Liberation Psychology: 25 years on. A poem for Ignacio Martín-Baró

Lambs of God
(for my professor Ignacio Martín-Baró, written by Eugenia Castro)
The silence of the night
was broken in pieces
by the engines of the Cherokees.
The ground was trembling
with horror and grief
at malign and evil steps
The grass tried to stop them!
and impotent flowers screamed
calling help from heaven…
Shut up!!!
Angered boots squashed them
and a scarf of silence
covered the petals on the ground.
A cry of sorrow came from the trees
saying as a chorus:
You do not belong to us,
bloody thief, you robbed
my colors, colors of life.
They did not stop;
blind and deaf by the flag
dumb and brutalized by the march,
drugged by warrior words,
legacy from Malinche and Ladino past.
The door was raped.
without defence let them pass
the nightmare begun:
Time-space, space-reason
reason-time, space-time.
People’s chorus
Question answered ever since,
question answered by Arnulfo
to the wing – from East to West.
Answer known by all.
Answer given by the 7 lambs.
The other chorus:
The master plan was in time.
-American watches are exact-
you know how famous these watches are.
You know time is money,
and money is never enough.
Who are you on my road?!
A repeated story, started again:
The Antithesis against Lambs.
Darkness against light and brightness.
Aliens against kind Masters.
Violence against non-violence.
A repeated story ended again,
again, again, again… and again.
The day was over…
new Martyrs from the Calvary
as splinters in our hearts.
We are with you loved Lambs
God’s people, Lambs of God.
Con una rafaga de tiros ellos silenciaron tus labios Padre Nacho,
mas nosotros siguimos contigo cantando y gritando
“Tu sabes que esto no es justo”
Padre Nacho, with a spray of bullets they silenced your lips
but we continue with you; singing and screaming:
“You know this is not right”. 

Ana Eugenia Castro is a psychologist from EL Salvador, who lives and works in Australia. Her approach is within the social psychology of liberation and integrates different therapies, including existential, systemic, and creative arts-based approaches.

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Liberation Psychology: 25 years on. Some further materials.

1) On our videos page, we have added an audio recording of an interview with Martín-Baró from 1988.  In it he speaks of the circumstances under which he was working, including a wider political analysis of the Salvadorean conflict, the impact of torture and repression, and his survival of terrorist attacks on the University.  Thanks to Brinton Lykes for making this available.

2) Brinton is also the co-founder of the Martín-Baró Fund, which makes funding available to “grassroots groups throughout the world who are challenging institutional repression and confronting the mental health consequences of violence and injustice in their communities.”  Their current newsletter “The Just Word” has several articles (including a rare piece in English byElizabeth Lira from Chile) about Nacho and his impact, you can download it here.

3) Bruce Levine, another network member has also published an article to mark the 25th anniversary of Martín-Baró’s murder.  He reflects on the collusion of the American (sic) Psychological Association with the torture programme in occupied Guantánamo, (depicted in this film) noting that

“Liberation psychology – which Martin-Baró helped popularize – challenges adjustment to an unjust societal status quo and energizes oppressed people to resist injustices.”

You can read Bruce’s piece in “Truth Out” here.

4) Finally, about 12 years ago, when, with some difficulty, I got my copies of the two Cover A and Ivolumes of Martín-Baró’s “Psicología desde Centroamérica”, I translated the prologues and summaries for my own use.  A revised version of my translation of the Prologue to volume 1, “Acción e Ideología” is available on request.  This prologue gives a very clear account of his project to reconstruct social psychology, from the perspective of the peoples of Central America.  Please treat these notes for what they are, an initial translation without any review or other checks.  It is a great shame that more of Nacho’s work has not been translated into other languages to give a wider audience access to the breadth and depth of his work.  The translation is available, HERE, for personal use.

 

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Liberation Psychology: 25 years on. Imagining Ignacio Martín-Baró and Steve Bantu Biko in conversation.

IMAGINING IGNACIO MARTIN-BARO AND STEVE BANTU BIKO IN CONVERSATION ABOUT IMAGINATION – Mohamed Seedat

Ignacio Martín-Baró and Steve Bantu Biko
Ignacio Martín-Baró and Steve Bantu Biko

Today, 16 November marks the 25th anniversary of the killing of Ignacio Martín-Baró, the founder of Liberation Psychology in Latin America, along with 5 other priest-academics and two women workers by the Salvadorean army at their residence on the campus of the Unversidad de Centroamérica, San Salvador.  It is fitting that today we bring you a typically beautifully written piece by Mohamed Seedat, in which he draws parallels between the work of Martín-Baró and Steve Biko, prominent leader in the Black Consciousness movement in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Mohamed himself wrote a landmark piece (1) in which he independently set out the principles of a liberation psychology in the context of his region.  Although I had known of his work for some years, it seems harshly appropriate that I should have met him for the first time last year in occupied Palestine, where all the practices of racist domination, and resistance, are there to witness.  The tools that Nacho and Steve left us are there to use in the many regions, countries, towns, villages and micro-spaces where oppression is the daily reality, and resistance is everyday praxis.  He particularly focusses on the reproduction of the daily practices of exclusion of the ‘other’, by those in positions of relative power in post-colonial societies like South Africa, noting the emotional labour required of the oppressed to do simple things like make use of public services – although I was reminded of the way class oppression operates in many of my own country’s public service systems.

As Mohamed notes,

“For Martín-Baró and Biko social transformation and liberation were about confronting exclusionary social structures and dehumanizing policies as well as internalized oppressive scripts, structured by dominant ideologies and discourses of superiority…..

“I return to imagining Biko and Martín-Baró in deep conversation to help us make sense of the raging anger, the burnings and the crass markers of success entrenched and perpetuated by the ruling and economic elites in post-colonial societies? They ponder: what are our people really burning? What is the psychology of the post-colonial elite that reproduces dominance with the support of the ruling and avaricious classes in Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing? What should people struggling for freedom in all its forms really burn and what is worth igniting, preserving and growing? “

You can read the full piece HERE

Mohamed Seedat holds several positions at the University of South Africa, Pretoria (details in the article’s footnote).  He and his colleagues will be hosting the 6th International Congress of Community Psychology in 2016.

reference
(1) Seedat, M. (1997). The quest for liberatory psychology. South African Journal of Psychology, 27(4), 261–270. doi:10.1177/008124639702700410

Mark Burton, 16 November, 2014 (file updated with corrections, 19/11/14)

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Liberation Psychology: 25 years on. Ignacio Martín Baró’s example and its impact.

pic for Taiwo's piece

The People Need Homes: Focus E15 Mothers struggle for the right to decent affordable housing in London where poor people are being ‘priced out’ by the logic of the housing price bubble market.

Here is the second in our series of pieces to commemorate the murder of Ignacio Martín Baró in November, 1989.  It is by Taiwo Afuape who is a  clinical psychologist and systemic therapist working in mental health services for children and for adults where she lives, in London.  She reflects on what Martín Baró and Liberation Psychology means for her, linking this to contemporary social, political and economic struggles in the UK where despite being a rich country we have extreme and increasing inequality, exploitation and oppression while helping inflict these things on other regions.  Taiwo makes particular reference to her Nigerian heritage and her family, reminding us that the personal is politics, just as the psychological is also political, while the political is both personal and psychological too.

Read Taiwo’s piece HERE

This month also sees the appearance of an article by Wayne Dykstra Liberation psychology – a history for the future.  Wayne, who comes from the United States, but is researching Liberation Psychology’s diffusion in Dublin, particularly focusses on the solidarity extended to Martín Baró and the Salvadorian struggle by a number of North American psychologists, including Adrianne Aron who provided the first piece in libpsy.org’s 25 years on series.  At our request the piece has been made open access.

Also in that issue is a very interesting set of articles on Turkish social psychologist Muzafer Sherif, and his collaborator Carolyn Sherif.  Like Martín Baró, Sherif sought to construct a non-individualistic social psychology, relating human action not to some internal ‘human nature’ but to the social context, itself constructed historically.  The articles, also openly accessible, give some important background information on Sherif and his work, in the context of struggles against fascism and rampant capitalism. See:  Camps, conflict and collectivism;  The unknown Muzafer Sherif and The view from the boys. Retrieving Sherif’s seminal work is very relevant to today’s development of a truly social psychology – one that liberates and is itself liberated.

 

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Liberation Psychology: 25 years on. What does music have to do with it?

Ignacio Martín Baró and Woody Guthrie with guitarsHere is the first contribution to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of Ignacio Martín Baró’s murder on 16 November, 1989.

It is fitting that it comes from Adrianne Aron, who with Shawn Corne, edited  Writings for a Liberation Psychology (1996) the only English language collection of Martín Baró’s writings.  She practices psychology in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, USA and more recently her Introduction to PEDRO AND THE CAPTAIN (Cadmus, 2009) describes work with torture survivors as approached by liberation psychology. PEDRO is an English translation of Mario Benedetti’s play, PEDRO Y EL CAPITAN, a dramatic dialogue between a torturer and his victim.

In her piece Adrianne reflects on the role of music in Martín Baró’s life and perspective, a reminder of the importance of cultural endeavour in both life and liberation.  I did not have the fortune to meet and know him, but I have heard about his singing from others who did, and at the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” in San Salvador, where he lived and was killed I was interested to see this picture in a colleague’s office, which appears above with one of Woody Guthrie whose songs have been a great influence for Adrianne.

Others have promised pieces to mark this sad event, both to remember and to look ahead, and they will appear here.

Read Adrianne Aron;s piece “What does music have to do with it?” here

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24 Years

It was 24 years ago today, 16 November, 1989, that members of the Atlacatl battalion of the Salvadorian army entered the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador and murdered 8 people.

Commemorative placards at the UCA (from http://aquiescribo.wordpress.com)

They were Elba Ramos and her 16 year old daughter Celina Ramos, and 6 Jesuit academics, among them Ignacio Martín-Baró, the inspirational figure for Liberation Psychology.

We don’t dwell in the past, and thankfully El Salvador today has one of the better governments in Latin America, the FMLN, although the extreme right remains a powerful force, a threat limiting the pace of reform.  However, it is important to remember those events, and to recognise that standing firm against oppression can have consequences.

Ignacio Martín-Baró has not been the only psychologist to have been killed as a consequence of his work and commitment.  We fear that some young psychologists in Mexico met a similar fate last year.  In Haiti, the community worker and human rights activist, also a psychologist, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was disappeared in August 2007.  And there have been others.  Elsewhere socially committed psychological workers are being sacked or otherwise marginalised as universities and other bodies strive to meet the requirements of the dominant system of value extraction and commercialisation.

In one more year it will be a quarter of a century since Martín-Baró’s death.  What a fitting memorial it would be if in 12 months time we can show that the tide can be turned: that psychology can be a force for liberation, helping to construct new, liberatory social relations and a better world where people live in harmony with one another and the natural world.

Mark Burton

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