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Title: Critical psychology in the Arab world Insights from critical community psychology in the Palestinian colonial context
Authors: Makkawi, Ibrahim
Keywords: Critical psychology - Arab countries
Psychology and colonialism - Arab countries
Israel - Politics and government
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: The main argument of this paper is informed by the realization that, despite its significance as critical alternative to colonial psychology, out of all branches of academic Western mainstream psychology taught in Arab and Palestinian universities, community psychology as a sub-discipline is noticeably marginalized and under-recognized. Community psychology has a formative quality and the potential to make contributions to the emancipation and liberation of marginalized communities, as opposed to many problematic forms of historical and contemporary enactments of mainstream colonial psychology in the Arab World (Makkawi 2009; Soueif and Ahmed 2001). Following a historical trend in postcolonial situations, universities in the Arab World continue to import and uncritically apply Western constructions of knowledge, including psychology, and the intellectual legacy of European colonialism continues to dominate these academic institutions (Abouchedid 2006). This intellectual hegemony of colonial knowledge in Arab universities renders the enactment of critical psychology in general and community psychology in particular – both in academe and in community settings – a challenging undertaking. In this paper, I draw upon an emerging program of critical community psychology at Birzeit University in Palestine, arguing that envisioning critical psychology in the Arab World in general is better conceived through critical community psychology as an emerging alternative to colonial psychology. There is no formally recorded history of the inception of community psychology in Palestine. However, early manifestations of community psychology in the Palestinian colonial context can be traced back to various phases of community grassroots organizing and action during the anti-colonial struggle for self-determination. The vision and praxis of the newly established master’s program in community psychology at Birzeit University evolved from and were inspired by earlier forms of community grassroots action during the first Palestinian Intifada in the occupied West Bank and Gaza (WBG) in 1987. While this paper highlights the recently developed master’s program in community psychology as an exemplar of critical psychology in the Arab World, I focus on the roots of community psychology in the Palestinian community long before its formal academic inception. I start by describing the colonial condition in Palestine with particular attention to the occupied WBG, where this specific case of community psychology enactment is being implemented. The focus is placed on academic psychology and the legacy of colonial knowledge inherited
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