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Dr Derek Hook

Living through the end of apartheid provided me with the questions that set my research career in motion, namely: how are we to explain the persistence of 'race' and racism; what is the nature of the relation between subjectivity and power; and, how might we best grasp the unconscious dimension of ideology?

The over-arching objective of my research is to develop an analytics of power able to grapple with the unconscious and psychological dimensions of racism and ideological subjectivity. Three lines of analysis have proved particularly valuable to me in this respect: psychoanalytic, Foucauldian and postcolonial modes of critique. One of the key objectives of my work is thus to bridge the domains of critical social theory and social psychology, and to thus open up novel conjunctures for critique and analysis.

My interests in the subliminal aspects of power and how such aspects might be analyzed led me to a discursive approach to subjectivity and to critical discourse analysis. My PhD, a Michel Foucault inspired 'analytics of power' examined the minutia of influence, control and role-induction in the psychodynamic psychotherapeutic domain, linking the technology of the clinical practitioner to a diffused array of normalizing governmental objectives. An oft-cited paper, 'Discourse, knowledge, materiality', published in Theory & Psychology in 2001, emerged from this period of work. My first monograph, Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power (2007) further developed my PhD material, advancing a series of prospective methodological frameworks for critical qualitative analysis.

Between 1997 and 2000 I was an active member of the 'Critical Methods Collective', an organization of critical psychologists interested in issues of power, subjectivity, knowledge and transformation in post-apartheid South Africa. In this capacity I organized a series of Qualitative Methods Conferences: 'Histories of the Present' in 1998, 'Normality and Psychopathology' in 1999, and 'What is critical psychology?' in 2000. My first collaborative editorial project, Body Politics  (1999) (edited with Martin Terre Blanche and Kum-Kum Bhavnani) was a result of the international relations thus established.

In 1999 I became a lecturer in Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

My undergraduate teaching was largely centred on social psychology, qualitative methodology and developmental psychology. My graduate teaching commitments involved lecturing on critical psychology and psychoanalysis, and devising courses on gender and postcolonial theory. I was the recipient of Vivienne Schellshop Research Prize in 2002. In addition I was awarded a Rockefeller post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute for the Study of Public Culture, Emory University, where I completed a research project on space, subjectivity and power. My time at Emory resulted in two important publications on spatial identity, both in the journal Geoforum: 'Gated Communities, Heterotopia' (with Michele Vrdoljak) and 'Monumental Space and the Uncanny'.

After my return to South Africa I was confirmed as a senior lecturer in psychology. It was during this time that I began a productive relationship with the University of Cape Town Press, assuming a lead editorial role in a series of books (Psychopathology and Social Prejudice (2002), Developmental Psychology (2002), Self, Community and Psychology (2004) and Critical Psychology (2004)). These texts, several of which became prescribed texts in South African universities, aimed to produce a new South African psychology influenced by critical psychology's attention to relations and histories of power.

In 2003 I took up a position as a lecturer in social psychology at LSE – I had long since targeted the Psychology@LSE Department as the optimal site from which to develop the societal/sociological aspects of my critical psychology work. The goal of my research during this time was to investigate the potential of psychoanalytic and postcolonial theories as resources for a critical psychology of race and racism. The figure of Frantz Fanon proved a clear inspiration here, and a series of articles followed: 'A critical psychology of the postcolonial' in Theory & Psychology; 'Affecting whiteness' in IJCP and 'The racial stereotype, colonial discourse, fetishism in Psychoanalytic Review (all in 2005) along with 'Pre-discursive' racism' (2006) and 'The 'real' of racializing embodiment' (2008), both in Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology.

Since 2007 I have been the co-ordinator of events for Psychoanalysis@LSE, an informal grouping of psychoanalytic researchers based at LSE. I am also one of the founding editors of the Palgrave-Macmillan journal Subjectivity, a multi-disciplinary publication which seeks to encourage original articulations across the social sciences and humanities on topics pertinent to the politics of subjectivity. In addition to my current position at the LSE I am linked – in both teaching and research – to the School of Human & Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand, where I remain an active research fellow. I am also completing a psychoanalytic training at the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research in London.

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 philosophical and critical potential of Lacanian theory (Joan Copjec, Renata Salecl, Mladen Dolar, Slavoj Zizek), has done much by way of applying and elaborating upon such concepts. 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 in exploring the analytical usefulness of such concepts within social psychology is to provide an alternative route of understanding the multiple means in which subjects are located within a given social and ideological field. This research project has resulted in two jointly-edited special issues of journals: 'Psychoanalysis and Social Psychology: Historical Connections and Contemporary Applications' (with Ian Parker, 2008, Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology) and 'Intersubjectivity and the impossibility of connection' (with Calum Neill, 2008, Subjectivity).

Critical qualitative methodology

A third 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. 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 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.

Psychoanalysis and racism

 Much of my most recent work has taken up a series of psychoanalytic conceptualizations (Fanon's 'phobogenic object'; the Freudian dreamwork; the 'real' of embodiment; the stereotype as fetish; the notion of fantasmatic exchanges) and experimented with their usefulness in explaining facets of racism. This work takes as its point of departure the Lacanian notion of the 'real' – deadlocks or traumatic impossibilities of human existence that evade symbolic mediation – and investigates their role in consolidating what I refer to 'communities of intolerance'. This material includes engagements with the literary and theoretical contributions of, among others, Julia Kristeva, Homi Bhabha, J.M. Coetzee, Chabani Manganyi, Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko. I have attempted to knit together issues of apartheid racism (and the 'post-racism' evidenced in contemporary South Africa) with post-colonial theory and a critical psychology of anti-racism. One of my research priorities for the next year is to consolidate my published work in this respect – currently a sequence of five published papers – as a book. Two recent paper that give a flavour of this approach are: 'Fantasmatic transactions: On the persistence of Apartheid ideology', and 'Retrieving Biko: What would be a critical psychology of 'whiteness'?' My work on the psychoanalysis of racism has dovetailed with my involvement in The Apartheid Archive Project located at Wits University in South Africa  ( and Social Psychological Research into Racism group ( at LSE.

My principal teaching, supervision and mentoring responsibilities lie with the Social and Public Communications MSc programme offered by the Psychology@LSE Department. I was previously co-convenor of the course, along with Dr Martin Bauer, since its inception in 2003. Our objective in the programme has been to develop an eclectic, theory-driven and psychological approach to communications studies.

The focus of my Social and Public Communications teaching - as with all my lecturing within the Psychology@LSE Department - has been to bridge social psychology and social theory in provocative ways, and to advance potentially transformative forms of critique. The topics of many of the lectures I contribute to the Social and Public Communications MSc give a flavour of such an approach: The psychoanalysis of ideology; Saussure and the psychology of the sign; Foucauldian discourse theory; Vygotsky and the ontogenesis of communication; Stuart Hall, media analysis, encoding/decoding; Impression management and performativity.

This exploring of the overlap between social psychological themes and contemporary social theory is also evident in my teaching contributions to a variety of other social psychology courses. Particularly present here is the role of postcolonial thought, often used in tandem with reference to the historical context of apartheid/post-apartheid South Africa. A case in point are the lectures I contribute to PS460 'Social psychology of racism, multiculture and resistance': Fanon and 'postcolonial identity'; Steve Biko and the politics of Black Consciousness; Colonial discourse and racial stereotyping; Orientalism and the cosmopolitan. An important aspect of my approach to teaching has been to produce accessible student texts. This has been especially the case in South Africa, where producing new teaching materials responsive to the definition of a post-apartheid psychology has proved imperative over the last ten years.

My half-unit option, PS447 'Psychoanalysis & Communication' provides an introduction to Lacanian psychoanalytic thought, applying this theory to the task of understanding the structures and dynamics underlying communicative activity. Crucial topics in this 10-week series of lectures include Freudian dream theory and the analysis of advertising texts; the subversive and reactionary functions of humour in popular culture; the idea of the Other as the mediating third in every instance of dialogue; Lacan's four discursive structures or social links; the functioning of master signifiers; and the distinction between full and empty speech.

Hook, D. (2008). Articulating psychoanalysis & psychosocial studies. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society. 13, 397-405.

Hook, D. (2008). Perspectives on 'Lacanian subjectivities'. Subjectivity, 24, 247-255.

Hook, D. (2008). Fantasmatic Transactions: On the persistence of Apartheid ideology. Subjectivity, 24, 275-297.

Polatinsky, S & Hook, D. (2008). On the ghostly father: Lacan on Hamlet. Psychoanalytic Review, 95 (3), 359-385.

Hook, D. (2008). The 'real' of racializing embodiment. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 18, 140-152.

Hook, D. (2007). Foucault, psychology and the analytics of power. London & New York: Palgrave.

Hook, D. (2006). 'Pre-discursive' racism. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology. 16, 207-232.

Rienstra, B. & Hook, D. (2006). Weakening Habermas: the undoing of communicative rationality. Politikon.33, 3, 313-340.

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.

Hook, D. (2006). Psychoanalysis, discursive analysis, racism. In G. Stevens, V. Franchi, T. Swart (Eds.), A race against time. Pretoria: UNISA Press, pp. 171-202.

Hook, D. (2006). (Post)colonial racism: Racial otherness and the colonial stereotype. In G. Stevens, V. Franchi, T. Swart (Eds.), A race against time. Pretoria: UNISA Press, pp. 203-226.

Hook, D. (2006). Fortress society: The gated community and the politics of space, exclusion, privilege. In K. Ratele (Ed.), Intergroup Relations South African perspectives. Cape Town: Juta Press, pp. 235-254.

Hook, D. (2005). Affecting whiteness: Racism as technology of affect. International Journal of Critical Psychology.16, 74-99.

Hook, D. (2005). Monumental space and the uncanny. Geoforum, 36, 688-704.

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.

Hook, D. (2005). The racial stereotype, colonial discourse, fetishism, racism. The Psychoanalytic Review, October, Volume 92, Number 5, pp. 701-734.

Hook, D. (2005). A critical psychology of the postcolonial.Theory and Psychology, 15 (4), 475-503.

Hook, D. (2005).Genealogy, discourse, 'effective history'. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2: 1-29.

Hook, D. (2005). On subjectivity, the historicity of discourse and questions of power-knowledge and 'politics'. QualitativeResearch in Psychology, 2: 34-38.

Hook, D. (2005). Paradoxes of the other. Psychology in Society, 31, 9-30.

Hook, D. (2004). Racism as abjection: A psychoanalytic conceptualization for a post-apartheid South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, 34(4), 672-703.

Hook, D. (2004). The psychic technology of monuments. Free Associations, Vol 11, Part 3 (No. 59): 400-421.

Hook, D. (2004). Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, 'psychopolitics'. In D. Hook (Ed.), Critical psychology. UCT Press: Cape Town, pp. 84-114.

Hook, D. (2004). Fanon and the psychoanalysis of racism. In D. Hook (Ed.), Critical psychology. UCT Press: Cape Town, pp. 115-138.

Hook, D. (2004) (Ed.) Critical Psychology. University of Cape Town Press: Cape Town.

Ratele, K. & Hook, D. (Eds.) (2004). Self, Community & Psychology. University of Cape Town Press.

Hook, D. (2003). Psychotherapy and 'ethical sensibility'. International Journal of Psychotherapy. Vol. 8, No. 3, December, pp. 195-212.

Hook, D. (2003). Language and the Flesh: Psychoanalysis and the Limits of Discourse. Pretexts: Literary and Cultural Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 43-64.

Hook, D. (2003). Reading Psychotherapy through the sovereignty-discipline-government complex. Theory & Psychology, 13 (5), October, pp. 605-628.

Hook, D. (2003). Reading Geldenhuys: Constructing and deconstructing the Norwood Killer. South African Journal of Psychology, Volume 33, Number 1, pp. 1-9.

Hook, D. (2002). The other side of language: The body and the limits of signification. Psychoanalytic Review, 89 (5), October, pp. 681-713.

Hook, D. & Vrdoljak, M. (2002). Gated communities, heterotopia and a "rights" of privilege. Geoforum, 33, 195-219.

Hook, D., Eagle, G. (Eds). (2002). Psychopathology and Social Prejudice. University of Cape Town Press: Cape Town.

Hook, D. (2001). Discourse, knowledge, materiality, history. Theory & Psychology. 11 (4), 521-547.

Hook, D. (2001). Therapeutic discourse, co-construction, interpellation, role-induction; psychotherapy as iatrogenic treatment modality? The International Journal of Psychotherapy, Volume 6, Number 1, 47-66.

Hook, D. (2001). Critical psychology in South African: Applications, limitations, possibilities. Psychology in Society, 27, 3-17.

Hook, D. & Harris, B. (2000). Discourses of order and their disruption: the texts of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. South African Journal of Psychology. Vol 30. Number 1. 14-22.


Derek Hook
Dr Derek Hook

"The over-arching objective of my research is to develop an analytics of power able to grapple with the unconscious and psychological dimensions of racism and ideological subjectivity"