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


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.

(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)