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      Activism in Changing Times: Reinvigorating Community Psychology – Introduction to the Special Thematic Section


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          The field of community psychology has for decades concerned itself with the theory and practice of bottom-up emancipatory efforts to tackle health inequalities and other social injustices, often assuming a consensus around values of equality, tolerance and human rights. However, recent global socio-political shifts, particularly the individualisation of neoliberalism and the rise of intolerant, exclusionary politics, have shaken those assumptions, creating what many perceive to be exceptionally hostile conditions for emancipatory activism. This special thematic section brings together a diverse series of articles which address how health and social justice activists are responding to contemporary conditions, in the interest of re-invigorating community psychology’s contribution to emancipatory efforts. The current article introduces our collective conceptualisation of these ‘changing times’, the challenges they pose, and four openings offered by the collection of articles. Firstly, against the backdrop of neoliberal hegemony, these articles argue for a return to community psychology’s core principle of relationality. Secondly, articles identify novel sources of disruptive community agency, in the resistant identities of nonconformist groups, and new, technologically-mediated communicative relations. Thirdly, articles prompt a critical reflection on the potentials and tensions of scholar-activist-community relationships. Fourthly, and collectively, the articles inspire a politics of hope rather than of despair. Building on the creativity of the activists and authors represented in this special section, we conclude that the environment of neoliberal individualism and intolerance, rather than rendering community psychology outdated, serves to re-invigorate its core commitment to relationality, and to a bold and combative scholar-activism.

          Translated abstract

          Por décadas, el campo de la psicología comunitaria se ha preocupado por aspectos teóricos y prácticos del esfuerzo emancipatorio para enfrentar desigualdades en salud y otras injusticias, muchas veces asumiendo un consenso en torno a valores como la igualdad, la tolerancia y los derechos humanos. Sin embargo, cambios socio-políticos recientes, particularmente la fuerza individualizadora del neoliberalismo y el auge de políticas exclusionarias e intolerantes, han conmovido esas asunciones, creando lo que muchos perciben como un escenario excepcionalmente hostil para el activismo emancipatorio. Esta sección especial reúne una serie diversa de artículos orientados a entender la forma en que activistas en salud y justicia social están respondiendo a las condiciones contemporáneas, con el interés de darle un nuevo ímpetu a la contribución de la psicología comunitaria a estos esfuerzos emancipatorio. Este artículo introduce nuestra conceptualización colectiva de estos 'tiempo cambiantes', los desafíos que ellos introducen and cuatro aperturas ofrecidas por la colección de artículos. En primer lugar, en un contexto de hegemonía neoliberal, estos artículos llaman a un retorno al núcleo relacional de la psicología comunitaria. En segundo lugar, ellos identifican fuentes nuevas de agencia comunitaria disruptiva, en las identidades resistentes, en los grupos no-conformes y en las nuevas relaciones comunicativas mediadas por la tecnología. En tercer lugar, los artículos empujan una reflexión crítica sobre los potenciales y tensiones de la relación entre academia, activismo y comunidad. En cuarto lugar, y de forma colectiva, los artículos inspiran una política de la esperanza, mas que una de la desesperación. Construyendo sobre la creatividad de activistas y autores representados en esta sección especial, concluimos que este escenario socio-político marcado por el individualismo neoliberal y la intolerancia no vuelven obsoleta a la psicología comunitaria sino que sirve para fortalecer su compromiso esencial con la relacionalidad, y con un activismo radical y combativo.

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          Most cited references29

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          The role of communities in advancing the goals of the Movement for Global Mental Health.

          This special section of Transcultural Psychiatry explores the local-global spaces of engagement being opened up by the Movement for Global Mental Health, with particular emphasis on the need for expanded engagement with local communities. Currently the Movement places its main emphasis on scaling up mental health services and advocating for the rights of the mentally ill, framed within universalised western understandings of health, healing and personhood. The papers in this section emphasise the need for greater attention to the impacts of context, culture and local survival strategies on peoples' responses to adversity and illness, greater acknowledgement of the agency and resilience of vulnerable communities and increased attention to the way in which power inequalities and social injustices frame peoples' opportunities for mental health. In this Introduction, we highlight ways in which greater community involvement opens up possibilities for tackling each of these challenges. Drawing on community health psychology, we outline our conceptualisation of "community mental health competence" defined as the ability of community members to work collectively to facilitate more effective prevention, care, treatment and advocacy. We highlight the roles of multi-level dialogue, critical thinking and partnerships in facilitating both the "voice" of vulnerable communities as well as "receptive social environments" where powerful groups are willing to recognise communities' needs and assist them in working for improved well-being. Respectful local-global alliances have a key role to play in this process. The integration of local community struggles for mental health into an energetic global activist Movement opens up exciting possibilities for translating the Movement's calls for improved global mental health from rhetoric to reality.
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            Community health psychology: promoting analysis and action for social change.

            Community health psychology is concerned with the theory and method of working with communities to combat disease and to promote health. This introductory article outlines key assumptions and debates underlying this area of research and practice-in the interests of framing the papers in this special edition of the Journal of Health Psychology. Attention is given to the value of emphasizing the community level of analysis and action; the role of collective action in improving health; psycho-social mediatiors between community participation and health; and the potential role of partnerships in creating 'healthy communities'. A distinction is made between 'accommodationist' and 'critical' perspectives, and the authors consider whether or not significant social change can come from community-level action.
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              Community mobilisation in the 21st century: updating our theory of social change?

              The article explores the Freirian theory of social change underpinning health-related community mobilisation in poor and marginalised communities. Highlighting potential shortcomings of its essentialist understandings of power and identity, and linear notions of change, it examines how lessons from the 'new left', and burgeoning global protest movements, can rejuvenate the field given the growing complexity of 21st-century social inequalities. It suggests the need for a pastiche of approaches to accommodate health struggles in different times and places. However, while needing some updating, Freire's profound and actionable understandings of the symbolic and material dimensions of social inequalities remain a powerful starting point for activism.

                Author and article information

                J Soc Polit Psych
                Journal of Social and Political Psychology
                J. Soc. Polit. Psych.
                21 December 2018
                : 6
                : 2
                : 526-542
                [a ]Department of Methodology, London School of Economics & Political Science , London, United Kingdom
                [b ]Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, London School of Economics & Political Science , London, United Kingdom
                [c ]Millennium Institute for Research on Depression and Personality, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile , Santiago, Chile
                Author notes
                [* ]Department of Methodology, London School of Economics & Political Science, Houghton St, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom. f.cornish@ 123456lse.ac.uk

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Self URI (journal-page): https://journals.psychopen.eu/
                Special Thematic Section on "Rethinking Health and Social Justice Activism in Changing Times"

                esperanza,health justice,agency,académico-activista,resistencia,activism,agencia,justiciar en salud,neoliberalism,justiciar social,relacionalidad,individualism,neoliberalismo,relationality,Activism,hope,social justice,scholar-activist,resistance


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