What is a Decolonized Community?: A Fanonian Meditation

Nelson Maldonado-Torres
Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Comparative Literature Program Rutgers University USA

If it ever was, decolonization today is no longer a theme that makes primary reference to a historical moment already gone, an episode in the history of the unfolding modern system of so-called developed and new under-developed states. Instead, decolonization has strongly re-emerged in various parts of the globe, including South Africa, as an incomplete project that requires the critical engagement with hegemonic conceptions of the self, society, and knowledge production, among many other areas of modern/colonial arrangements of being, knowledge, and power. In this, the work of the renowned Martiniquean-Algerian psychiatrist, philosopher, and decolonial activist Frantz Fanon has remained crucial for shedding light into the effects of modern regimes of dehumanization as well as for providing conceptual tools to engage in the decolonization of knowledge, power, and subjectivity. In addition to clarifying the importance of these aspects, this presentation proposes that decolonization is crucial for the understanding of healthy subjectivity, intersubjective relations, and community formation. Community is especially important as it is about the reconstitution of bonds that have been broken apart by modernity/coloniality.

It is about a form of healing subjectivity and the web of social relations of which it is part. It is also about the possibility of forming and sustaining communities of action against the legacies of coloniality. This presentation will offer insight into the conditions of possibility for the formation of decolonized communities and communities of decolonization, and distinguish them from liberal conceptions of civil society and neoliberal views of communities of consumption, which have become increasingly hegemonic after the end of the Cold War and the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, to name only two of the most important references.

Professor Nelson Maldonado-Torres is a theorist of modernity/coloniality and decoloniality, and specialist in the work of Frantz Fanon. He teaches in the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Comparative Literature Program at Rutgers University. His research interests are in comparative critical and decolonial theorizing, theories of race and ethnicity, decolonial feminism, phenomenology, the critical theory of religion, and social and political philosophy. Professor Maldonado-Torres has been Co-Chair of the Religion in Latin America and the Caribbean Group at the American Academy of Religion, and has served on the board of the Hispanics Group at the American Philosophical Association. From 2008 to 2013, he was President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, and is one of the organizers and signatories of the initiative to create a Latina/o Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. He was Director of the Center for Latino Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley (2009-2010), and Chair of the Department of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean Studies at Rutgers University (2012-2015). Currently, he is member of the Executive Board of the Frantz Fanon Foundation in France, Honorary Member of the Fausto Reinaga Foundation in Bolivia, and serves as book series co-editor of Critical Caribbean Studies (Rutgers University Press) and Global Critical Caribbean Thought (Rowman & Littlefield in association with the Caribbean Philosophical Association).

Community Social Psychologies for Decolonization: An African Perspective on Epistemic Justice in Higher Education

shoseShose Kessi
Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Over the past year, we have witnessed many changes across the South African higher education landscape. National student and worker protests have led to many gains and have highlighted the central role of the university in bringing about social change.  These events have been underpinned by the call to decolonize higher education discourses and practices. In this presentation, I will speak to the possibilities and limitations of community social psychologies in carving out a decolonizing framework for the university in Africa. With its interdisciplinary character, community social psychology may be well placed to provide insights on theoretical and methodological expansion and diversity, which are crucial for making research relevant and prioritizing projects that can disrupt dominant and hegemonic power relations in society.

Drawing on developments in community social psychologies emerging from Africa and the Global South, I will provide empirical examples from projects using narrative and participatory theory-methods, how these contrast with Euro-American traditions, and raise some critical questions relating to race, class, and gendered identities that remain vital in challenging the ongoing violence of research, teaching, and symbolic practices in higher education.

Shose Kessi is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Her research centers around community-based empowerment and social change, particularly exploring how to address issues of identity, such as race, class, and gender that impact on people’s participation in transformation efforts. A key focus is the development of Photovoice methodology as a participatory action research tool that can raise consciousness and mobilize community groups into social action.  Before joining UCT, Shose worked in the development sector in the area of reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and programme evaluation.She completed her PhD in 2010 at the London School of Economics and was the Mandela Fellow at the WEB DuBois Research Institute, Hutchins Centre, Harvard University for 2014. Shose is one of the founding members and current chairperson of the UCT Black Academic Caucus.

The Challenges of Teaching and Programming for Decolonizing Community Psychology: Reflections from a Prolonged Colonial Context

Ibrahim Makkawi
Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Birzeit University,Palestine

Teaching and programming for decolonizing community psychology as critical and liberatory praxis, which receives inadequate support in colonial contexts, are systematically thwarted by a complex system of entwined reactionary forces entrenched in the colonial condition itself. Following the decolonizing turn in the social sciences as well as in parts of psychology, I intend to discuss similarities and differences in the experiences of those who have attempted to enact decolonizing modes of community psychology in Latin America, South Africa and Palestine despite the limited institutional support. As part of my reflections on the Latin American and South African experiences, I will draw on my reading of the literature and deep collaborations and discussions with colleagues working in these contexts. I will offer specific and detailed reflections on my personal experiences of teaching and programming for decolonizing community psychology in Palestine.

Across the contextualized focus on similarities and differences, among other issues, I will highlight: the theoretical and epistemological roots of anti-(colonial) psychology; the relationship between academic psychology and anti-colonial liberation movements, and contemporary challenges to enactments of decolonized psychologies, as entrenched in the current phase of globalization and western capitalist hegemony. By way of reaffirming the global significance of the slogan “the personal is political”, I will also unpack particular challenges and obstacles encountered in the process of teaching and programming for decolonizing community psychology in the Palestinian context and elsewhere. In conclusion, I will suggest that unless framed and connected to the context and exigencies of broader anti-colonial and national liberation movements, decolonizing approaches to teaching, programming and enacting community psychology have minimum chances to survive and thrive.

Ibrahim Makkawi is an Associate Professor of psychology at Birzeit University, Palestine. He led the development of the Masters Program in Community Psychology at Birzeit University and served as its founding director (2009-2013).He convened and chaired the first International Community Psychology Conference: Global Perspectives Local Practices at Birzeit University (May, 2013). His research interests focus on collective-national identity development and collective resistance in colonial contexts, liberatory and decolonizing community psychology, critical pedagogy, and students’ collective-national identity development under prolonged colonial conditions.