Tracking the Therapeutic (2015-2019)


Past seminars:


Travelling and transforming therapeutics: Subjectivity, materiality and inequality

International workshop at the University of Turku, Finland

Key note speakers:

Helen Lambert, University of Bristol
Ole Jacob Madsen, University of Oslo
Eeva Sointu, Smith College

The therapeutic industry of happiness, self-improvement and emotional wellbeing has become an increasingly visible part of contemporary societies. Self-help books, life coaching, self-improvement classes, bio-tracking technologies, empowerment groups, and alternative spiritual and health services saturate the terrain of everyday life, workplaces and mass media. These have introduced new symbolic frameworks for making sense of selfhood and the social world, and have engendered a host of new professionals. The therapeutic industry is also a genuinely global phenomenon that travels across borders and transforms as it is locally appropriated.

This workshop seeks to serve as a platform to advance our understanding of the uses, meanings and effects of therapeutic technologies in diverse social, cultural and geographical contexts. In focusing on therapeutic technologies, the workshop aims to capture a wide range of psychological and spiritual (including religious) regimes of knowledge and practice with which people work on their selves and bodies and seek to transform how they make sense of themselves and social relations. The workshop will also delve into therapeutic technologies as a lens to understand modes of power and inequality in the contemporary world. By interrogating therapeutic engagements in all their diversity, the workshop aims to shed light on their growing popularity and appeal.

The workshop has four key thematic foci:
  • Travel and transformation of therapeutic ideas and objects. The workshop will explore the appropriation of therapeutic technologies in diverse enviroments and how they articulate with locally and historically embedded discourses and practices.
  • Subjective engagement of therapeutic technologies. The workshop will investigate how these technologies shape our understanding of ourselves, others and society, and will examine what motivates individuals to engage in or disengage from these technologies.
  • Intertwining of subjectivities, bodies and material objects. The workshop will discuss different materializations of therapeutic technologies and the ways in which these technologies shape and are shaped by material objects, bodies and environments.
  • Mechanisms of inequality. The workshop will map the gendered, classed, and racialized dimensions of therapeutic technologies, and how these technologies are mobilized to negotiate, contest and reinforce social and cultural hierarchies.

In order to facilitate joint elaboration of ideas and interpretations and the creation of dialogue and links between presentations, the workshop will ensure plenty of time for discussion. The workshop also aims to create an international and inter-disciplinary network of scholars involved in studying therapeutic technologies.

You can find more information on the workshop here.

For further information, please contact Suvi Salmenniemi: suvi.salmenniemi[at]

The workshop is organized by the research projects Tracking the Therapeutic: Ethnographies of Wellbeing, Politics and Inequality and The Puzzle of the Psyche: Therapeutic Knowledge and Selfhood in a Comparative Perspective.