‘The World needs ISPP’: The New President and his Vision for the Society
Paul Nesbitt-Larking is Professor of Political Science at Huron University College and a Visiting Professor in the School of Human and Health Sciences at the University of Huddersfield. His work on power, discourse, narrative, and identity is situated within the research traditions of critical theory, political psychology and political sociology. A scholar in comparative politics, discourse analysis, media studies and Canadian Studies, his publications include The Palgrave Handbook of Global Political Psychology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), The Political Psychology of Globalization (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Politics, Society, and the Media (University of Toronto Press, 2009). Paul is also the author of over fifty scholarly articles and book chapters. He speaks to the JSC about his idea of ISPP and what he aims to achieve in the next year.
1. What does ISPP mean to you as an organization?
At every level - theoretical, methodological and empirical - ISPP represents the best possible interdisciplinary meeting of minds. ISPP is a truly pluralistic society which encourages each of us to sharpen our curiosity as we study the relationships between the mind and the polity.
Moreover, the subject matter of what we study - psychological aspects of political life - takes us into the heart of the most pressing and immediate global challenges of misperception, enmity, conflict, and violence. Quite literally, the world needs ISPP.
2. How long have you been associated with ISPP and what changes have you seen it go through, becoming the organization that it is today?
I first joined ISPP in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Since my first ISPP conference in 1991, the society has retained its intellectual reach while gradually professionalizing its operations, notably our journal, Political Psychology, our conference arrangements and the Central Office.
3. What plans do you have for the academic year as President of ISPP?
Among our plans for the coming year are the following three :
a) We need to continue to work toward building our membership and becoming a truly international/global society. We have work to do on both counts. ISPP is a valuable forum for established scholars and especially for junior scholars. We are working on a number of fronts to spread the word and to take ISPP to parts of the world where we hope to build membership. Each of us has a role to play in encouraging and welcoming colleagues to consider ISPP membership.
b) With specific regard to communications, we are always working to improve and upgrade our ISPP communications - including innovations such as this fine blog! I encourage all members to send me ideas as to how we can best get the ISPP message across both among ourselves and to the broader community. I do not think we are doing badly in this respect - and indeed we have made some strong improvements over the past few years. We just need to continue to work in this area.
c) We are busily planning our ISPP annual conference in San Diego - for July 2015. I have chosen the conference theme "The Psychology of Encounter and the Politics of Engagement". Our conference co-chairs, Melinda Jackson and Clifford Stevenson, will be issuing a call for papers and panels. I am very much hoping that this attractive and fascinating conference venue will attract a large number of participants.
4. How do you intend to make the ISPP more global in its reach?
As I have indicated, this strikes me as being a central challenge for us - and one we need to work on. And ISPP is not alone in this. Connecting with and assisting with the development of social scientific research beyond the West affects each substantive discipline. A complex of economic, cultural and geopolitical considerations sets limits to what we are able to achieve in these regards. In making internationalization our priority, we will continue this year to devote financial resources to supporting scholars and conferences beyond Western Europe and North America. We have funded a political psychology mini conference put together by our colleagues in South Africa and will continue to give priority to small grant proposals from non-traditional ISPP locales. As we grow and our resources are enhanced, so we hope to be able to devote increasing support to actively supporting scholars from universities and countries that lack resources. I welcome any suggestions along these lines and hope that people will contact me.
5. In 10 words or less, describe why ISPP is important/ why one should join ISPP.
ISPP's interdisciplinary research focuses are innovative, fascinating and relevant.
6. What do you think are some of the key challenges faced by political psychology?
Among the more important challenges is that many great scholars, who are conducting research that could be classified as political psychology, do not call themselves political psychologists and have not joined ISPP. Of course, whether or not to join an organization is a matter of personal choice. But the life of political psychology as one of the critically important subfields of social scientific research depends upon the flourishing of a vibrant society whose conferences, journal and other activities bring together a broad range of thinkers across a series of interactions. The impact and relevance of political psychology is clearly evident in the high 5-year rankings of our journal, Political Psychology, that have just been released by Thomson Reuters. Among 156 political science journals, we rank 11, and we are 19 out of 60 social psychology journals. Political psychology is having a substantial impact, but it would be even better to have many of those people who read our articles and respond to them to become members of ISPP so that we can deepen and broaden the conversation.
7. Tell us something about your research interests.
I define myself as a political psychologist with interests in political identities, political communications and citizenship. My training is in political science and my major geographical focus of concentration is Canada. At present, colleagues and I are just completing the Palgrave Handbook of Global Political Psychology. The volume brings together a range of exciting contributions from both leading scholars and excellent junior scholars. Among many objectives of the volume is to broaden the reach of political psychology. I am also working on a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council fund to examine the meanings of multiculturalism in a comparative context. The project brings together discourse analysis, focus groups and interviews in an attempt to open up the range of meanings attached to multiculturalism and, in so doing, to understand how people shape understandings in the service of a range of political projects. There are other ongoing projects too. Colleagues and I have just completed a book on Islam and Democracy, based upon a conference we hosted just over a year ago. With another group of colleagues I am also taking part in the study of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland and beyond. I am also currently planning a project on politics and social media.
8. What three pieces of advice would you give to junior scholars who are starting out on their careers as political psychologists?
a) Become a member of ISPP and keep up your membership. As you attend conferences and get to know colleagues from around the world, get involved in the governance of ISPP and make it your own society.
b) Continue to develop as true interdisciplinary scholars and - wherever possible - encourage colleagues and institutions to devote greater resources toward interdisciplinary and problem-based learning/research in general.
c) Spread the word about the intellectual stimulation as well as the fun times to be enjoyed as both a political psychologist and member of JSC!