Double matrix

This is quite possibly the least comprehensible abstract of a psychology article I have ever read. It starts off dense and wordy and ends up feeling like you’re huffing butane.

The psychologization of humanitarian aid: skimming the battlefield and the disaster zone

Hist Human Sci. 2011;24(3):103-22.

De Vos J.

Humanitarian aid’s psycho-therapeutic turn in the 1990s was mirrored by the increasing emotionalization and subjectivation of fund-raising campaigns. In order to grasp the depth of this interconnectedness, this article argues that in both cases what we see is the post-Fordist production paradigm at work; namely, as Hardt and Negri put it, the direct production of subjectivity and social relations. To explore this, the therapeutic and mental health approach in humanitarian aid is juxtaposed with the more general phenomenon of psychologization.

This allows us to see that the psychologized production of subjectivity has a problematic waste-product as it reduces the human to ‘Homo sacer’, to use Giorgi Agamben’s term. Drawing out a double matrix of a de-psychologizing psychologization connected to a politicizing de-politicization, it will further become possible to understand psycho-therapeutic humanitarianism as a case of how, in these times of globalization, psychology, subjectivity and money are all interrelated.

Hey. I think the walls are melting.

Link to PubMed abstract.


  1. Kitty
    Posted July 13, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    This doesn’t read like psychology to me. More like Post-structuralist German Idealism in translation. I recognize all the bullshit bingo words from “cultural studies”. Those cheap paradoxa (“de-X-ing X-ation”) are meant to sound deep, but there’s probably not much behind them.

  2. nskeptic
    Posted July 13, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    It’s like some people can’t just look facts in the face – they have to shade their eyes with theory to avoid getting dazzled.

    See also my Why Don’t Social Scientists Want to be Read for another example. But this one’s worse.

  3. Posted July 13, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I thought I kinda understood it. Vould be wrong though. Like feeling the astrological description of your sign seems to caprire you.

  4. GTChristie
    Posted July 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    I looked up this guy on Wikipedia:

    “Jan de Vos van Gerven was a Belgian historian, who lived in Mexico from 1973 until his death in 2011. In 1995 he became guest-advisor to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation during the peace talks between the EZLN and the Mexican Government.”

    So he’s dead now.

    I had to look up homo sacer too. It’s a term from ancient Roman Law which refers to a person who is to be treated as an untouchable.

    I loved the “huffing butane” line. I’m linking.

  5. Posted July 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    surely just a matter of time before Alan Sokal takes credit for it…

  6. eve
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I love Mark Twain even more after reading this! His quote, “Never use a big word when a small one will do…” This article illustrates the wisdom of that saying. Another thought that comes to mind is “keep it simple…”

    Thank you for making me smile!


  7. jake987722
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Double matrix… what does it mean?!

  8. Posted July 15, 2013 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    This reads like those convoluted, nonsensical SPAMMER comments that I sometimes receive in reply to my blog articles. They hint at the useful conjoining of words to make a statement, but fall short upon close inspection.

  9. Posted July 15, 2013 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    more like anti-structuralist
    made for a poop read I suppose…

  10. Curio
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    You might like this abstract:

  11. Wolf
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Might have been a product from


  12. Noggin
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    The author must be laughing at us. I hope so. I wish that I could laugh with him. That would be more fun.

    After all, the abstract refers to subjectivity and social relations, yet it produces a feeling of alienation in many readers (the subset commenting here and others, I bet). Hilarious, right?

    In addition, the author cites others’ work (thereby introducing real people into the discussion) and this serves to further distance me, instead of interest me, because of the manner in which s/he does it.

    This reminds me of what people say about Lacan – that he intentionally wrote and gave lectures in an obscure way to frustrate people. I have too little time on the planet for such texts – and I work with too many people who do the same thing in their lives, that I am fed up with it.

    This is really too bad – the general topic (the relationship between psychology and money and so-called subjectivity) is an interesting one. A detailed case example can be a fun way to make a point.

    It is also too bad that the thinking behind this approach – which might or might not make important observations about a poorly understood phenomenon – is sometimes ridiculed in the scientist community. I was glad to see that is not the case here – just mostly commentary about lack of clarity.

    Holy shit I just wrote a lot. Well, thanks for posting this and also for your site. I’m a frequency visitor.

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