phillip l. hammack, ph.d.

Phillip L. Hammack is Professor of Psychology at UC Santa Cruz and Director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in 2006 in Cultural Psychology from the Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago. Prior to his doctoral training, he completed a research training fellowship in Developmental Psychopathology at the National Institute of Mental Health and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology at Loyola University Chicago.

 

EARLY RESEARCH

Trained as an interdisciplinary social scientist in both qualitative and quantitative methods, Hammack has conducted research with several communities experiencing social injustice. His early research examined the psychological consequences of poverty and the legacy of racism among young African Americans in Chicago. Conducting this research while pursuing training in clinical psychology, Hammack came to the position that the mental health challenges of subordinate groups are linked to historical and structural factors, such as the historical trauma of slavery and its continued impact through racism and economic injustice. He discovered the paradigms of critical psychology, cultural psychology, and liberation psychology at this time and chose to pursue interdisciplinary doctoral training at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Bertram Cohler and Richard Shweder. 

Hammack was exposed to narrative psychology through the training of Bert Cohler, one of the first psychologists to argue for a narrative approach to the study of lives in the early 1980s. Fusing perspectives from narrative and cultural psychology, along with an intellectual concern with identity development during adolescence, Hammack became interested in the lived experience of youth in settings of political violence. His work with African American youth in Chicago had examined the experience of community violence, and with the second Palestinian uprising occurring during his doctoral training, Hammack became motivated to study the lives of adolescents in the conflict. Hammack has no personal connection to Israel or Palestine, which in this particular instance seemed to be an asset for social scientific inquiry.

Hammack began to work in dialogue-based peace education programs for Israeli and Palestinian youth in 2002 and developed two distinct research projects that resulted in numerous publications, including his 2011 book, Narrative and the Politics of Identity: The Cultural Psychology of Israeli and Palestinian Youth (2011, Oxford University Press). Hammack's approach to the study of a classic social psychological intervention ("intergroup contact") was innovative in its use of ethnographic and narrative methods and its use of a longitudinal design in which 45 adolescents were followed over a 4-year period. This research was funded by the Spencer Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Science Foundation, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame (where Hammack was a Visiting Fellow from 2010-2011). 

Hammack is the recipient of three early career awards: the Louise Kidder Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), the Erik Erikson Award from the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), and the Ed Cairns Award from the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence (Division 48 of the American Psychological Association).

narrative & the bridge to sexuality and gender

Hammack has been a leader in the narrative psychology movement and in the movement to elevate the status of qualitative inquiry in psychology. He developed a distinct theoretical approach to the study of self and society that foregrounds the relationship between "master narratives" (i.e., stories about group history and identity that circulate in media, political rhetoric, educational texts, and other cultural products) and "personal narratives" (i.e., individual life stories constructed to make meaning of life experience). In a series of widely cited publications, Hammack outlined this approach. With several of his students, he has applied the theory to diverse groups, including Israelis and Palestinians, ethnic and sexual minorities in the USA, and individuals experiencing homelessness.

Hammack began to study and write about sexual orientation and the lived experience of sexual and gender identity minorities in the mid-2000s. In early papers that remain widely cited, he argued for an approach to the study of sexual orientation and sexual identity development that emphasizes diversity in narratives across the life course. Central to this perspective was the foregrounding of generation-cohort in the shaping of life experience. Not only were ideas about narrative and the life course a uniting link among Hammack's research programs, they form the core of his current research on sexual and gender identity diversity.

Hammack is co-editor of The Story of Sexual Identity: Narrative Perspectives on the Gay and Lesbian Life Course (2009, Oxford University Press) and editor of the Oxford University Press Series on Sexuality, Identity & Society.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Professor Hammack’s current research focuses on sexual and gender identity diversity in social, historical, and political contexts. He is interested in how sexual and gender identity minorities navigate stigma and form identities across the life course. In 2013, Hammack received a Scholar Award from the William T. Grant Foundation to launch the California Community Climates Project on Sexual and Gender Identity Diversity (C3). The C3 Project examines variability in identity and minority stress among teenagers who identify with any sexual or gender identity minority label (e.g., lesbian, pansexual, gay, non-binary, transgender, queer) in two distinct regions of California: one historically supportive of sexual and gender identity diversity (i.e., the San Francisco Bay Area) and one historically hostile (i.e., the Central Valley). 

The Generations Project is a multi-site study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) that uses multiple methods to examine the way in which sexual minorities of distinct generation-cohorts experience identity, stress, and health. Hammack's specific interests within this project lie in the study of narratives of sexual identity development, sexual practices and sexual cultures, intersectionality of social identities, and narratives of social change across generation-cohorts. He is interested in the way in which gay men of distinct generations have experienced shifts in health, identity, and sexual culture as the meaning of HIV/AIDS has changed over time (e.g., the emergence of PrEP for HIV prevention).

The Queer Intimacies Project examines the social and psychological experience of individuals in non-normative relationships, including same-sex, polyamorous, kink/fetish relationships, and chosen families. This project also examines the unique experiences of individuals who identify as transgender, gender non-binary, asexual, bisexual, pansexual, heteroflexible, and sexually fluid in relationships.

A fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), awarded to Hammack in 2017-2018, facilitated work on all of Hammack's current research projects.

Among new projects in development, Hammack is interested in the study of sexual subcultures and diverse forms of masculinity in the context of the contemporary gender revolution. 

Hammack continues to be broadly interested in issues of history, theory, and paradigm in psychology. In 2018, he published The Oxford Handbook of Social Psychology and Social Justice (Oxford University Press), part of the Oxford Library of Science.

University of California, Santa Cruz

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Photos by Melissa De Witte. Original art © Joe Weidman.