BME psychology

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Psychology: A history of racism

Psychology has a racist history. There are many examples: how the British Psychological Society’s early presidents had explicit ties to the eugenics movement. Or how Black civil rights activists were forcibly incarcerated under the pretense they were schizophrenic and “paronoid against the police” (Metzl, 2011). Or how intelligence research by psychologists was originally used to show Black people and immigrants should not have the same legal, political or social rights as more intelligent whites (see Phillippe Rushton’s work published in 1990 by The Psychologist).

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Psychology’s racism today
Those of us in psychology today must be careful not to relegate our discipline’s racism to the past. Psychology still has a problem with racism. The people we include in our research, the authors and editors of journal articles we set are overwhelmingly White (Arnett, 2008; Heinrich, 2010).

Our reading that we set also tends to be overwhelming white, western and male (Jankowski et al., in prep). The problems with this should be obvious. With this reading, we’re overlooking BME psychologist’s work, we’re teaching content that is less likely to show how racism relates to health, development or our social world (or any of the stuff psychology professes to explain) and more simply we are not teaching the psychology of people but the psychology of white, western (and often male) people.

The ethnicity of the authors of the reading we set in our courses is only one proxy for racism in our discpline. Tokenistically including a reading because it is authored by a BME psychologist in our course is not enough. Our teaching of psychology needs to incorporate racism and its intersecting opressions into the curriculum that we teach. We will never be able to explain how people stay healthy or how a child develops or how mental health problems are caused without attending to structural oppressions like racism.

The BME Psychology website

Myself and other Leeds Beckett colleagues have therefore set up a website signposting to BME psychological and anti-racist work. We know this is only one small step towards reducing racism in and beyond our discipline. And so we need help. If you know any of the many BME psychologists we have doubtlessly missed, please add them to our archive. If you are willing to share anti-racist teaching materials or would like to use them then please do.

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6 reasons why we have an International Women’s Day

~Glen Jankowski
As critical psychologists, we need to be critical of sexism. Days like International Working Women’s Day remind us of the importance of feminism. Here’s 6 other reasons why we need International Women’s Day.
@EmmaKennedy

1) Because men are assumed to be default persons. This ‘Male as default’ assumption can be seen in the above where Judi Dench and J K Rowling only count as ‘women’ but Ricky Gervais and Ian McEwan get to be ‘author’s’ and ‘comedians’ Source: @ Emma Kennedy
More examples here:

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2) Because of how sexist popular representations of women are. Including in video games and comics. This Gender Flipping example shows us how male superheroes would look like if they were treated like female superheroes Source: http://junkee.com/flip-it-and-reverse-it-how-to-fight-the-gender-wars/15081

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3) Because lots of research shows men are more likely to interrupt, patronize and ignore women in everyday conversations. And yes this happens in academia. The above image shows mansplaining on Twitter where a man corrects a woman on an article that she wrote.  Continue reading

Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMiP) conference – a safe space for qual researchers (immediately before ISCHP 2017!)

By Sarah Riley, QMiP 2017 Conference Chair (edited by Gareth Treharne)

Details of conference: https://www.bps.org.uk/events/conferences/qualitative-methods-psychology-section-bi-annual-conference-2017

“Conferences are liturgical celebrations, affirmations of solidarity, symbolic spaces for those who speak a language (whether socialism or orthodontics) unintelligible to most of their fellow-humans, and who therefore need from time to time to relax with those of their own kind, as a cross-dresser might feel the gathering urge to withdraw from the world of the bank or bakery and ease into a pair of corsets” Terry Eagleton The Gatekeeper

Being amongst kind is important for all academics. But when it came to organising the British Psychology Society’s Qualitative Methods in Psychology (QMiP) conference in 2017 this need felt particularly salient. To this end, QMiP’s aims have been to provide a safe space as well as an exciting space.

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The post PhD-thesis-submission funk

By Aleksandra A Staneva; University of Queensland, Australia; a.staneva@uq.edu.au

It has been 1 month, 17 days, and 3 hours since I submitted my PhD thesis.

A PhD study involves an interesting and unexpectedly non-linear process. Non-linear, because it does not happen independently, in a vacuum; on the contrary, it happens while life unfolds with all its messiness. People move, die, give birth etc. whilst your PhD demands your time regardless.

The final stages of a PhD usually involve a ‘meta’ approach to everything. Everything you have discovered in order to not only synthesize, apply and polish the final product – the thesis, but also to make a contribution, to be able to answer the very first question that made you go for it in the first place: So what?

During the last month pre-submission, I played on repeat this song, “Technologic” by Daft Punk from their Human after All 2005 album. As I strangely spiraled down into the hypnotic tunes of command-like instructions, music kept me close to the fabric of the process and almost provided a sense of eternity. By the time I was swearing off Times New Roman, size 12, for life, I pressed SUBMIT. The 2 milliseconds of an action put an end to a 3 ½ years of a process. A gasp of relief, and a slight unfamiliar pain.

Oscar Wilde sums it up: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it!”. This is also known as the Summit Syndrome (Parsons & Pascale, 2007) referring to the flatness and depression usually experienced after finally having achieved something. In my case it came when I was asked: So what’s next for you?

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Some things that helped (me)

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Why write a blog post?

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to Dave Nicholls, Chair of the Critical Physiotherapy Network. The Critical Physiotherapy Network is an organisation which has a lot of synergies with ISCHP, and Dave and I met to discuss how our respective organisations managed membership and communication issues. In the course of our conversation, he commented about blog posts, how they are easy and quick to write, why people should do this more often, and why most people don’t. I took him up on this and asked him to write a post about it for our blog, which he promptly did. Thank you Dave, some very good advice for our members. If this inspires you to write for our blog (and it is meant to), then please write something and send it off to one of our blog editors or commissioning editors – their addresses can be found under the Blog Team menu). Thanks, Kerry Chamberlain.

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photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84567688@N00/480599953 License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

Please answer all questions on this paper.

Question 1.

A blog is:

  1. A personal web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis
  2. A badly written piece of banal drivel, written by someone craving the affirmation of others
  3. A revolutionary mode of postmodern peeragogy, democratizing the sharing and distribution of ideas and opinions
  4. All of the above, and more

It would be nice to think that the correct answer is 1 and 3, but you can’t really avoid badly written blogs if you allow for such a free and easy mode of personal expression.  To me, the fact that some blogs are poorly written doesn’t matter.  All that really matters is that ideas and opinions are being shared.

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Psychology and racism

This is a cross post from site editor Glen Jankowski on racism and psychology.

Body image, critical psychology and other stuff

Psychology’s whiteness
So people of colour aren’t really represented in psychology. Psychology tends to be done by  and on White Westerners (see below & Henrich et al., 2010Arnett , 2008).

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This follows a general trend in academia where the majority of research is published West (see Pawlik & Rosezweig, 2000).

Publication globally Pawlik & Rosenzweig 2000.pngThree problems with psychology’s Whiteness

1. First, psychology’s White bias has allowed psychology to focus on issues more relevant to White, Westerners. So for example, one group of psychologists, body image researchers, will criticize the fashion industry for its too-thin models but not that the models are nearly always White  or that the clothes the models are selling are made by people of colour in sweatshops.

2. Second, Psychology has sought to subdue Black people’s rational responses to racism as irrational. Drapetomania is the classic example, a mental disorder that Black slaves were proposed to have should they try…

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Psychologists Against Austerity – call for Everyday Austerity stories

We’re in the middle of a week of action against austerity led by Psychologists Against Austerity (PAA), are a group of psychologists that campaign against the UK government’s cuts to welfare and charity funding. PAA members use their knowledge on the evidence of the impact of austerity (see this recent review of austerity’s impact) as well as – for PAA clinicians – their knowledge of those with mental health problems – to demonstrate the increasing harm austerity is having on the UK population.

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In their report on their work and the impact of austerity they state for instance:

Austerity policies have damaging psychological costs. Mental health problems are being created in the present, and further problems are being stored for the future. We have identified five ‘Austerity Ailments’. These are specific ways in which austerity policies impact on mental health:
1. Humiliation and shame
2. Fear and distrust
3. Instability and insecurity
4. Isolation and loneliness
5. Being trapped and powerless

These experiences have been shown to increase mental health problems. Prolonged humiliation following a severe loss trebles the chance of being diagnosed with clinical depression. Job insecurity is as damaging for mental health as unemployment. Feeling trapped over the long term nearly trebles the chances of being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Low levels of trust increase the chance of being diagnosed with depression by nearly 50 per cent.

Part of their campaign invites stories of ‘everyday austerity’:

We would like to hear your stories about how the cuts have affected you and your service. We want the wider public and politicians to understand the real life costs of public sector cuts. It can be hard to speak up alone, so we are collating everyone’s stories – together we have more power and a louder voice. We all have stories of frustration, fear and anger, so please use this as a way to tell the world about how the cuts have impacted on you and/or the people you work with. We are interested in stories from everyone who works in, uses, or needs Psychology services.

We may use these stories in other contexts, such as publication and media.

A lot of the contributions are from clinicians and service users, and whilst these accounts are important, PAA recognize austerity affects everyone.

There is also a need to showcase the disproportionate impact of austerity on those affected by other injustices such as the disabled, people of colour and women. As critical psychologists we may be particularly able to do this, so please contribute a story if you have one. Other ways to support PAA can be found here.

What does ‘critical’ mean?

Charlotte Paddison reflects on what it means to be ‘critical’ in the context of health psychology.  Is this about being dismissive?  About being negative?  No, not at all!

Lecturing is great.  And not least of all because you get all sorts of interesting questions from students.   Recently, I was asked what does being ‘critical’ mean?

Being ‘critical’ can mean different things to different people, in different contexts.  The Oxford dictionary describes it as “expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgements” and “involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work.”  Neither of these quite fit the bill for describing critical perspectives in the context of health psychology.

In the course I teach on (Critical issues in Health Psychology), we talked about:

  • Reflexivity

Being willing to question our own value stance as researchers and practitioners, and to question the values and assumptions that underpin health psychology as a discipline

  • Inclusiveness

Value-driven approach that specifically seeks to act to improve health for those who are most disadvantaged

  • Asking questions of methods

This includes questions about choice and appropriateness of methods, and the assumptions about research and knowledge generation that unpin these choices

  • Who benefits?

Asking whose interests are being met by the research, who benefits, and conversely, which groups in society are ignored or overlooked

We also discussed the value of examining social and political aspects of health and health care, the analysis of power, and the value of researchers as ‘agents of social change’.

This description is, of course, both subjective and incomplete.  But maybe it is a helpful starting point?  Perhaps others will have ideas to add here, sharing their views of what constitutes ‘critical’ in health psychology – it would be great to share these!

Interested to learn more? 

Here are some useful resources:

  • Lyons, A.C., Chamberlain, K., (2006). Locating the field: Introducing health psychology. In Lyons, A.C., and Chamberlain, K., (Eds) Health Psychology: A critical introduction.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rohleder, P. (2012). Introduction: critical issues in clinical and health psychology.  In Rohleder, P. Critical issues in clinical and health psychology.  Sage: London.
  • Marks, D. F. (2002). Freedom, responsibility, and power: contrasting approaches to health psychology (editorial essay).  Journal of Health Psychology 7, 5 – 19.
  • Fox, D., Prilleltensky, I., & Austin, S. (Eds.) (2009). Critical psychology: An introduction (2nd edition).  London: Sage.

The regulation of the Black body – Marvina Newton’s Keynote at Gendered Bodies in Visible Spaces day

Marvina NewtonMarvina Newton is a Leeds-based activist who founded the charity Angels of Youth and is a board member of Nigerian Community Leeds. Her work focuses on helping diasdvantaged kids through community and participatory projects spanning justice issues such as climate change, racism, mental health issues and sexism. She gave a keynote at the Gendered Bodies in Visbile Spaces at Leeds Beckett University in June 2015 (see poster below). Her talk concerned the way in which Black women’s bodies are regulated including through skin bleaching and hair relaxing.

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Is there such a thing as mixed epistemology research?

Is there such a thing as mixed epistemology research?  ~Gareth Treharne (gtreharne@psy.otago.ac.nz)

Mixed methods research is a well-established feature of many fields of social science research, including health psychology (shameless plug: see Treharne & Riggs, 2014). That’s not to say that all social science researchers (or readers) value mixed methods research – indeed, the notion of mixing methods might be hotly debated by some critical health psychologists and lead them to ask questions such as:

By mixed methods, do you only mean a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods? Surely we should be more interested in innovative mixtures of qualitative methods?

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Martin Luther King: “I am proud to be maladjusted”.

The civil rights leader Martin Luther King addressed the American Psychological Association at UCLA in 1967 at the APA’s Washington Conference in 1967:

It is particularly a great privilege to discuss these issues with members of the academic community, who are constantly writing about and dealing with the problems that we face and who have the tremendous responsibility of molding the minds of young men and women all over the country.

In the speech he criticizes psychology for medicalizing African American rational discontent with poverty and racism as “maladjustment”. He points out that “he is proud to be maladjusted” to racism and poverty and that the “salvation of society is in the hands of the creatively maladjusted”.

Although I can not find the actual recording of his speech, he said similar in 1963 at Western Michigan University:

In his APA speech, King goes onto to specifically outline the role of social scientists role in civil rights and justice. Importantly he shows that Whiteness as well as racism must also be analysed:

If the Negro needs social sciences for direction and for self-understanding, the white society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject.

I think this is still very relevant to critical health psychologists and other social scientists.

Credits: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change; APA

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Mattel’s new Barbies aren’t so good for their sweatshops makers

This is a cross post from here

So this week Matel announced its range of 33 new Barbie dolls. There’s a tall Barbie, a curvy Barbie and a little Barbie. Curvy Barbie has thicker thighs and a slightly protruding stomach. The 33 dolls also have 7 skin tones between them, including a dark skinned Black Barbie with natural hair. Progress? Not for the women making them.

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Image: Mattel/EPA

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“These Things”: An example of using creative methods in critical health research

by David Carless and Kitrina Douglas

“These Things” was written following an ethnographic research project, commissioned by the Addiction Recovery Agency and St Monica Trust, that sought to understand the experiences of residents and support staff of an urban local authority “elderly preferred” housing scheme. The scheme contained twenty-five self-contained flats, grouped under one roof, sharing an entrance, corridors, washing and communal room. The residents, aged 50 and over, comprised a diverse range of nationalities who had come to the housing scheme through varied and often complex life events. The support staff, a small group of female carers and mobile wardens, were charged with the responsibility of meeting residents care and support needs and maintaining the building. The research took place in the wake of a major recession and unprecedented cuts to services with the future of the housing scheme – along with the homes of the residents and livelihoods of the support staff – hanging in the balance.

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Why I use pictures of my cats in presentations: Gareth Treharne

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I love the internet because it contains an endless supply of articles to read and pictures of cats to share. If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook or have ever heard me give a talk you’ll probably be more familiar with my cats than my writing. Cats make me happy. Oh, and writing does too. We all have things that can make us happy, even the cynics and the stressed amongst us I hope. But you may ask what have cats and the transient affect of happiness got to do with critical health psychology?
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