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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM23-PP9: Group relations conferences in China 2014 to 2019: theory and dynamics

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Parallel Papers Session 2

Friday 30 June 15.15pm-16.30 SAST - VENUE 4
Paper Code: PP9
Group relations conferences in China 2014 to 2019: theory and dynamics

Presenters: Seth Harkins & Xiaohua Lu


This is a longitudinal inquiry into the theory and dynamics of four group relations conferences in China from 2014 to 2019. The study triangulates field notes, docu- ment artefacts, and verbatim transcribed interviews to investigate the application of Wilfred Bion’s basic assumption (BA) group theory in the context of temporary learning institutions devoted to the examination of authority, leadership, and conscious/unconscious processes in groups. Given that group relations theory and practice in the Tavistock tradition is grounded in psychoanalysis and open systems theory, the study integrates psychoanalytic and psychodynamic systems theory in the analysis and interpretation of conference dynamics. The study concludes that group relations has important implications for psychoanalysis in China in light of:

1) the “psycho boom” in contemporary China;
2) the possibilities of cross-cultural learning and knowledge transfer;
3) cross-cultural trust building;
4) professional development of human services, mental health, and organisational development professionals; and
5) the application of psychoanalytical theory and practices to the understanding of organisational development in China.

Keywords: Bion, basic assumption groups, group relations conferences, psycho- analysis, open systems theory.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

  1. Identify preconference and conference dynamics regarding the importation of a Western group relations conference model to Chinese culture.
  2. Apply techniques to the Cultural Interpreter model of English-Mandarin discourse and movement to an all-Mandarin language model
  3. Distinguish between the dynamics of authority, leadership, and unconscious processes from conference to conference
  4. Apply the group relations conference learning and organizational development to other cross-cultural learning opportunities
  5. Critique the group relations conference experience in China
  6. Distinguish between own group relations conference experiences and those presented

Biographical Summary

Seth Harkins EdD, is principal of Harkins Educational Consulting and Advocacy, researcher, and adjunct profession with National Louis University, Chicago, IL. Retired from a thirty-seven-year career in school administration and leadership, Seth is a researcher whose primary interest is group relations conferences, recovery from addiction, and persons with alternate abilities. Seth has been a group relations practitioner since 1985, applying group relations theory and practice to educational organizations. Seth is a co-founder of the China America Society for the Study of Groups and Organizations (CASSGO) former member of the A.K. Rice Institute Board of Directors; current president of the Midwest Center for Group Relations; past president of the Chicago Center for the Study of Group Relations (CCSGO); and current board member of the Illinois Community and Residential Services Authority.

Dr Xiaohua Lu (associate professor and associate director at Beijing Jiaotong University, China) presents training programmes for group therapy and group relations conferences around authority and leadership in the area of mental health and business. She trains therapists, make plans for the group psychotherapists, both academic and practice, do research around groups and organizations. She also does research in group therapy and group relations.