The Future of Performance Psychology in Japan—what a privilege to be part of creating such a thing!
In mid-August I made my third trip to Japan to share the methodology of social therapeutics with Japanese psychologists and educators. It was very exciting and gratifying to witness how people I had worked and played with five years earlier had developed so much since my first visit in 2012 (“Learning to Perform and Performing to Learn”), the growing number of people seriously studying social therapeutics and its Vygotskian and theatrical inspirations, and the creativity of homegrown Japanese performance psychology practices. All these developments taken together is what made the title of this August’s activities—“The Future of Performance Psychology in Japan”—completely reasonable and timely.
Catalyzed and led by Professor Yuji Moro of Tsukuba University, this new cultural and performatory approach to human life (reinitiating human development through activating our capacity to perform) is taking shape—most importantly, right along with the building of the community that supports it as it develops itself.
Being a part of this process for five years and so recently immersed for five days, I am reminded of something Fred Newman and I wrote in trying to capture what we meant by “development community” (in our book, Unscientific Psychology: A Cultural-Performatory Approach to Understanding Human Life, Chapter 8. The Noninterpretive Community and its Clinical Practice):
“It is a kind of community, not a community determined by geographical characteristics nor, for that matter, a community defined by commonality of task or ideology. It is, to paraphrase Vygotsky, a tool-and-(its) results. Our community is not a mediating tool designed to achieve a certain result. It is a community which at once supports development and has as its noninstrumental, nonpragmatic (tool-and-result) activity, the development it supports.”
As I see and feel it, this is the collective organizing activity Professor Moro and his colleagues, community partners, students and teachers are engaged in. Bravo!
“The Future of Performance Psychology in Japan” was supported by the Japan All Stars, the Toyota Foundation and Seijo University. It consisted of three day-long workshops led by me and Dan Friedman of the All Stars Project and East Side Institute, two open to the public talks, one by Dan and one by me, and many hours of informal conversation over food and drinks. Sixty workshop participants were with us for the three days and double that number came to our public talks—mine on performance psychology (entitled “Lev Vygotsky: The Loving Revolutionary”) and Dan’s on performance activism (entitled “Performance Activism: An Emerging Global Strategy for Reinitiating Human Development and Creating Community”).
In the workshops we played continuously with ways of building the ensemble of 60 as a performatory developmental learning group—learning and understanding through conversation and through improvisational skits, performing questions and responses to them, working in pairs, small groups, and the body as a whole. We all got to know each other in the uniquely joyous way that can happen when people perform and create together.
During the workshops, we learned about more than a dozen ongoing projects. One set of presentations was organized around the theme of giving as a mode of exchange that is developmental under capitalism. This topic is of great interest to Professor Moro who sees important connections between Fred Newman’s “giving in a culture of getting” (delineated in Newman’s Let’s Develop! A Guide to Continuous Personal Growth) and the ideas of Japanese philosopher Kojin Karatani (as expressed in his book, The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange.) Another session presented a variety of exciting improvisation and performance work being done in Japanese schools.
The final session was a sharing in drawing and words (a mix of Japanese and English) of “learning takeaways” and challenges. Here are just a few—and some photos:
“Though I can’t stop my fear, I can be a head taller.”
“I want to be more of a challenger.”
“I want to create environments where kids feel safe enough to learn. I used to think I should teach them as much as possible.”
“I never thought of bringing performance into my family life!”