F R O M  T H E  E D I T O R                              1st Posted: 04.29.2005 Revised: 05.11.2005

Editor's Note: The Enterprise of a Dialogical Science

Hubert J.M. Hermans


Three stimulating and exciting conferences on the Dialogical Self provided a significant impulse for this journal. The first conference took place in Nijmegen, the Netherlands (2000), the second in Ghent, Belgium (2002), and the third in Warsaw, Poland (2004). The many enthusiastic reactions I received from the audiences of the three conferences had two striking commonalities: (a) they expressed a strong appreciation for the interdisciplinary character of the conferences; and (b) they favored the contributions coming from a variety of countries and cultures. Indeed, the last event in Warsaw brought 170 participants from 30 countries together, making up a truly international conference. These experiences stimulated my colleagues and me to find suitable publication outlets for the contributors in order to facilitate communication across the borders of cultures and nations.

With these considerations in mind, I contacted the editors of three journals with the question whether they would be interested in papers on the dialogical self and related theories: Culture & Psychology, Theory & Psychology, and the Journal of Constructivist Psychology. All three journals responded in a positive way, expressing their openness and interest to consider the publication of papers in this new branch of theory and research. This openness was materialized in three special issues on the dialogical self: Culture & Psychology (2001, number 3) contained discussions of dialogical self theory and associated methodologies in the context of culture; Theory & Psychology (2002, number 2) brought together a variety of perspectives (e.g. developmental psychology, psychopathology, psychotherapy, brain sciences) that highlighted significant aspects of the self; and the Journal of Constructivist Psychology (2003, number 2) focused on the elaboration of dialogical self theory in the practice of psychotherapy. As these examples suggest, the theoretical reach of the dialogical self is broad enough to permit outlets in a variety of journals.

Despite the interest of different journals in our proposals and ideas, some colleagues expressed the need for a journal specifically devoted to dialogical self theory and research. Two arguments prevailed. First, there is a need for a common forum in which to consider in depth issues over a sustained period of time. Second, a new journal would give considerable space to vivid discussions, agreements and disagreements on original and significant aspects of theory, method, research, and practice in their combination.

Taking these considerations into account, the idea was to establish a new journal with its own focus but, at the same time, one actively committed to a policy of openness to and cooperation with other journals and discussion groups. Therefore, this journal will provide space not only for original contributions on central topics but will also stimulate discussions, comments, and rejoinders. When special expertise is needed, experts on the topics discussed will be invited to contribute so that a particular topic will be explored in depth and from different angles.


The notions of self and identity reflect the deeper regions of the Zeitgeist in a developing global society. Scientists and practitioners, reflecting this Zeitgeist, show an increasing interest in this area of study. This interest is expressed in the founding of new journals over the last few years including: Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research; Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power; The Journal of Aging and Identity; Post Identity; and Self and Identity. This multitude of new journals in a specific area of study leads to the impelling question of whether another journal is really needed and, moreover, to the question of what the difference is between the International Journal for Dialogical Science and the other already established journals. The answer to these questions is two-fold. First, a quintessential feature of the present journal is its focus on dialogical processes. Dialogical self theory and research is located in the fertile soil that stretches between the American tradition on the self in the line of theorists like William James and George Herbert Mead, and the Russian dialogical school in the tradition of Mikhail Bakhtin. The basic idea of the present journal is that on the interface of these rich and manyfaceted traditions driving forces are at work that motivate theorists, researchers and practitioners not only to find their inspiration within these traditions, but also to go beyond! The work of the founding fathers is not an end point but rather a starting point.

There is a second, powerful reason for founding a new journal with dialogue as one of its key terms. We are living in a globalizing world that is increasingly interconnected from an economical, ecological, demographic, political, and military point of view. As we have witnessed in the past years, many clashes and conflicts between cultural groups have led to the intruding question of how people can live in a world that is interconnected enough to be in a close contact with each other but not dialogical enough to confront intercultural conflicts, disagreements, and differences in any efficient way. Although it is not the purpose of this Journal to provide any definite answers to such basic problems, contributors are faced with the challenge to explore and examine the specific features and problems of a globalizing society with a particular focus on self and identity issues.

As these considerations suggest, the present journal does not reflect a closed community of researchers and certainly any form of in-crowd jargon will be avoided. Instead, it will actively seek cooperation and exchange with other journals and groups of researchers. An example of such a cooperation is a recent special issue on the dialogical self in a global and digital age in Identity: An International Journal for Theory and Research (2004, number 4). In similar ways, the present journal will stimulate the active interchange with other journals with related interests.


Given its focus on self and dialogue, the present journal is topic-oriented rather than discipline-oriented. As such it explicitly wants to break through the constraining walls of disciplines and subdisciplines. I fully agree with James Cote (2001), the past editor of Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, who criticized disciplinary boundaries as creating an insularity that separates scientists who are ostensibly interested in the same phenomena. This insularity has the disadvantage of giving rise to a dogmatic insistence that each discipline's definition is the right one and that other approaches are misguided. As a result, scholarship is fragmented and scattered into various perspectives or paradigms which can lead to aversion or even hostility to 'intruders' and evoke defensive reactions against attempts to critically analyze such paradigms.

By its nature, dialogical self theory and research is in need of a learning attitude and open boundaries with other disciplines. Just a few examples. Philosophy has a rich tradition of 'dialogue' from Plato on (Blachowicz. 1999) and the thinking and rethinking of self and identity in the light of classical philosophical texts has the potential to enrich social-scientific traditions of self and identity. Recently, researchers have started to investigate the relation between dialogical self theory and the dialogical capacities of the brain (Lewis, 2002; Schore, 1994) Such research has the promise of finding the neural underpinnings of dialogical processes in the functioning of the brain. Cultural anthropologists are increasingly interested in the multiplicity and multivoicedness of the self in close relation to the practices and values of cultural groups (Van Meijl & Driessen, 2003). Scholars of spiritual processes in the tradition of Martin Buber are beginning to study the self in terms of I-thou relationships (Cooper, 2003). As these examples suggest, the study of dialogical processes of self and identity is not a task for psychology alone but a typically interdisciplinary enterprise in which the several perspectives may learn from each other to their mutual benefit. Along these lines we intend to move from the dialogical self to the broader area of 'dialogical science'.

The present journal has its starting point in psychology but has clearly interdisciplinary aims in the future. Similarly, the present study of the dialogical self is not more than a starting point for future and broader theories that will include the results of a variety of disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, philosophy, brain sciences, history, political science, and other disciplines that have related issues as their object of study. The present journal wants to make a beginning with this larger enterprise and actively solicit contributions from different disciplines as far as they fit with the purpose of the journal. Future contributors are invited to present their views not only on specific content areas but also on the possibility of bringing together paradigms from various disciplines.

In order to broaden its reach, the journal is not restricted to one particular epistemological tradition. Thinkers and researchers from constructivist, social constructionist or realist backgrounds are all invited to contribute as far as their work leads to a better understanding of the dialogical processes of self and identity, to the development of new theoretical insights, and to the expansion of existing professional tools.


As a theorist and researcher of the dialogical self, I have certain understandings of self and dialogue and they are in print for everyone to read. As an editor, however, I consider it as my task to facilitate the dissemination of ideas, the presentation of new insights and the discussion of research findings. I'm aware that the roles of writer and editor can constitute a conflict of interest, but I feel myself to be ethically bound to set aside my own preferences in order to provide an impartial assessment of the submitted articles. In doing so, I will rely on my associate editors and reviewers who will support me in the assessment of submissions. In our evaluation, my associate editors and I will focus on the soundness of the argumentation, the quality of the method, the clarity of writing, and the organization of the article as a whole. In the case of controversial articles, I will invite commentaries on these articles in order to stimulate the field and to encourage dialogue between those who hold similar and opposing views.

In this way the Journal not only takes dialogue as its subject matter, but dialogue also enters the journal as a welcome guest. We will do so in the conviction that theory and practice belong together.


Blachowicz, G. (1999). The dialogue of the soul with itself. In S. Gallagher & J. Shear (Eds.), Models of the self (pp. 177-200). Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic.

Cooper, M. (2003). "I-I" and "I-Me": Transposing Buber's interpersonal attitudes to the intrapersonal plane. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 16, 131-153.

Coté, J. (2001). Editor's note: The hope and promise of identity theory and research. Identity: International Journal of Theory and Research, 1, 1-3.

Lewis, M. D. (2002). The dialogical brain: Contributions of emotional neurobiology to understanding the dialogical self. Theory & Psychology, 12, 175-190.

Schore, A. N. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: The neurobiology of emotional development. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Van Meijl, T., & Driessen, H. (2003). Introduction: Multiple identitifications and the self. Focaal (European Journal of Anthropology), 42, 17-29.