The symbolic in cultural psychology. Empirical and practical approaches beyond words

International Winter School at the Sigmund Freud University in Berlin, 11th to 13th of October 2018

The Faculty of Psychology at the Sigmund Freud Universities in Berlin and Vienna as well as the Centre for Cultural Psychology at Aalborg University, that is becoming a leading location in the field of cultural psychology, are inviting to the third international winter school, this time focusing on the symbolic in cultural psychology aiming to introduce and critically discuss theoretical and empirical approaches “beyond words”.


The winter school’s goal is to mobilize interested PhD students and early-stage researchers to develop epistemological, methodological, and theoretical new ideas, starting from a general introduction to cultural psychology and how “the symbolic” can be theoretically understood. The invited speaker for this topic, an expert in Boesch’s approach to the symbolic, is Lutz Eckensberger, whose talk will be commented by Jaan Valsiner. Taking up on the ideas presented by Eckensberger and Valsiner, Herbert Fitzek will make the connection between the symbolic and art explicit giving examples for how we, as cultural psychologists, can approach “the symbolic” in innovative ways.

Language based interactions are symbolic acts in themselves and, usually, psychologists rely on verbal data to approach human phenomena. This winter school, we will, instead, focus on the non-verbal to assess the potential that lies within – for research and the practical field. On the one hand, this will be done with the help of short lectures as well as collaborative discussions. For this purpose, participants will be provided with preliminary selected readings to be carefully prepared before the start of the winter school. On the other, participants are invited to (a) present their own work, as well as (b) actively take part in different exercises allowing for the discussion of individual experiences of the symbolic. During the three days of intense and compelling study, participants will thus not only discuss, but actively explore different aspects of the symbolic.

Preliminary schedule

Day 1: Theoretical Framework

Lutz Eckensberger: Cultural psychology and the symbolic – Critical reflections with a commentary by Jaan Valsiner and a collaborative Discussion: How can “the symbolic” be framed theoretically?

Discussants: Martin Wieser, Dominik Mihalits & Meike Watzlawik


Herbert Fitzek: The symbolic in art: Innovative approaches

Discussants: Gerhard Benetka & Sarah Awad

followed by the practical exercise: Art Coaching


Day 2: Beyond Words

 Sarah Awad: The (street) art of resistance

Discussants: Herbert Fitzek & n.n.

Thomas Stodulka: Affective Dimensions of Fieldwork and Ethnography
Discussants: Julia Hertlein & Tamara Turner


 Symposium: Participants’ work: Presentations and discussions



 Day 3:

 Martin Wieser: How symbols influence knowledge construction

Discussants: Jaan Valsiner & n.n.

 Final discussion: Cultural psychology without words – only a phantom?

Discussants: Thomas Stodulka, Martin Wieser, Dominik Mihalits, Meike Watzlawik



The winter school will be held at the historical location Tempelhof Airport. The old terminal was originally constructed in 1927; its massive reconstruction began in the mid-1930s in anticipation of increasing air traffic under the Nazi regime. Today, it holds an iconic status as the center of the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49. Participants will have the opportunity to take part in a guided tour of the building reflecting on the experiences of “what buildings do with people”.

Address: Sigmund Freud Privat Universität, Campus Tempelhof, Columbiadamm 10, Tower 9, 12101 Berlin, Germany.


Participation is open (but not limited) to advanced students, Ph.D. and post-doc students and early stage researchers in the fields of psychology, philosophy, semiotics, art, medicine, anthropology and history of ideas.

Teaching staff

Invited teachers are:

  • Herbert Fitzek, BSP Berlin, Germany
  • Lutz Eckensberger, DIPF, Berlin, Germany
  • Jaan Valsiner, Director of the Centre for Cultural psychology, Denmark
  • Karl-Heinz Menzen, SFU Vienna, Austria
  • Martin Wieser, SFU Berlin, Germany
  • Sarah Awad, affiliation pending
  • Thomas Stodulka, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Berlin, Germany
  • Gerhard Benetka, SFU Vienna, Austria

Further information and registration

Early stage researchers (advanced students, PhD, Post-doc, young researchers) from all disciplines are welcome. Participation is open to 15-20 participants, who need to provide a short (approx. 300 words) description of their research interests/projects.

Registration fee (including coffee break and materials): will be announced soon.

All the information on registration and payment, scientific program and invited lectures will be available from August 1st 2018 until October 10th 2018 on the SFU Berlin website. The organization will provide a list of hotels with a special agreement to discount prices in Berlin.


For any inquiry about the winter school please contact:

Meike Watzlawik
Sigmund Freud PrivatUniversität
Columbia Damm 10, Turm 9
12101 Berlin
+ 49 (0)30 – 695 797 28 16

The organizing committee is composed by: Meike Watzlawik, coordinator, SFU Berlin; Dominik Mihalits, coordinator, SFU Vienna; Martin Wieser, SFU Berlin; Julia Hertlein, SFU Berlin; and Jaan Valsiner, director of the Centre for Cultural psychology.