My interest in indigenous psychologies is a response to an existential crisis I had as a teenager. Coming into social consciousness in the early 70's I saw many indications of how American and Western society had significant structural problems and I became increasingly convinced that many of these were related to our cultural values and assumptions (particularly individualistic and dualistic ones). In part to find existential meaning in my own life, and to find ways of better understanding and critiquing Western culture, I began to study other cultural and historical traditions, specifically how they understand the self or person, the mind, health, healing, and the good life. As my interests in college turned more towards healing I became puzzled and then frustrated that psychology was not taking seriously the outlooks on non-Western people. I turned this frustration into creating an independent major and have been pursuing these themes since. I also began practicing yoga and meditation in college and became a yoga teacher and lived in an ashram before going to graduate school.
Currently my work consists of 1) critiques of different areas of psychology to point how individualistic and dualistic assumptions shape theory research, and practice--especially in areas involving human flourishing (psychological well-being, positive psychology, character education, moral development), and 2) attempts to construct an alternative theoretical frameworks for psychology that support taking non-Western psychologies seriously. This includes work in the philosophy of social science and in developing non-dualistic process ontologies that highlight a view of agency that is prior to the dualisms inherent in Western thought (culture-self, fact-value, mind-body, subject-object, etc.). I have also been doing qualitative research for the past eight years on the impact teaching mindfulness practices to counseling students.
On an informal level for a number of years I’ve sought out traditional healers in other parts of the world—partly because it’s fun and partly because I’m interested in understanding their views of health and healing and seeing if there are ways they could help offset the lopsidededness of most Western views of mental health and well-being. Most of work in this area has been with Balinese shamans.
I'm excited to be a part of this task force!
Christopher, J., & Bickhard, M. (2007). Culture, self and identity: Interactivist contributions to a metatheory for cultural psychology. Culture & Psychology, 13(3), 259-295.
Christopher, J.C., Wendt, D.C., & Goodman, D.M. (submitted). International Psychology: Towards a Hermeneutic Metatheory. PDF
Christopher, J. C., & Hickinbottom, S. (2008). Positive Psychology, Ethnocentrism, and the Disguised Ideology of Individualism. Theory and Psychology, 18, 563–589. PDF