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Researching Relationality

Starts: 15 May 2009

Project Image - Networking Cables

Understanding Affective Dynamics in the 

Researching Affect and Affective 

Communication Seminar Series


Researching Rationality

15th May 2009 - Cardiff University


As a precursor to thinking about how to research affect, it is necessary to engage with approaches to researching relationality as this allows us to work with models that specify the fundamental basis of connectedness as a way of understanding the world. We need to consider two approaches to the dynamics of connectedness – linear and non linear. An example of a linear dynamic would be Latour’s associationism, in which connectedness is understood as a temporal sequence, or work with unconscious associations, which traces a line backwards through time. A different and non-linear dynamic is assumed in approaches which use holism as a central trope. A concept of a relational matrix (a concept developed by Stephen Mitchell an American psychoanalyst), a web of relations (Hannah Arendt), a group matrix (S.H.Foulkes, the founder of group psychotherapy), or approaches to gestalt, Lewinian field theory and phenomenology all work within a holistic framework which does not separate subject and object. Other approaches in this mould would be Gregory Bateson’s ecological approach, the work of Bohm in physics and Varela and Simondon in the natural sciences.

The aim was to understand the use of holism and associationism as empirical methods for social science, bringing with them a flat versus deep ontology and therefore different conceptions of time and space, comparing and contrasting the two modes and bringing them into dialogue with each other, so that we understand what is gained and lost through the use of each conception of connection and relationality. The group explored the two kinds of relationality in relation to thinking through the implications for researcher affect in a linear and non linear way.



- Professor Lynne Layton, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School presented aspects of a relational approach using the idea of a relational matrix from relational psychoanalysis, focusing on how they conceptualize affect. I particularly noted Edgar Levenson's understanding of how, in talking, clinician and patient recreate affectively charged, intergenerationally transmitted relational patterns and enact repetition compulsions. I also discussed Paul Russell's "theory of the crunch," which, like Levenson's work, postulates that enactments in treatment are inevitable and that resolving impasses involves the capacity for the participants to be able to talk about and negotiate the affective states evoked in the interaction. I then presented clinical process that illustrated transformations in affective states as the relationship between patient and analyst evolved.

- Dr Mara Miele, The Cardiff School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University introduced the perspective from actor network theory and provided an important comparison, in terms of the contrast between the deep ontology of psychoanalysis with the flat ontology of ANT.

- Professor Joanna Latimer, of Cardiff University School of Social Sciences presented a discussion  of work on relational extension.





Name: Professor Valerie Walkerdine

Other information

Open To: Invitation Only