Theory & Psychology. 11 (4), 521-547.

3. Psychoanalysis and racism; racism as 'technology of subjectivization’

Michel Foucault’s notion of ‘technologies of self’ draws attention to the micro-processes of self-regulation that characterize membership in contemporary disciplinary societies. Such a model provides a profound means of analyzing the instruments and techniques underlying the production of various forms of personhood. As such it provides an exemplary means of analyzing subjectification; it understands, in other words, that we can never assume the existence of an individual psychological subject prior to the constitutive force of a variety of structural factors. Such a Foucauldian perspective is enabling inasmuch as it avoids presumptions of a ‘naturalist’ psychology, preferring to approach psychological functions as ‘object-effects’ of power, as, potentially, instruments of governmentality. It provides thus an appreciation of a worldly psychology that is never simply ‘given’, a-historical, or universally applicable; a psychology that can never be detached from political concerns, and that always needs be questioned as a potential resource of power.

Despite the merits of such an approach, it focuses predominantly on the historical production of psychological knowledge and practice. What it lacks, in its distrust of any order of psychological explanation, is a vocabulary of analysis sufficiently able to grapple with what Judith Butler refers to as ‘the psychic life of power’. This psychical dimension of power, the fact of its subjectivization in forms that are not wholly conscious - nor indeed reducible to the rational effects of governed subjectivity - becomes a crucial factor of analysis, particularly so in ‘psychologized’ forms of power such as racism. Here a variety of historicist, discursive and sociological models of analysis confront their limits. As psychoanalytic critic Christopher Lane has noted, racism’s irrational forms “elude explanation by sole reference to either conscious precepts or social history”. Racism, it would seem, is more than a force of subjectification, it is also a technology of subjectivization in which social asymmetries – which, to emphasize, remain historically, discursively variable – are reproduced and extended by means of a psychical instrumentation.

What is called for thus is a new analysis of technologies of subjectivity, one aware of the unconscious dimension of such operations and procedures of subjectivization. An unlikely partnership is thus brought into view: the Foucauldian frame of technologies of subjectivity as extended by a variety of psychoanalytic conceptualizations. Is it the case, for example, that we may derive from Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks a ‘technology of phobia’? This would be a technology that is racist inasmuch as it takes ‘blackness’ or some other designator of racial identity as its principle of generativity, as the phobogenic object – Fanon’s term (1986) - at its center.

This has been the focus of my most recent work: the attempt to experiment with a series of psychoanalytic conceptualizations (the dreamwork, the uncanny, abjection, stereotype-as-fetish, the denial of desire, and the 'real' of embodiment) as irrational factors of power, within a Foucauldian register of 'technologies of subjectivity'. The aim – to reiterate - is not thus to isolate a series of natural psychologies, but rather to identify a variety of 'instramentalizable' psychological technologies that might play their part in the 'psychic' life of power.

 Relevant publications

  • Hook, D. (2005). The racial stereotype, colonial discourse, fetishism, racism. The Psychoanalytic Review, October, Volume 92, Number 5, pp. 701-734.
  • Hook, D. (in press). Postcolonial psychoanalysis. Theory and Psychology.
  • Hook, D. (2006). ‘Pre-discursive’ racism. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology. 16, 207-232
  • Hook, D. (2005). Affecting whiteness: Racism as technology of affect (1). International Journal of Critical Psychology. 16, 74-99.
  • Hook, D. & Howarth, C. (2005). Future directions for a critical social psychology of racism/antiracism. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology. 15 (6), 506-512.
  • Hook, D. (2005). A critical psychology of the postcolonial. Theory and Psychology, 15 (4), 475-503.

4. Critical social psychology of racism research network

This network is largely a function of collaborative work with Caroline Howarth. It stems from a broader research grouping in the Institute of Social Psychology, which both Caroline and I have been instrumental in establishing. Our objective has been to consolidate and grow a research network composed of young researchers doing groundbreaking work in the study of racism and multiculturalism. A priority here lies with collecting work of different theoretical orientations and from diverse geographical contexts; intersections and juxtapositions of this sort, we believe, will yield genuinely innovative research perspectives.

Our short-term output objectives in this respect are to host an annual mini-conference (or workshop), that brings together a set of international colleagues and which links to the PS-460 course ‘Social Psychology of Racism, Multiculture and Resistance’. Our aim, on the basis of the expertise we would thus gather, is to produce an annual special issue of a key psychology/sociology journal, or, indeed, an edited book. A vital element in growing such a network – and indeed, in expanding PS-460, or contributing to a related MSc – would be to develop a multifaceted research profile, which would attract students interested in MSc or PhD level research in related areas.

Relevant publications

(Editorial projects)

  • Hook, D. & Howarth, C. (Eds.), (forthcoming, 2008). Cosmopolitanism, multiculture, anti-racism and resistance. Special issues of International Journal of Critical Psychology.

  • Howarth, C. & Hook, D. (Eds.), (2005). Towards a critical social psychology of racism. Special issue of Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology.

  • Hook, D. & Howarth, C. (2005). Future directions for a critical social psychology of racism/antiracism. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology. 15 (6), 506-512.
  • Howarth, C. & Hook, D. (2005). Towards a Critical Social Psychology of Racism: Points of disruption Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology. 15 (6), 425-431.