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Micropolitics and Poetics in Couple behaving, and relating to each other. Couple and
and Family Therapy family therapists are exposed to the same domi-
nant micropolitical forces not only as individual
Marcelo Pakman citizens but also as practitioners and members of
Amherst, MA, USA professionals groups, risking to add their actions
and the therapeutic models guiding them to be part
of those repetitive scripts. A critical-poetic
Name of Concept approach articulates a critical (and self-critical)
position distancing couple and family therapists
Micropolitics and poetics in couple and family from the repetition of social clichs and the under-
therapy. lying power relations and identities linked to
them, with the amplication of points of resis-
tance to that willing or unwilling reiterative sub-
Introduction jection, thus allowing for poetic events operating
as cores for discontinuous change to happen
Digital technologies have accelerated not only the (Pakman 1999, 2011, 2014, 2016).
spread of sociocultural products and of immediate
communication across our planet but also our
exposure as inhabitants of this quasi-global trend Theoretical Context for Concept
to scripts insensibly adopted leading to become
the subjects of our society of the spectacle. While Politics is a concept linked originally to the ratio-
many populations and human groups still suffer nality and logical government of the Greek polis,
being targeted by coercive governments and par- the city and, by extension, of entire populations,
ticipate, actively or passively, in battles for polit- instrumented by the monarch and later on by the
ical domination, individual and group identities state, political parties and socio-cultural sectors.
are more than ever modeled by local micro- Micropolitics is a different, supplementary level
politics. These micropolitics, adopted by explicit of the local government of self and others, which
or implicit consent, lead to programmed lives that has been variously conceived in relation to every-
repeat prescribed emotions and ways of relating to day power relations and discourses (Foucault
each other, criteria of normalcy and of pathology, 2011), the productivity of human desire
sexual mores and linguistic fashions, opinions and (Deleuze and Guattari 1983) and the transversal
intimate behaviors, tastes and distastes, in sum, or horizontal relations among socio-cultural and
the whole human gamut of ways of being, political aspects of our societies. In the context of
# Springer International Publishing AG 2017
J.L. Lebow et al. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy,
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_858-1
2 Micropolitics and Poetics in Couple and Family Therapy

the critical-poetic position this local level could moment. Knowledge/power operate as local
be traced conceptually to the Greek oikonomia, apparatuses that capture and orient behaviors
the effective and everyday administration of the and discourses, providing identities and subject
domestic sphere of the household, including both positions to people who, at the same time and
intimate aspects of family relations and the rela- circularly, create, support and maintain them as
tions between owners and servants. Christianity effective and operative historical formations
conceived oikonomia meaning later on econ- (Foucault 2010, 2011).
omy in theological terms: the management of Micropolitics also involves a social imaginary
the visible, secular and historical aspects of of realistic or ctitious images that operate as
domestic life as the incarnation of an order everyday illustrations of dominant meanings pro-
modeled on the divine ruling of the universe. viding templates about what to say and not to say,
Contemporary democracies have united the man- what to perceive and not to perceive, how to be
agement and the theological roots of oikonomia in sick and to be cured, how to have or to solve
a micropolitical level of government by consent of problems, what preferred emotions should be fos-
subjects capable to act as agents of choice and tered and acted upon in certain given situations,
exposed to media that not only provide informa- etc. While these self-sustained elements of the
tion but also distribute fame, a secular form of social imaginary make for a normalized life
glory (Agamben 2011). But consent, unlike the other elements are marginalized becoming pres-
coercion exercised by regimes of domination, is ences of low existential intensity (Badiou 2006)
never totally granted and requires the consider- and, as a result, are substracted to the work of
ation of the autonomy of those consenting. While imagination. But actual situations and social
dominant micropolitics tends to favor repetition, encounters are not only narrowed by dominant
through the daily management of preferred and micropolitics because wherever there are mecha-
abstract meanings, poiesis, usually translated as nisms of power relations there are points of resis-
production but meaning also birth, coming to tance (Foucault 2010). People can always
presence or apparition, is the always latent instru- temporarily leave behind their usual identities
ment of resistance to micropolitics, with the and subject positions and, starting from those
potentiality to congure transformative singular points of resistance to the micropolitically shaped
events. situations, either amplify them in order to increase
its intensity of existence or rescue them from their
social imaginary conservative function. In this
Description way they can be put to the service of what can
become poetic singular events of change.
Within a critical-poetic position micropolitics is
the creation, maintenance and regulation, both
explicit and implicit, of mechanisms that objectify Application of Concept in Couple and
human experiences. As such micropolitics family therapy
embodies at the local level of our everyday situa-
tions power relations that constitute a distributed, The concept of power, already important for stra-
local, positive and horizontal form of power, tegic therapy, has occupied center stage as related
unlike the vertical, sovereign or state power that to politics in narrative (White and Epston 1989)
denes macropolitics. Power relations operate as and in feminist perspectives within couple and
dividing practices, separating, for instance, nor- family therapy, taking a critical stance and some-
mals from abnormals or dividing people internally times addressing everyday experiences and the
between body and soul or between consciousness personal. Other narrative perspectives stressed
and the unconscious. Power relations are always the concept of points of resistance to power
intertwined with bodies of knowledges including while a dialogical perspective developed a social
both what is said and what is seen at a given social poetics (Shotter and Katz 1996) and still others
Micropolitics and Poetics in Couple and Family Therapy 3

stressed singularity as a fulcrum of therapeutic emergence and amplication of certain images


change. understood as apparitions of the world and not as
The critical-poetic position while resonating ctional appearances. These images apparently
with all these developments distances from both impertinent that appear as singular occurrences
the empirical and the linguistic paradigms of not tting within any abstract pattern when taken
structuralism and poststructuralism bringing by a therapist sensitized to the occurrence of
instead to couple and family therapy a rethinking unpredictable and discontinuous events (Badiou
of materiality, the concrete, the mundane, the real, 2006) are then integrated through imagination
events and the apparition of the world tackled by a conceived as a therapeutic work more than an
post-poststructural current from the 70s on. It individual mental function. This work of imagina-
does it by drawing the distinction between macro tion carries forward the singular presentations
and micropolitics and by articulating it with a touching both therapists and clients against the
poetics understood as a phenomenon of presence commonplace clichs plaguing both human prob-
instead of representation, interpretation and lems and human solutions, therapeutic or other-
hermeneutics and of sense (Nancy 1997) as wise. Thus it can foster poetic events that do not
different from meaning. have to be earth shattering to be transformative of
Couples and families, as well as their therapists lived experience within the local communities of
are not only shaped by professional and popular couple and family therapy as social practices both
knowledge but are also the points of origin and of critical and change promoting.
application of power relations, becoming them- To afrm a critical position of the dominant
selves part of the micropolitical forces going micropolitics makes room for a poetics and to
through the complex strata of social relationships afrm a poetics amounts to exercising a critical
and cultural worlds they inhabit. The boundaries practice as an effective distancing of that other-
of the apparatuses of knowledge/power do not wise acritical micropolitics that tend to be adopted
overlap with those of a couple, a family or a and repeated. Through poetic events born from
professional or other institution but act instead as singular occurrences of perceptions, emotions,
powerful forces traversing them transversally, cir- ctions or thoughts usually marginalized or lim-
cularly creating and being supported by the pre- ited to a narrow meaning functional to the struc-
ferred identities of both clients and therapists and ture of the dominant micropolitics of concrete and
by the subject positions they take when interven- specic life situations, the singular potentiality of
ing. They are both linked to a social imaginary human beings becomes efcacious at the specic
made of preferred emotions, ideas about appropri- locus of concrete therapeutic encounters.
ate educational and raising practices, ways of
talking, attitudes, clothing, gestures, preferred
abstract meanings, moral principles, etc. Clinical Example
Micropolitics is not merely a conveyor belt of
macropolitical state power, nor a system of Ramona is a 40 years sold woman living with her
co-optation put to the service of the repetition of three children for a few years now in a refugee
script lives and the effective application of poli- camp set up in the capital region of her country for
cies. The freedom of those giving consent, people displaced by a long lasting armed conict.
although always limited, need to be constantly They left their region of the country after her
taken in consideration by those able to exercise husband Juan died of causes that remain unclear.
overt domination given their material or symbolic Ramona is increasingly described by her neigh-
positional advantage. Their hegemony is always bors and children as depressed and has started a
open to occasional reversals that imply a growing pharmacological treatment, although her depres-
opposition to the rules of the system. This poten- sion has a quality that everybody, including
tial for resistance to micropolitical scripts is based Ramona herself, nds difcult to apprehend.
on the occurrence of poetic events prompted by the Over the weekends she stays mostly in bed in
4 Micropolitics and Poetics in Couple and Family Therapy

the precarious dwelling working as a home and because Ramona could not be as she used to be
her two older adolescent children bring food and when she was helping Juan with his militancy at the
cook something trying to help her, but she has union, but she had chosen to hide all that because
frequent crying spells. But during weekdays she she fears it could increase her difculties and even
can put her mind into helping with initiatives of put the whole family at risk. The children, moved,
the refugees and her own domestic occupations in start crying and say they knew something because
the hard life of the camp and with little help from they have heard conversations about it. Ramona
her children. tells Javier his father was a really courageous man
During a family session attended by two he could be proud of without having to be in a gang
friends from the refugee camp Ramona cries to play the tough guy. Her daughter Maria, who is
silently and repeats that she does not know what 12 now, says she likes hearing her mother speak like
is happening to her. Her children and her friends this. The poetic presence of Juan and Ramona as
say that it is the depression but complain about union trade workers marked a singular event that
the medications not helping enough. Some people allowed a critical distance regarding the micro-
in the therapeutic team and her friends start prais- politics of silence they were living in and within
ing Ramona for her strength before life struggles, which Ramonas depression and Javier behavior
her wholeness, her resilience. But Ramona starts acquired a specic sense, while direct positive con-
sobbing while saying that she knows her friends notation was blocking the already marginalized
want to help and always say nice things to cheer presences that were being maintained at a low
her up. The therapist attuned to this reaction com- level of existential intensity. From then on family
ments that sometimes to be so good is not good therapy became a way to maintain those touching
and asks how each of them would describe and liberating presences of Juan and Ramona that
Ramonas situation if they were in a world appeared that day and to use social help based on a
where something like depression did not exist. complicity of the family which enhanced their tak-
Her friends from the camp say then that Ramona ing effective care of each other as heirs to a tradition
is in need of some type of vacation, something they could now proudly reclaim (Pakman 2011).
everybody needs in the camp, but they say she
needs it even more because of her fears for her
children. They mention she fears that they would Cross-References
suffer racist attacks given that they are all of have
black skin like her and their deceased father. They Cultural Identity in Couples and Families
also say that her young children Maria and Helena Dialogic Practice in Couple and Family
take a long walk through a dangerous neighbor- Therapy
hood in order to attend school and that Ramona Feminism in Couple and Family Therapy
fears her adolescent son Javier is frequenting bad Narrative Couple Therapy
companies and could be part of a gang. Javier Narrative Family Therapy
responds dismissively. When the therapist Power in Family Systems Theory
reminds them that Ramona feels worse when she
has the weekend brakes they say, after a tense
pause, and lowering their voices, that Juan was a
union trade leader and that he was killed. The References
therapist says then: I believe that you Ramona
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