CuSP Annual Lecture - Transitions and imagination: expanding into older age

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Friends House, London

173-177 Euston Rd



United Kingdom

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The CuSP Annual Lecture 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019 - 14:00 to 19:00

William Penn 1 Room, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Rd

London NW1 2BJ

You're invited to the CuSP Annual Lecture next month.

This is a celebration of social and cultural psychology, centred on explorations of

life transitions and the imagination.


This event is part of a series of Annual Lectures plus associated talks organised by The Open University’s Culture and Social Psychology Research Collaboration (CuSP). CuSP is an Open University Research Collaboration based in the School of Psychology and Counselling in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, OU.

Tania Zittoun imageThe Annual Lecture is to be given by Tania Zittoun, who is Professor of sociocultural psychology at the Institute of psychology and education (IPSYED), University of Neuchâtel. She studies development in the lifecourse, and has a particular interest in the role of fiction and the imagination during the navigation of lifecourse transitions. She currently leads an NCCR ‘on the move’ project on mobility (in small localities in Europe, as well in relationship to families and education) and a project on development amongst ageing people. She is author of numerous books and articles including the recently published Handbook of Imagination and Culture (Oxford University Press, 2018), which she co-edited with Vlad Glaveanu.

Before the lecture there will be a series of related talks and events (see details below).


2.00 – 2.30 - Professor Paul Stenner (Open University). Welcome and Introduction. Transitions, ruptures and the imagination

2.30 – 3.00 - Sarah Crafter (Open University) Exploring contested childhoods: The role of transitions

3.00 – 3.30 - Kesi Mahendran (Open University) New openings in the democratic imagination: Public dialogue on ‘freedom of movement’

3.30 – 3.50 - Break

3.50 -4.20 - Discussion of papers

4.20 – 4.50 - Exhibition of original art by Robin Goodfellow who will present Painting the Imagined Personal Past, a series of works on the lives of his parents’ generation before he knew them. This will be followed by Stephanie Taylor’s reflections on an observer’s experience of art.

4.50 – 5.00 - Second break

5.00 – 6.00 - The CuSP Annual Lecture. Tania Zittoun (University of Neuchâtel) - Transitions and imagination: expanding into older age

6.00 – 7.00 - Comments from two respondents: Johanna Motzkau and Steve Brown (Open University), followed by general discussion.


Exploring contested childhoods: The role of transitions

Sarah Crafter (Open University)

Explorations of stability and change have been a fundamental and consistent feature of study within psychology. However, ‘change’, through the conceptual lens of transition, has been treated in variable ways. Within traditional developmental psychology, transition is usually associated with normative understandings of growth and maturation, evident in the work of key theorists like Piaget, Kohlberg and Erikson. This paper is going to focus on Tania Zittoun’s approach to transitions in development, which takes a sociocultural approach that treats transition as a dynamic process inclusive of identity processes, knowledge acquisition and sense making. This approach to transition opens up possibilities for exploring non-normative or contested childhoods that transgress traditional transitional, and invariably linear, trajectories. Using examples from my research with children whose position in society is made more vulnerable because of migration (namely, child language brokers and separated child migrants), I will discuss how transitions are weighted towards studies in childhood and adolescence but limited by particular understandings of what kind of childhood is accounted for. Significantly, young people in these positions are not afforded the luxury of being ‘made ready’ for adulthood, and discourses of ‘becoming’ which are associated with ‘normative’ childhoods can create a ‘dual jeopardy’ for some children of migration; subject to precarious sociocultural, political and legal policies because of their migration status and polarised as in need of protection or ‘risky’ because of their age. Opening up new ways of thinking about transition in development has the potential to mitigate against the potential conflicts experienced by young people when encountering conflict in spheres of experience linked to hostile societal, legal and procedural immigration experiences/situations.

New openings in the democratic imagination: Public dialogue on ‘freedom of movement’.

Kesi Mahendran (Open University)

Direct democratic processes such as social media and the increased use of referenda has led to the rising political fortunes of the public. Making it essential to both understand the processes of public opinion formation and also for the public to become aware of the limits of their understanding. This talk is focused on how social and cultural psychology contributes to the move from public opinion towards public dialogue on vexed issues such as migration and freedom of movement. It draws upon Tania Zittoun’s dialogical approach to examine public opinion formation and the democratic imagination. At the moment freedom of movement is totemic within the European Union project. Yet at the same such freedoms of migration, actual or imagined, create within citizens a sense of psychological fear and opportunity. Using two cross-European studies, involving 100 citizens, with varying degrees of migration-mobility, this talk will reveal the dialogical capacities demonstrated when individuals act in a public capacity. It will argue that it is this vital dialogical ability to act in a public capacity, which enables citizens to stand by the Other in the face of polarization and the current politicization of migration.

Transitions and imagination: expanding into older age

Tania Zittoun (University of Neuchâtel)

This talk brings together two of my core interests: life transitions and the imagination. In sociocultural psychology, the concept of transitions has been proposed as a theoretical and methodological approach to study change and development. The concept of imagination, on the other hand, has being re-theorized as the core process through which change is actually produced. Over the years, these two concepts have been used separately to observe single instances of change, or jointly, to question the limits and impossibilities of development and transformation. In parallel, and in dialogue with other psychosocial and critical approaches, sociocultural psychology has also addressed the important question of the mutual constitution of subjectivities and societies. One domain where these lines of reflection converge in interesting ways is development in older age. In this presentation, which is based upon a recent project on development in older age, Professor Zittoun will try to show how the concepts of transitions and imagination can help us to address and to study the complex sociocultural realities of the ageing process.


Academics from the School of Psychology, FASS at the Open University

Sarah Crafter, Kesi Mahendran, Johanna Motzkau and Paul Stenner - will present commentary on the lecture and the connections between Professor Zittoun's work and their own research.

There will also be an exhibition of original art. Robin Goodfellow will present Painting the Imagined Personal Past, a series of works on the lives of his parents’ generation before he knew them. Stephanie Taylor will reflect on an observer’s experience of art.

We look forward to seeing you at the lecture. The event is FREE

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Friends House, London

173-177 Euston Rd



United Kingdom

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