Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in a name?

As we all know, a lot! Our discussion of a name for our group began at our first retreat, and continued into retreat 3 where we went into more depth about some of the possibilities. Following is a summary of that discussion.

First, we discussed where the name “The Limen Group” came from in the first place. It was actually a word that Stacey saw at an art exhibit, and went home and looked up. As she explored its various meanings, she felt it was very fitting for the work this group is endeavoring to do. The primary meanings we have found are:

• In psychophysiology, the limen (also known as Just Noticeable Difference, or JND) is the threshold between unconscious/imperceptible and conscious/perceptible. For example, if the intensity of a light source is increased in tiny increments, the moment when a human observer is able to notice the change is called the limen. The tie-in to our group is that part of what we are trying to do is to make conscious or perceptible the connections between an individual’s struggles and a broader societal context or problem: for example, when someone recognizes the connection between internalized oppression and institutional discrimination.

• In geopolitics, limen means the margin between two powers; because it is the space between powers but having allegiance to neither, it is thought of as a neutral but powerful space for intercultural dialogue and negotiation. This is exactly the kind of space we hope to create with our group—a space where challenging intercultural dialogues can take place, and where people feel both safe and free.

• In a variety of fields ranging from gender studies to anthropology to physics, limen refers to “the space between”. It is a way of recognizing differences without assuming a hierarchy. We in this group are working in the space between psychology and social justice work, and we work with other between spaces as well—for example, when we talk about intersectionality or space between two target memberships.

Despite all of these nice resonances to the word, members of our group have raised some concerns and objections to it. These include:

• The feeling that it is elitist because some many won’t know its meaning without looking it up.
• Even if not elitist, the name may not draw people in or entice them to learn more because it doesn’t say anything about who we are or what we do.
• Some are OK with Limen, but don’t like the word “group,” feeling that it has too corporate a sound, and have suggested alternatives such as “collective”.
• Some are not comfortable with the use of “social justice” in the by-line, feeling that the phrase has been much used and in some cases misused in the media of late.

Below are some alternatives that have been offered, along with the problems associated with each:

• Limen Collective or Limen Community (these still hold all of the problems associated with the word Limen)
• PsychEquality (promotes equality as a value, which sometimes is read as the goal of bringing marginalized groups into equality with the dominant group, a problematic message we do not want to propogate)
• PsychAdvocates (has a nice double meaning—we are advocating for psychology as well as for individuals and society—but implies that our primary action is advocacy, which it is not)
• Northwest Center for Liberation Psychology (or, just Center for Liberation Psychology) (many people like this—it is very compelling, says what we are doing to a large extent, and has the added double meaning of liberating psychology itself from some of the strictures we all have noted. If we do decide to use it, we will want to do some further research to make sure that we are justified in using this label which refers to a well-established movement based primarily in South America.)

After laying out these points, discussion and brainstorming ensued, and no final decision was reached; instead, our name discussion flowed naturally into an exploration of our decision-making process. We hope to finalize both of these important decisions (what our name is, and how we make decisions) by the fall retreat. In the meantime, if you have thoughts about the name question, please post here!

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