Becoming a Subject: A Memory Work Study of the Experience of Romantic Jealousy


  • Darren Langdridge The Open University
  • Meg Barker The Open University
  • Paula Reavey London South Bank University
  • Paul Stenner The Open University



jealousy, subjectivity, memory work, existentialism, phenomenology, process philosophy


In this article we aim to contribute to psychosocial debates around selfhood by focusing empirically upon memories of jealousy and the ways in which potential subjectivities are both opened up and closed down. The paper presents a phenomenological narrative analysis of our research on jealousy produced through a memory work group. We identify three types of jealous memories (real, virtual and in-between) and elucidate the narrative structure of jealous experiencing. Memories of jealousy invariably involved some anticipatory context in which the actors engaged with potential subjectivities, which were then disrupted when the physical or psychological presence of another became apparent, triggering powerful embodied feelings. We argue that much of the power of jealousy comes from the way in which it is ambiguous and anxiety provoking as a result of a challenge to perceived subjectivities. Our findings are discussed in relation to extant mainstream literature on jealousy and critical theories of subjectivity, embodiment and relationality.



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Author Biographies

Darren Langdridge, The Open University

Dr. Darren LANGDRIDGE is senior lecturer in psychology and Head of the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Social Sciences at The Open University. He is also Honorary Professor of Psychology at Aalborg University, Denmark and a UKCP accredited existential psychotherapist in private practice. Darren co-edits the journal Psychology & Sexuality and has particular interests in existentialism, hermeneutics and social theory in the context of researching sexualities. He is the author of "Phenomenological Psychology: Theory, Research and Method" (Pearson, 2007), co-editor of "Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism" (with Meg BARKER, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), "Critical Readings in Social Psychology" ( with Stephanie TAYLOR, Open University Press, 2007) and "Understanding Non-Monogamies" (with Meg BARKER, Routledge, 2010). His most recent book on existential psychotherapy will be published by Sage in 2012 and he is currently completing a monograph on sexual citizenship for Oxford University Press.

Meg Barker, The Open University

Dr. Meg BARKER is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University specializing in counseling and psychotherapy. She co-edits the journal Psychology & Sexuality, and has produced two edited collections with co-editor Darren LANGDRIDGE on sadomasochism and non-monogamous relationships. She is also a practicing therapist and co-organizes Critical Sexology, the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists conferences, and BiReCon. She is currently co-authoring a book on sexuality and gender for therapists, psychologists and health professionals, as well as one on mindfulness, and has recently finished a popular psychology book about relationships.

Paula Reavey, London South Bank University

Dr Paula REAVEY is reader in psychology at London South Bank University. Works include two co-edited volumes (with Sam WARNER, Routledge, 2003), "New Feminist Stories of Child Sexual Abuse: Sexual Scripts and Dangerous Dialogues" and "Memory Matters: Contexts for Understanding Sexual Abuse Recollections" (with Janice HAAKEN, Psychology Press, 2009) and an edited volume, "Visual Psychologies: Using and Interpreting Images in Qualitative Research" (Routledge, 2011). She is currently working on a book on "Mental Health and Distress" (with Richard BENTALL, John CROMBY and Dave HARPER, Palgrave – due 2012) and a book on "Memory and Affect" with Steven D. BROWN (Routledge).

Paul Stenner, The Open University

Prof. Paul STENNER is professor of social psychology at the Open University. He completed his PhD at the University of Reading, UK, and has held posts at the University of Brighton, University College London, University of Bath and the University of East London. He is currently interested in process approaches to psychosocial problems and has published work in numerous fields including the emotions, human rights, quality of life and active aging. Recent books include "Theoretical Psychology: Global Transformations and Challenges" (Captus, 2011, co-edited with John CROMBY, Johanna MOTZKAU & Jeff YEN), "Psychology Without Foundations: History, Philosophy and Psychosocial Theory" (Sage, 2009, co-authored with Steve BROWN); "Varieties of Theoretical Psychology: International Philosophical and Practical Concerns" (Captus, 2009, co-edited with Thomas TEO, Alexandra RUTHERFORD, Eric PARK and Cor BAERVELDT); and "Emotions: A Social Science Reader" (Routledge, co-edited with Monica GRECO).




How to Cite

Langdridge, D., Barker, M., Reavey, P., & Stenner, P. (2012). Becoming a Subject: A Memory Work Study of the Experience of Romantic Jealousy. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(2).