Indigenous (local) psychology is a psychological current heading to understand human in their native cultural context. There is an assumption that universalistic (global) psychology cannot fully express the specifics of particular communities’ functioning, so it is necessary to consider the aspect of human populations’ cultural differentiation in research. The uniqueness of psychic phenomena/contents is here the main subject of researcher’s interest.
In indigenous psychology it is not assumed that practising psychology from the universalistic perspective (mainstream psychology) is incorrect. This approach is equally important, especially in the case of researching psychic phenomena connected (determined) with biological sphere, thus identical for all of the homo sapiens. However, studying higher mental processes strongly immersed in the cultural context requires relativization of psychological approaches and their adaptation to the local context of a particular social group (ethnic group, nation, tribe, etc.). Although the universalistic psychology is as significant as indigenous psychology, the latter requires more attention due to its underrepresentation in academic psychological discourse. Indigenous psychology does not oppose mainstream psychology but supplements it complementary.
Research in the current of indigenous psychology, although it is a new phenomenon, does not take place in theoretical emptiness while it derives from achievements and philosophical assumptions of other psychological currents. A conviction about the need of creating local knowledge systems links indigenous psychology with critical (postcolonial) psychology which indicates an undesirable process of “colonising” the world psychology by the Western (mainly American) psychology. This process manifests itself in generalizing conclusions from research conducted on the Western population and theoretical reflection made by Western researchers to the whole humanity. Then, these conclusions are adapted by psychologists from particular countries (cultures) without sufficient reference to their local context. Universalistic psychology is therefore inadequate for many human populations while it de facto is an indigenous psychology of Western culture.
In the indigenous approach it is assumed that psychological theories and research methods should be derived from a local culture to increase the accuracy of psychological descriptions. Although there is a tendency to research particular cultural groups (e.g. primal communities) in mainstream psychology, but it is insufficient. This research conducted mainly by scientists from Western universities is in fact a part of cross-cultural psychology. Even if research does not include a comparative aspect explicitly, a researcher projects on the research process his/her native cultural context and some theoretical-philosophical presuppositions that unconsciously make him/her look at an alien culture from his/her own (Western) perspective. To avoid this problem, an indigenous psychologist should be a member of a studied culture to understand it fully. In other words, research in the field of cultural psychology can be either indigenous research or cross-cultural research – nothing between.
In indigenous psychology, there exist attempts to connect it with mainstream psychology. These attempts assume cultivating global epistemological/methodological tradition (psychometric tests, experiments, etc.) and focusing researcher’s attention on local cultural contents at the same time. This approach can be called “the ontological indigenous psychology” because only a research subject is local. But there still remains a question if this kind of psychology is fully indigenous or is rather a “smoother” version of cross-cultural psychology. In our book we propose a research perspective which connects the locality of both the subject and the method (“the epistemological indigenous psychology”). What is more, the subject and the method are identical here because meaning categories coming from a researched culture (the subject) serve to describe the culture’s links with the human’s psychological functioning (the method).
The creation of indigenous psychological descriptions consists in deriving them from local culture’s contents. Members of particular community know best how they perceive psychic phenomena and the way they perceive it is adjusted to the local specifics of psychic functioning. The researcher’s task is to extract local convictions about human psyche (folk psychology / ethnopsychology) and to transform it to the form of consistent scientific knowledge system. In the case when these convictions are not expressed directly or there is lack of cultural texts / historical sources, a researcher needs to reconstruct the local psychological knowledge on the basis of religious practices, traditions and myths. Indigenous psychology, adjusted to local cultural context, provides the accuracy of human psychic phenomena description and is an attempt to understand real human’s psychic life (real psychology), not theoretical constructs abstracted behind the university walls, due to its antireductionist approach.
In our book we propose to look into the Slavic indigenous psychology. Defining the subjects of this psychology faces some difficulties because “the Slavs” may be potentially defined through their genotype, territory, language, religion, myths, rituals, self-perceiving or mentality. A different problem is the scarcity of historical sources on the former (mainly medieval) Slavic culture. Nonetheless, we have made an attempt to extract “the core” of Slavic psychology which can allow to understand why Slavs are (were) who they are (cultural minimalism, pugnacity / puissance, hospitality, etc.). To make it possible, we have used ethnographic descriptions of Slavic understanding of psychic phenomena (the Slavic soul) and created several theoretical tools allowing to reconstruct the contents that are not expressed in texts. Therefore, a Reader can find descriptions of Slavic developmental psychology (on the basis of the initiation rituals cycle), personality traits (Slavic names construction system) and psychopathology (wide Slavic demonology) in our book. To learn more about Slavic indigenous psychology’s details – we invite you to read the book.