A History Of The Future: Carolyn Wood Sherif, Equitable Knowledge, And Feminist Psychology

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Psychology Of Women Quarterly


Writing some 40 years ago, Carolyn Wood Sherif left a legacy of critical reflections on the fledgling field of feminist psychology. Here I read her work, not as a record of the past, but with an eye to the future. In the two works I consider in this essay, Sherif offered a scrutiny of the knowledge-producing practices and social relations of the psychology of her time, as well as an agenda for feminist research practice. I draw on Ludwik Fleck’s sociology of science to reflect on Sherif’s thoughts. For Fleck, scientific communities are thought collectives with characteristic styles of thinking that come to seem like objective reality. Sherif took issue with many thought styles of orthodox psychology, particularly the dicta that limited psychological inquiry to narrow space-time frameworks, thus erasing culture, history, and social structure. In addition, Sherif advocated for a critical consciousness of the institutional relations of psychology, in particular the ways that psychology buttressed and was buttressed by the military. Sherif’s concerns remain urgent today. I urge readers to join epistemological debates and boundary-crossing conversations. I also call on readers to join with social critics in examining the discipline’s place as a social institution.


feminist science and epistemology, gender roles, gender role theory

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