Passing the Personality Test: Dissent and the Therapeutic Subject

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Jessica Hurley / American Studies Association, Chicago 2017
contact email: 

From the Buzzfeed quiz to the status update, the courtroom to the therapist’s couch, U.S. culture is rife with sites where subjects are asked to pass the test of whether they inhabit personhood in the right way. How does mental wellness become yet another attribute of the liberal subject who deserves to thrive? How does the performance of a personality determine the distribution of privilege? In particular, we aim to consider how the the psychologization of power bolsters structures of oppression along lines of race, sex, gender, and ability. What happens when homosexuality or blackness, for example, are reinscribed as forms of personality disorder or schizoid psychosis? And how do activists and artists take up the same language of mental disorder in order to resist such operations of power?

We seek papers that engage with dissent around diagnosis, evaluation, self-help, stress, personality, medication, and sanity – not only in order to critique how these discourses are available to hegemonic ideologies, but also to learn how to excavate the radical potential embedded within them. What texts, performances, and activist movements model strategies for subverting the protocols of therapeutic culture? We invite you to submit your work about how pedagogies of dissent – aesthetic, political, or affective – teach us to imagine personhood otherwise. Please email abstracts of up to 500 words to Lynne Beckenstein ( and Jessica Hurley ( by January 15.