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Department of Social Anthropology


A common world: China’s psy- training frenzy from a first-person perspective

Professor Kuan (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

In 2017, a WeChat account for psychology enthusiasts posted a series of comics poking fun at the grumbles of therapists in China, taking the format of a call-and-response. Therapy is too expensive for most people; it is difficult to build a caseload; if you do have clients, they don’t keep their appointments; and the reality of being or aspiring to be a therapist consists of taking classes and doing trainings non-stop. The jokes made in this series raise a serious question concerning why a person would invest in constant learning and training, particularly when it is not certain whether the investment will pay off given the huge gap between the cost of therapy on the one hand, and the financial ability of ordinary people, i.e. potential clients, on the other. This presentation gives a partial answer by delving into two extended case studies that show how significant “group experience” can be for women who have experienced profound isolation and loss, compelling them to bargain away life savings or hard-earned income. I will interpret group experience in relation to Hannah Arendt’s notion of a “common world” to highlight the way psy- training creates temporary communities in which private secrets are transformed into something shared – a plurality of life contingencies seen and heard. 

Friday, 15 October, 2021 - 11:00 to 12:30
Event location: 
Online - by email invitation