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Women’s experiences of consciousness-raising : paths of liberatory resistance Irlam, Lorraine J.

Abstract

The field of psychology has been aptly criticised by feminists for its de-contextualizing emphasis on so-called individual deficits. Feminists and other critical psychologists posh that marginalized groups and women in particular are overly pathologized for problems that in fact may be the natural consequences of internalized oppression. Consciousness-raising is assumed to be of benefit not only by stimulating collective action for social change, but by psychologically liberating individual women as well. Most existing research on the effects of consciousnessraising, however, was conducted in the 1970s. Looking at related concepts, more recent studies have examined the effects of taking women's studies courses or the processes of racial or feminist identity development. Together this body of research, most of which has relied on quantitative, cross-sectional data, suggests that consciousness-raising is implicated in profound personal metamorphoses. Virtually absent from the literature, however, are holistic qualitative explorations of women's experiences of consciousness-raising. Therefore, this study, a collaborative feminist narrative approach, is a qualitative exploration attempting to enhance our existing understanding of women's lived experiences of consciousness-raising, particularly with respect to its emancipatory and psychological consequences. Seven women, including the researcher, have narrated their experiences of consciousness-raising. Themes such as enhanced self-concept; positive changes in spiritual and work lives, as well as psychological health; mixed effects; and consciousness-raising as a tool of liberatory resistance are discussed. Findings are compared with existing research and implications for counselling psychology and future research are drawn.

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