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Spaces of subjugation, complicity and resistance: negotiating subjectivity, power and agency in the environments and contexts of everyday terror

Buchanan, V. (2019). Spaces of subjugation, complicity and resistance: negotiating subjectivity, power and agency in the environments and contexts of everyday terror. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This research is multi-dimensional. In view of the role shown to be played by environmental context on psychological processes in a wide-ranging body of evidence (e.g. Tucker, 2010; McGrath, Reavey, Weaver & Brown, 2018; Goodings & Tucker, 2018; Liddicoat & Forster, 2018; Freeman & Akhurst, 2018), a topological approach (Lewin, 1936; Goodings & Tucker, 2014; Tucker & Smith, 2014; Reavey, Brown, Kanyeredzi, McGrath & Tucker, 2019; McGrath & Reavey, 2018) was taken to explore the various spaces in which domestic abuse and resistance are situated and lived. Both visual and verbal data were collected from 11 women who commented in semi-structured interviews about the photographs they produced of spaces associated with wellbeing during ‘everyday terror’ (Pain, 2014a, see below). The social constructionist thematic analysis suggests that abusive men use tactics of invasion and occupation through space in order to subjugate their victims, gradually isolating, alienating and annihilating them in the process. Moreover, this weakened subject position appears to be compounded by the wider community, with the structural spaces of society, institutional settings, service providers, increased digitalisation and the public being somehow complicit in their abuse. Finally, the analysis suggests that space is used by women to cope with, mitigate and actively resist domestic abuse, supporting the contention that abused women are agentically engaged in a ‘quiet politics of activism’ (Askins, 2011). Drawing upon these themes, practitioners are invited to consider reconfiguring counselling space in ways which both leverage the spatio relational conceptualisations underpinning this thesis, as well as take account of the stated preferences of abuse victims (Bank & Nissen, 2017) who inevitably face significant restrictions on their ability to freely engage in space, to ensure they can access counselling safely and without incurring additional, unnecessary anxiety, alienation, humiliation, objectification or loss of self-esteem.

For such an undertaking to be effective, I argue that we need to draw on the combined efforts of both psychology and geography, locating power, agency and resistance in the day to-day spaces associated with distress and its management. Moreover, I argue that counselling psychologists are ideally positioned to take on such a task, with their training in the recognition and appreciation of difference, the multiple causes and constructions of social and systemic problems, and the uneven distribution of power throughout society (Kagan, 2007). Thus, it is an important part of this research project, and its spatial conceptual framework, that the focus is not only on the individuals directly involved in everyday terror but is broadened to encompass the wider structures of society, enabling it is suggested an exploration of power, difference, and discrimination in both the manifestation and perpetuation of mental distress.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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