A Heaping Cup of Doublebind





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Created date

July 12, 2018


Critical Commentary

Conceptualization of the double bind is a common spice in the pantry of many RPI STS scholars. Double binds have been conceptualized in anthropological literature as situations where, due to communicative dissonance that emerges from conflicting injunctions, subjects find themselves positioned in “no-win” scenarios.  According to John Weakland, double binds account for a “multiplicity and complexity of messages, their interrelations and reciprocal qualification...taken into account simultaneously” (Weakland 1974: 312). While double binds place subjects in positions where meeting all demands is impossible, Gregory Bateson and his successors have argued that learning to endure double binds enables evolutions in thought and communication, advancing subjects to different levels of learning or “ecologies of the mind.” Beyond its conceptual utility in anthropology to explore topics as varied as advocacy in complex global systems (Fortun 2001), indigenous sovereignty (Catellino 2012), and humanitarian activity (Redfield 2012), Bateson's double bind has also been leveraged to do theoretical and practical work in various fields. The concept has been used as a therapeutic technique in clinical psychotherapy treatment (Erickson and Rossi 1975, Weakland 1979), performance studies (Peterson and Langellier 1982), and analyses of the Anthropocene (Eriksen and Schober 2016). 

(Some of the above text pulled from RPI Graduate Students Lindsay Poirier, Alli Morgan, and Mara Dicenta's 2017 AAA Conference panel proposal.)


Photo taken by Alli Morgan and Hined Rafeh

Group Audience


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