FAQ (En Español) scroll down
Each issue of the Journal will pose a Frequently Asked Question for discussion. The emphasis on discussion is based on the notion that questions are posed as starting points for dialogue and not for answers. In the spirit of the Journal as a format for interchange, there will be multiple conversation-initiators to each question. Reflections-discussions are first presented in English, followed by the Spanish translation. Readers are invited to post their responses to the question as well as their engagement with the initiating responses. Readers are also invited to pose questions for the FAQ section of future issues of the Journal. (To post, please scroll to the end of the page to the Comment box)
Question: “Is collaborative practice politically and socially just? If so, how?”
Conversation Initiators: Saliha Bava, Rocio Chaveste, Marsha McDonough and Papusa Molina
New York, New York, United States
Austin, Texas, United States
Rocio Chaveste and Papusa Molina
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
Marsha (to Harlene Anderson): Just wanted to let you know that I have been very moved and inspired by your latest Family Process article. I have reread it a few times since it came across my desk a few months ago. I appreciate your writing immensely. I am using the following quote at a presentation tomorrow at TPA:
“. . . we witness a forceful swelling plea from all corners of the world for democracy, social justice, and human rights. People want to participate, contribute, and share ownership. They demand respectful listening, responsiveness to their expressed needs, and to make the decisions regarding their lives. They refuse to be dismissed as numbers and categories, or to have their humanity violently dishonored and freedom suppressed.”
I am captivated by this quote and appreciate its clarity. In my presentation at TPA, I do not use the quote to portray you as a political person or as a social justice advocate because you do not portray yourself that way. My dilemma has been to be able to use this quote in a context that portrays your work for all that it is and for the potential it has to be useful in our complex world. Thanks again.
Harlene: Yes, you are correct, that I do not portray myself as having a political or social justice agenda. I do think, however, that it is both. Interestingly, this is a brief conversation that I have had with Saliha Bava and with Rocio Chaveste and Papusa Molina recently. I also have an article in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Politics. It was an article invited by the editor who was at a plenary that I gave in Sydney, Australia – he thought that my work was highly political and social justice oriented. I tweaked the article a bit for the journal but could not really do the topic justice because of a quick deadline. Thanks again for your comments
Marsha: Presentation went well. One critique of the quote from FP article, below, questioned whether or not “democracy”, “human rights”, “social justice” are dominant discourses or grand narratives. My response was, yes, and they are also open for critique as are all such “truths/narratives/discourses”, but I wondered who, if anyone, might be marginalized or oppressed by discourses of democracy, human rights, and social justice. I am still thinking about it, as I thought it was a good point to make.
All: Thanks Harlene for inviting us to submit these ideas to the International Journal of Collaborative Practices. We love this idea Harlene. This is an important perspective for us to engage as Collaborative practitioners. We would love to join this conversation…
Saliha: I think it is important for us to engage this conversation as often Collaborative Practices are not presented or received as having a political or social justice agenda and yet as you say Marsha it has potential to be useful in these ways. Marsha, I think you ask a very important question when you say “who, if anyone, might be marginalized or oppressed by discourses of democracy, human rights, and social justice.”
I agree that democracy, Human Rights and social justice are all grand narrative as well. And though we value these I don’t think they are not oppressive in a given local context. It’s the process of how we enact and live into these discourses that can make them potentially oppressive and marginalize people, especially as identified by the locals in those contexts. For instance, who defines democracy? And who does it serve when defined in a particular way? I think all of these discourses have the potential to lose the plurality of meaning, become monological (not unlike our understandings of collaboration.) It’s not only in the reification of these constructs but also in the process of exploring understanding that one can lose sight of the plurality and the potential of play/possibility that lies in the inherent process of social meaning-making. When we lose sight that all of these constructs will have local meaning and implement for instance the western view of democracy in the Arab spring world, that we run the risk of becoming oppressive. The answer is not in “rolling” out a plan rather in the joint inquiry of unpacking and engagement of processes. It is in the engagement that we create democracy, Human Rights and social justice. I think one of the differences is in approaching them as processes to be created vs goals/outcomes to be reached.
I’m curious what you think of my ideas….thanks for including me in this conversation, as it is very dear to me.
Rocio and Papusa: There are a couple of points on which we would like to reflect upon: one is the common definition of democracy: the rule of the majority. This definition in itself does not address the issues of what happens in relationship of the “minority” or marginalized groups. It is only when such groups of people reach the majority or organize themselves in order to be heard and listen, that their voices get included—seldom invited– in the dominant social discourse. Another reflection about the politics in Harlene´s philosophical stance, is that when we assume the “Not Knowing” position, not just in therapeutic/consulting/coaching approach and we take it to the political arena, we think it could invite us to subvert the traditional power position of the “leader” whoever/whatever he/she might be, and approach the situation from which the “leader” could be “led” by the “followers.”
These are from now some of our reflections. We would love to continue with the conversations and raising the question of the political implications of collaborative practices and Harlene’s work.
Marsha: Where or where not there might be room for touching on such grand narratives without being limited by them. Seems like you all have been talking about this and I would love to know more about your ideas.
Saliha: Can you please expand on your question?
Marsha: My question came from wondering if and how you, Papusa, and Rocio have previously talked together about your (Harlene) work possibly contributing to a more just world. I like Rocio’s and Papusa’s notion that traditional leadership is subverted through “not knowing” and other types of intentional positioning. I understand that we view “social justice” as another voice, identity, or perspective within conversations and relationships and that we can make room for that voice without force and in good time. We can attempt to facilitate a chorus of multiple voices, but are those who are poor, oppressed, and disenfranchised prepared to ask for the “justice” voice if we miss (or delay) making room for that voice? Should we, and how would we know when to, make room for the “voice” of social justice into our conversations and relationships with those whom we talk with about problems of living? Is “social justice” already an orienting position, inherent in collaborative philosophy and practice?
An example comes to mind. In the USA, persons identifying as a community of LGBT therapists, teachers, and scholars are seeking “LGBT-Affirming Therapy” for persons within their wider community who seek help from therapists. Their descriptions of “affirming” are vast and represent intense labors of love–writing volumes attempting to educate therapists outside their community about their culture, their language, and the terms of their oppression and disenfranchisement. The governing bodies of therapists and our training institutions offer “diversity” training through position papers, courses, and codes designed to teach us how to work effectively with “sexual minorities”. These are important and cannot be dismissed, but are they enough? My recent response to this is that these volumes seem like “frozen” words to me, as they teach us nothing about the “quality” of our relationships with LGBTQQI clients and say nothing about how to position ourselves in creative and generative partnership with them. Whose responsibility is it to call for something like “LGBT-Partnering” therapy, going beyond “affirming” toward challenging marginalization? And, if collaborative philosophy inherently aspires to do that, should we be in conversation about that with those who might benefit from it, and if so, when and how?
Hope this make a little bit of sense and that it invites the three of you to help me make more sense of what I am trying to say.
Papusa and Rocio: What would be the intention to establish such a conversation and from which position do we invite and look at such discourse in our practice? If we look at collaborative practices as emerging from a philosophical stance, then we wouldn’t privilege this discourse rather we would generate, in collaboration with the client the discourse that is useful.
This conversation is not over, is interrupted and we invite you as readers to continue it…
Saliha Bava, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Mercy College, New York, USA
Faculty, Houston Galveston Institute, Texas, USA
Associate, Taos Institute, USA
M.T.F. Rocio Chaveste Gutierrez, Ph.D.
Founder, Faculty and Supervisor, Instituto Kanankil
Faculty, Houston Galveston Institute
Associate, Taos Institute
Marsha McDonough, Ph.D.
Psychologist, Private Practice
Austin, Texas, USA
Maria Luisa “Papusa” Molina Lopez, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Faculty, Instituto Kanankil
Associate, Taos Institute
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