Journal of Personality announces a call for submissions for a forthcoming Special Issue on Psychobiographies of Social Change Agents.  This Special Issue has three aims, one focused on content, one focused on methods, and one focused on inclusive scholarship.

First, we want this Special Issue to highlight the relationships between personal biography and social change.  We are interested in case studies that embrace the psychobiographical tradition of striving to understand individuals whose actions foster change in the world.  Our definition of “social change” is quite broad, including widely-known leaders, unsung heroes of social change, and people working to improve their world on local levels.  Contributions can focus on famous figures or on personally known individuals as long as substantial biographical data is available for personological analysis.  Politicians, community organizers, artists, scholars, and other kinds of thought leaders are all appropriate subjects. Questions that authors might address could include: are there particular galvanizing moments in the individual’s life that become incorporated into an internal narrative?; what are the particular interpersonal and intrapersonal challenges that characterize a life of social change efforts?; what factors might help to account for the individual’s ability to persist in the face of obstacles to their social change efforts?; how do the social change agent’s personality and social-structural forces intersect to produce their unique story of activism.

Second, we want this Special Issue to demonstrate the breadth of innovative contemporary psychobiographical methods.  While the tradition of psychobiography can be traced back to the origins of psychology (Freud) and the study of personality (Murray, Allport), contemporary psychobiographers have a huge number of tools at their disposal for collecting and analyzing biographical data.  We hope the Special Issue will provide examples of innovative methods for conducting psychobiographies.  Analysis of primary documents (e.g., diaries, letters, memoirs, interviews, speeches, emails, blogs, social media postings) as well as previous biographical studies, are all encouraged.  If the subject is an artist, analysis of their works’ relationship to their activism is very much welcome.

Third, we want this Special Issue to provide scholars who have not previously undertaken psychobiographical analyses an opportunity to engage with these methods in the process of crafting a high-profile publication (articles appearing in Journal of Personality’s Special Issues have historically been among the Journal’s most highly-cited).  We are especially interested in supporting fledgling efforts from early-career researchers and researchers from marginalized groups (BIPOC, sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities, etc.).

The timeline for this Special Issue is as follows:

  • Deadline for submitting 750 word (in English) abstracts:     October 15, 2020
  • Invitations for contributions will be made:                             November 1, 2020
  • Deadline for manuscript submission:                                     September 1, 2021

This is an aggressive timeline, especially for scholars new to psychobiography, but we hope that will not hinder submissions.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to the co-editors with any questions prior to submitting an abstract!  They are happy to help you think through whether this is an appropriate project to pursue.  This special issue will be co-edited by Jonathan Adler, Olin College of Engineering ( and Jefferson Singer (, Connecticut College.

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