Revising the ‘Internalization Paradigm’

Small Group Project 2023-24

Revising the ‘Internalization Paradigm’: History, Emotions, and Identity

Small Group Project 2023-24

Over last few decades, internalization has become a popular explanation and rhetorical tool in debates over identity formation and mental health. Internalization refers to a process whereby an external reality – represented through language, culture, and other forms of collective communications – is constantly being absorbed into one’s ‘self’. 

For example, eating disorders are very often explained as the outcome of ‘internalizing’ unrealistic body standards, provided by the media and popular discourses, of an imaginary ‘ideal body’. Internalizing negative stereotypes of ethnic minorities or working-class people results in them being perceived as a major cause for a wide range of social problems from hate-crimes, to police violence, and even to the emergence of right-wing populist movements. But what really is internalization and how did it become such a meta-concept? The aims of the project are twofold: 1) to investigate the historical origins of internalization; 2) to challenge the ‘internalization paradigm’ as a meta-concept for explaining ideological differences in the age of so-called culture-wars.

The team will consist of early career as well as more senior scholars from a range of disciplines including history, sociology, literature, political science, philosophy, gender studies, and psychoanalysis. Three half-day online meetings of the group will be held forming the basis for a larger in-person conference at the University of Essex, for a non-academic and academic audience. 

The project realizes the goals of the ISRF by identifying a major analytical tool that will have influence far beyond academic circles to the press, media, and people’s ordinary language. Moreover, it aims to create an interdisciplinary cutting-edge thinking forum for finding alternative theoretical tools for describing the interchanges between people’s external reality and very own subjectivity when structuring collective and personal identities.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at