Mary Gergen

Mary Gergen

Mary Gergen is an American social psychologist specializing in feminist studies womens' studies and social constructionism.[1] Her contributions to the field of feminist studies, organization development Organization development, and social process are reflected in numerous books, journal articles, and presentations (see publications below).She grew up on the plains of southwestern Minnesota, and later moved with her family to St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis. She obtained her B.S. in English and Education with a minor in speech and theatre aat the University of Minnesota, where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa. She was a member of Delta Gamma sorority. She later obtained her M.S. in Educational Psychology with a specialization in counseling at the University of Minnesota. Moving to Boston with her first husband, Michael Gebhart, and their two children, Lisa and Michael, she worked at Harvard University as a research assistant in the Social Relations Department, and later at the Harvard Business School in marketing. In 1969 she married Kenneth J. Gergen and moved to Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. In 1980, Mary Gergen earned a Ph.D. in Psychology at Temple University, with a specialization in Social Psychology. She also worked for four years as a psychological consultant for AT&T on their longitudinal study of managers' lives.

Mary Gergen began her teaching career at Penn State, Brandywine in 1984 as an assistant professor in Psychology and Women's studies. In 1988-89, Gergen was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study. She won the George W. Atherton teaching award, a university wide honor, in 1966, and became a full professor. Gergen was given the title of Emerita upon retiring from the college in 2006.

She obtained her B.S. in English and Education with a minor in speech and theatre at the University of Minnesota, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and as homecoming queen. She was a member of Delta Gamma sorority. She later obtained her M.S. in Educational Psychology with a specialization in counseling at the University of Minnesota. Mary Gergen earned a Ph.D. at Temple University in Social Psychology.

Since the 1970s, she has been a member of the American Psychological Association, and a founding member and fellow of Div. 35, The Society for the Psychology of Women. In the early 1990s, she was one of the seven founders of The Taos Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of social constructionist ideas within diverse practice areas, including therapy, organizational consulting, and education. She is a co-creator of the positive aging newsletter, an electronically distributed news source designed to reconstruct the negative stereotype of aging, and to provide an alternative that is more promising in potential. She also edits the Tempo Book series. Mary Gergen travels internationally to give lectures and workshops and serves on examination committees and as an external examiner for Ph.D. theses from many countries, in addition to supervising several doctoral dissertations and teaching in a theoretical psychology program at Massey University, NZ.


Gergen’s major contributions lie at the intersection of feminist theory, and social constructionist ideas. Her attempt, at the outset, was to develop an alternative in studies of gender to both the hegemonic empiricist mode and the feminist standpoint orientation. This alternative grew from her engagement with social constructionist theory. Her first major effort to address this shift “Towards a feminist methodology” appeared in her edited book, Feminist Thought and the Structure of Knowledge in 1988. Later, her reader, Toward a New Psychology of Gender (1997), edited with Sara N. Davis, attempted to exemplify the new potentials for the field. Her work on gender issues is primarily qualitative, with a special emphasis on narrative methods. A major focus of this work has been on gendered narratives, and their implications for women's careers. Her interest in narrative has recently led her to a concern with narratives of nature, and the human-environmental connection.

She has also been innovating in developing a field of performative psychology, in which dramatic presentations are featured as a way of both carrying out research and communicating with peers and public. A pioneer of this approach in psychology, her first solo performance, “From Mod-Masculinity to Post-Mod Macho: A Feminist Re-play” [2] was presented at a symposium on ‘Postmodernity and Psychology” in Aarhus, Denmark, June, 1989. In her writing she also attempts to expand beyond conventional forms in order to bring forth multiple perspectives and to challenge existing forms of order. Examples of this approach can be found in what may be her most important work, Reconstructing Psychology: Narrative, Gender and Performance (2001).

Selected publications

  • Feminist Reconstructions in Psychology. Narrative, Gender & Performance, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ( 2001).
  • Social Constructionism: A Reader. London: Sage, (2003) (Edited with K. J. Gergen).
  • Social Constructionism: Entering the Dialogue (2004) Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publications (With K. J. Gergen) Translated into Italian: La Costruzione Sociale come Dialogogo by Sadi Marhaba (2005). Padova: Logos Edizioni; Translated into French: Le Constructionism Social: Un Guide Pour Dialoguer by Alain Robiolio (2006). Brussels: SATAS.
  • Communication as Social Construction: Readings, Research, Reconstruction 2008). Allyn & Bacon, (With K. J. Gergen & Stuart Schrader).
  • Toward a New Psychology of Gender, New York: Routledge, 1997. (with Sara N. Davis).
  • Feminist Thought and the Structure of Knowledge (Ed.).(1988) New York: NYU Press.
Other publications
  • Dialogue: Life and death of the organization. In D. Grant, C. Hardy, C. Oswick, N. Phillips, & L. Putnam (Eds.). Handbook of Organizational Discourse. (pp. 39–59). Thousand Oaks, CA, London: Sage. 2004, (with K.J. Gergen & Frank Barrett).
  • Appreciative inquiry as dialogue: Generative and transformative. In D. Cooperrider & M. Avital (Eds.). Advances in Appreciative Inquiry. Vol. 1. (pp. 3–27). Bristol, England: Elsevier Science Ltd. (2004), (with K. J. Gergen, & Frank Barrett).
  • Once upon a time: A narratologist’s tale. In C. Duarte & C. Lightfoot (Eds.). Narrative analysis: Studying the development of individuals in society. (2004). Thousand Oaks, CA, London: Sage.
  • Positive aging: Reconstructing the life course. In C. Goodheart & J. Worell (Eds.) Handbook of Women and Girls. (2005) pp. 416–426. London, New York: Oxford University Press (with K. J. Gergen).
  • “Toward a Performative Psychology”(translated). In H. P Mattes & Tamara Musfeld (Ed.). Psychologische Konstrucktionen. Der Diskurs des Performativen. Göttingen, (pp. 200–210). Germany: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht 2005.
  • Narratives in action, Narrative Inquiry. 2006, 16, 112-128-121. (With K. J. Gergen, 2nd author)
  • Social construction and research methods in the social sciences. In W. Outhwaite and S. Turner (Eds.) Handbook of Social Science Methodology. (pp. 461–478). London, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ( 2007) (With K. J. Gergen)
  • Social construction and research as action. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research,, Vol. 2, 2007, pp. 350–380. (with K. J. Gergen, 2nd author);
  • Collaboration without end: The case of the Positive Aging Newsletter. In D. Gerhart & H. Anderson (Eds.) Collaborative therapy: Relationships and conversations that make a difference. 2007. New York: Routledge. (With K. J. Gergen).
  • Social construction and psychological inquiry. In J. Gubrium & J. Holstein (Eds.). Handbook of Social Constructionism. 2007, (pp. 171–188) Sage. (With K. J. Gergen).
  • Narratives of the nature-human connection. In T. Sugiman, K. Gergen, W. Wagner, & Y. Yamada (Eds.), Meaning in Action: Constructions, narratives, and representations. 2008, (pp. 205–221). Japan: Springer.
  • Qualitative methods in feminist psychology. In W. Stainton-Rogers & C. Wittig (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology. 2008 (pp. 280–295). London, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Qualitative inquiry in gender studies. In J. Chrisler & D. McCreary (Eds.) Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology. Sage. (in press, 2009).
  • Editorial: A Conversation about Performative Social Sciences. Forum for *Qualitative Research, Vol. 10 (refereed electronic journal) Berlin, Germany (with Kip Jones), May, 2008.
  • Qualitative Inquiry: Tensions and transformations. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd Edition. (with K.J. Gergen). (2000) (pp. 1025–1046).
  • Life stories: Pieces of a dream. In G. Rosenwald & R. Ochberg (Eds.). Storied Lives, New Haven: Yale University Press. 1992, pp. 127–144.
  • Finished at forty: Women’s development within the patriarchy. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 1990, 14, 451-470.
  • From mod masculinity to post-mod macho: A feminist re-play. The Humanist Psychologist.1990, 18, 95-104.
Performative psychology pieces
  • "All the Gold in Fort Knox". Symposium: Performative Psychology V. American Psychological Association, Boston, MA, Aug. 16-20, 1999.
  • "Woman as Spectacle," International Conference for Constructivist Psychology, Victoria, Canada, 2002
  • Kongress fur Klinische Psychologie. "Lust und Last," Berlin, Feb. 15-20, 1999.
  • Arts Bank Theater on South Street, Philadelphia, PA March 1998.
  • "Creating Culture: A Dialogic Demonstration," Co-presenter K.J. Gergen. Symposium: Performative Psychology III. American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL, Aug. 15-19, 1997.
  • "Relationalia: A Hyperlogue" Co-presentation with K.J. Gergen. Presentations at:Western Speech Communications Association Meetings, Monterey, CA Feb.15-19, 1997.
  • Constructionnisme Social, Resonances et Postmodernisme. Conference organized by l’Institut d’Etudes de la Famille et des Systemes Humains. Brussels, Belgium, May, 1997.
  • First International Convention on Family Therapy. University of Athens, Athens, Greece, July 3–7, 1996
  • Refiguring the Human Sciences: New Practices of Inquiry. A Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry Symposium. University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 22–24, 1995.
  • Understanding the Social World, Towards an integrative approach. Huddersfield University, England, July 17–19, 1995
  • "Corpo-(un)reality; Embodied Specie-ous", Presentation at Performative Psychology I, Symposium at the American Psychological Association Meetings, New York City, August, 1995.
  • "Skipping Stone on a pond: Feminism, postmodernism and psychology" Social Construction, Culture, and the Politics of Social Identity. The New School of Social Research, Dept. of Psychology, New York City, April, 1995.
  • "Performative Psychology", Co-presentations with KJ Gergen. Discourse and the Construction of Knowledge Conference, Adelaide, Australia. Feb., 1996.
  • "Dialogic processes and the creation of selves". Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, March, 1992 (with K. J. Gergen as co-symposiast, doing original performative psychology pieces on the production of selves)
  • "From mod masculinity to post-mod macho: A feminist re-play." Symposium: Postmodernity and Psychology. Center for Kvalitativ Metodeudvikling, University of Arhus, Denmark, June, 1989.["Thoroughly Post-Modern Mary"] (video from Forum: Qualitative Social Research)


  1. ^ Lock, Andrew; Strong, Tom (2010-04-30). Social constructionism: sources and stirrings in theory and practice. Cambridge University Press. pp. 303–. ISBN 9780521708357. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  2. ^ [1]

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