Journal article Open Access

The othering of a profession: The intriguing case of Australian psychology

Goldney, Jodie

Othering allows an individual to both distance themselves from a reality which they may not feel resonates with them, and in some instances create a new reality which does. However, it also creates a space from which anyone perceived as deviating from the standard can be controlled or punished in subtle ways. Research into this phenomenon, generally comes from the perspective of the marginalised and oppressed. Less common is research exploring how othering impacts on those in the professional mainstream. Such research is important due to the power professionals may exert on shaping, and creating discourses which other individuals then live. Embroiled as it is in the trials, tribulations and political manoeuvrings of a fledgling discipline seeking to cement its place in society as both high status profession and ‘science,’ the practice of Australian psychology provides one microcosm in which to explore this space. Ten registered clinicians were interviewed using Hollway and Jefferson’s method. Transcripts were read multiple times to identify use of normative terms, what was not said contradictions, ambiguities, slippages and key themes. It was revealed that professional othering may be experienced both retrospectively and contemporaneously, with the (new) status quo enforced by the establishment, peers, and curriculum, albeit in subtle ways. Othering may result in the loss of historically useful professional knowledge, and may effectively stultify creativity within a profession. Othering may impact negatively on professional’s access to their guild’s historical knowledge base, and obfuscate the creation of new practitioner-informed knowledge. Othering may also encourage the growth of professional hierarchies experienced as a form of personal control.

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