Internationalize your SPSSI Life
Perhaps in reaction to resurgent White nationalism, calls for internationalization are intensifying across the university, the discipline of psychology, the APA, and other professional settings. As Co-Chair of the SPSSI Internationalization Committee, I have had several conversations over the past few years about the purpose of internationalization. These conversations suggest (at least) three constructions of the project.
One construction of the project is what one might call expansionist internationalization. In this sense, internationalization means taking one’s show on the road with missionary zeal to disseminate standard insights from the psychological study of social issues to audiences outside the US. Another construction of the project is what one might call assimilationist internationalization. Rather than exporting US-based research to other settings, this sense of internationalization is more about incorporation of international work or voices into mainstream or standard forms of (US-centric) psychology and social issues.
Both of these constructions of internationalization have neocolonial or imperialist overtones. The expansionist construction can be problematic if it means the imposition of “standard”, US-centric knowledge on diverse communities without regard for (and often in ignorance of) historical and cultural context. The assimilationist construction can be problematic if the primary goal is to increase membership or a façade of cultural diversity without corresponding diversification of knowledge and practice to match the priorities of the more diverse membership.
In contrast to the neocolonial sensibilities of the first two constructions, the third construction of the project is what one might call decolonial internationalization. Standard forms of knowledge about psychology and social issues tend to reflect the interests of a powerful minority of people who inhabit settings associated with the Eurocentric modern order. A decolonial approach to internationalization draws on work beyond these settings to re-think conventional scientific wisdom from the epistemic perspective of the marginalized global majority. The point is not simply to better understand people in “Other” settings, but instead to develop a psychological study of social issues that better reflects the interests of global humanity.
To advance this goal, SPSSI has launched a number of initiatives. What I want to highlight here are efforts to internationalize annual conferences by facilitating participation of people from outside North America (1) as conference attendees, (2) as audience members who access conference programing via live-stream webinar, and (3) as speakers who deliver their presentations by web conferencing program (especially when they face travel bans and restrictions on movement that would otherwise prevent their participation). So, whether you plan to attend the conference in person or intend to access programming via webinar, I invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to internationalize your SPSSI experience … and to equip yourself to do better work in the process.