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Psy-expertise, therapeutic culture and the politics of the personal in development

Abstract

Expertise stemming from the psy disciplines is increasingly and explicitly shaping international development policy and practice. Whilst some policy makers see the use of psy expertise as a new way to reduce poverty, increase economic efficiency, and promote wellbeing, others raise concerns that psychocentric development promotes individual over structural change, pathologises poverty, and depoliticises development. This paper specifically analyses four aspects of psy knowledge used in contemporary development policy: child development/developmental psychology, behavioural economics, positive psychology, and global mental health. This analysis illuminates the co-constitutive intellectual and colonial histories of development and psy-expertise: a connection that complicates claims that development has been psychologized; the uses and coloniality of both within a neoliberal project; and the potential for psychopolitics to inform development

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