Lobman keynotes education reform conference in Brazil


Institute pedagogical director Carrie Lobman was a recent keynote speaker at the International Conference on Cultural-Historical Theory and Human Development: Key Issues for School Education, at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Marilia, Brazil, and organized by the University’s Association of Marxist Educators.


How can socio-cultural theory inform practices that will allow children from poor families to have the tools they need to navigate the world…and to resist and fight against economic oppression?

This was the impassioned query for many of the 450 conference participants — graduate students in education and practitioners.

Along with Lobman, the program featured keynote presentations by activity theoretic, Marxist and cultural-historcial psychologists Malcolm Reed (University of Bristol) and Mohamed Elhammoumi (Saud Islamic University).


Mohamed Elhammoumi, Malcolm Reed, Carrie Lobman

Education reformers from across the state of São Paulo discussed how to utilize socio-cultural theory and the work of Marxist developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky to develop more effective and liberatory practices in public schools. Discussion addressed the practical/political implications of Vygotsky’s approach for creating a critical pedagogy for the millions of Brazilian school children from poor and working class families. Vygotsky’s idea of young people “performing a head taller,” sparked much interest, and Lobman in her talk, Three Dialectics of Social Therapeutic Learning Environments, relayed ways that we at the Institute and performance activists worldwide are using play and performance to create social, collective zones of proximal development.







Posted in Carrie Lobman, Education, Marxism, South America, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Beyond the Therapeutic State” — Time to Advance an Alternative Therapies Movement


images-3How do we bring together critique (of traditional psychologies) and (innovative, non-diagnostic) practice? That question is being asked more and more frequently and urgently the world over.

About 200 psychologists, researchers and therapists gathered in Norway in June at Beyond the Therapeutic State: Collaborative Practices for Individual and Social Change, organized by Ken Gergen and other social constructionists. The event drew 200 participants from 24 countries, including several colleagues, kindred spirits and longtime collaborators, along with Social Therapy Group Director Christine LaCerva who, along with Institute alum and practicing psychologist and family therapist Pal Carlin, led a workshop, entitled, Therapy Interrupted. A dominant sentiment at the conference was the urgent need to challenge the discourse of traditional therapy and to build an alternative therapies movement.


In his plenary presentation, Gergen spoke out against the therapeutic state, the damage done by the medical model and psychiatry’s need to label, predict and control. “Can we come together to do something about the oppression of diagnostics and forced medication?” he asked. “Can we find new ways of helping people with emotional difficulties?” “How do we take more responsibility for what’s going on in the world?”

Other highlights included a short film and presentation by Carina Håkansson, founder of the Family Care Foundation in Sweden. Håkansson places people with serious emotional difficulties on neighboring farms, where their therapy includes taking care of the farm animals. Documentary filmmaker Brian Mackler portrays patients’ development in the course of living on the farm — an environment where they are freed-up from diagnostic labels and constant pathologizing.


La Cerva and Carlin’s workshop introduced social therapeutics as a cultural, performatory approach to human development that “interrupted” patients expectations of what therapy was supposed to be (i.e., “about Me!”) Says LaCerva:

We talked about how social therapy interrupts our fascination with the self and helps us shift our gaze to the group. It stops us from digging deep into our patients’ psyches in favor of helping them create new ensemble performances. It disturbs our patients’ notion that therapy is all about them and introduces them to the other. It challenges the model of traditional psychology in favor of exploring, creating and playing with subjectivity as social relational and cultural activity.

LaCerva and Carlin showed a video clip of a conversation between Gergen and social therapy founder Fred Newman from a 2001 Performing the World plenary session in which they discussed the importance of performance for human development. In a performatory therapy, the group is less concerned with what they are talking about and very concerned with how they are talking.

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Another International Class collaboration: Celiane Carmargo-Borges and Peter Nsubuga


This report just in from International Class (2008-9) alumna Celiane Camargo-Borges, recounting her recent trip to Uganda to volunteer with  Hope for Youth Ugandafounded by fellow International Class colleague Peter Nsubuga.

Celiane, a Brazilian psychologist living and working in the Netherlands, met Peter six years ago when both came to New York as part of their residencies for the Institute’s global training program in social therapeutics, contributing their richly different histories and cultures. 

On July 7,  I began an experience of a lifetime. I took off  for Uganda to work with my friend, Peter Nsubuga and Hope for Youth Uganda. The NGO he founded in Central Uganda’s Mukono District supports vulnerable young people.

Peter does fantastic work; and since meeting him in New York at part of our International Class program, I had always wanted to get a closer look.  Now, six years later, I made the decision to visit; and together with two colleagues, we developed a project to co-create with the community there.


The project we undertook was based upon photo-voice and storytelling.  These are methods which embrace the perspective that life is multifaceted, polysemic and complex where meaning is always created and re-created. However, even though there are many ways to give meaning to life, sometimes dominant (negative) discourses prevail. Appreciative and strength-based approaches aim at introducing other voices that might not be heard or noticed.

And so, that was our focus:  to bring to fore other meanings beyond the dominant ones of poverty, violence and disease. We wanted to generate stories that could also portray the beauty of Uganda and empower its people.

The result was a bricolage of stories collaboratively developed with the youth. We had an exhibition for the community to see their creation, and that too was inspiring and empowering for the kids.

I had a fantastic time working with the young people, visiting the community and learning from the local people. I hope that this summer’s project will mark the beginning of a long and productive collaboration with Peter and the Hope for Youth Uganda community.”

Dr. Celiane Camargo-Borges is a psychologist and researcher, currently working at Imagineering Academy in the Netherlands. She holds a Ph.D. in Public Health and has approached community health care with a social constructionist orientation.  As a native of Sao Paolo, Brazil, she participated in her country’s innovative national health care program, before later taking a teaching position at Yan Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan.

Peter Nsubuga is a community worker in Kampala, Uganda. A trained accountant, Peter switched professions to respond to the need for help in communities suffering from disease, dire poverty and lack of clean water. He is the founder of Hope for Youth Uganda, an organization that provides food, clothing and education for 120 children. Since training with the Institute, he has introduced a creative spin-off of the All Stars Talent Show Network model, along with social therapeutic inspired group therapy for elders.

Posted in Africa, creativity and play, Education, performance, Social Therapy, The International Class, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Performing the World International Organizing Cttee Raises Funds to Bring Activists to NYC

The Performing the World 2014  International Organizing Committee has been doing a great job publicizing the October 10-12 conference. This month they took on a new task—raising travel funds for participants. 

They’re especially focused on those living in countries in Africa, South America and on the Asian sub-continent who otherwise might not be able to come to NYC.  Not only are their air fare and visa fees the highest of any countries, these would-be participants have little in the way of personal resources or outside sources from whom to seek support.

UnknownThe Committee is working to raise $10 000 to contribute to the air travel of people in these countries who want to share and experience PTW this year.   Denmark-based psychologist Esben Wilstrup, who has helped to lead the effort, reports that after just a few days, the campaign has raised over $3,500 via an online crowd-sourcing fundraising appeal.

You can help by clicking on the link to the funding campaign to learn more about PTW and how it has touched many lives.


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Developments in Ciudad Juárez

International Class alums Miguel Cortes, Jorge Burciaga and Institute colleague Mariana Soledad Loya Parra  report on developments at  El Centro Fred Newman Para la Terapia Social — the independent therapy and community center they’ve built over the last five years in Juárez — long at the epicenter of the drug violence in Mexico.

Working with Dr. Maria del Carmen Santos Fabela, director of the masters program in special education at the  Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (where Miguel is completing his masters degree and Jorge is an instructor), the team recently organized a visit for the Institute’s director of pedagogy, Carrie Lobman.


Lobman led a workshop at the Fred Newman Center — Does Juarez Need Therapy? New Approaches to Human Development — which drew an audience of some 30 therapists, community educators, activists and students. They spent the day playing, performing and conversing about ways to offer the people of Juárez opportunities to rebuild the life of their city after years of extreme drug violence.


From Cortes:

There are less people being killed in Juárez, but people don’t talk about the crisis being over. The violence has shifted to other areas of Mexico; but there is nothing secure and nothing developmental.

From Lobman:

The past decade has stifled people’s ability to be social and this has seriously impacted a generation of youth–many of whom grew up being kept inside their houses all the time. They’ve grown up learning to be deeply fearful.


Lobman also led a two-day course on social therapeutics (she describes it as an “interactive play space”) with several dozens of Dr. Santos‘ masters students in special education. Dr. Santos, who came to Mexico from Cuba, is a Vygotskian scholar trained in the former Soviet Union and has developed a Vygotskian-inspired special-ed curriculum for the program, which includes offerings by visiting activist scholars/researchers such as Dr. Lobman.

Carrie shared how Vygotsky’s work has been advanced by Fred Newman and Lois Holzman in a social therapeutic practice, that has proven especially effective under conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. She introduced the hopeful work with multi-family social therapy groups pioneered by Social Therapy Group director Christine LaCerva and the performance-based youth and adult development programs of the All Stars Project. 

Commenting on Lobman’s visit, Cortes says:

The focus of our work is development — helping our neighbors create new possibilities and incorporate methodologies that relate to people as creators of their lives.



Posted in Carrie Lobman, Education, Fred Newman, South America, The International Class, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lobman, Perone, O’Neill boost performance activism at The Association for the Study of Play


That’s play maven and longtime Institute colleague and educator Tony Perone (4th from l.) and Institute pedagogy director and play-pal Carrie Lobman (6th from l.) in the pointy-green elf hats — taking a bow after a performance at annual conference of The Association for the Study of Play 

Among the leadership at TASP, Carrie (who also serves as Second Vice President), Tony and Institute alumna and educator Barbara O’Neill are helping to build enthusiasm for revolutionary play and performance activism.  Carrie has been tapped to play the role of convener for the 2016 conference that will be held in New Jersey.

Tony and Carrie led a workshop on Performance Activism, which included (appropriately enough) conducting a poll of participants which asked their opinions on: What is a performance activist? and, Are you an activist?  Then it was time to create a performance piece:  One group created a street theatre scene that challenged the ways adults talk to children. Another group devised an “agitprop” scene that portrayed how people relate to non-English speakers as dumb.

Carrie also presented a first-look at findings from her ethnographic research study of the All Stars Project of New Jersey, entitled,  Performing on a Wider Stage: Developing Inner City Youth Through Play and Performance.

Barbara presented her work Improvisational Play Interventions: Supporting Children’s Play in Inclusive Classroomswhich offered a social-therapeutic approach to helping preschoolers with special needs.

Tony also presented his research on Mexican-American Adults’ Experiences with and Suggestions for Imaginative Play in Formal Learning Environments Across the Lifespan.


Posted in All Stars Project, Carrie Lobman, creativity and play, Education, improvisation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holzman recipient of lifetime achievement award from AERA Cultural Historical Research SIG


Lois Holzman with Cultural Historical Research SIG chair Peter Smagorinsky

Lois Holzman with Cultural Historical Research SIG chair Peter Smagorinsky

The Cultural Historical Research Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Educational Research Association has named Lois Holzman as the recipient of its prestigious lifetime achievement award.

Holzman’s award will be presented at the AERA annual meeting in Chicago, 2015, where she will deliver an invited presentation on her life’s work.

Posted in Education, Lois Holzman, Uncategorized, Vygotsky | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment