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Psychology of decolonisation: How may a coloniser contribute to decolonising change?


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In advocating and theorising decolonisation, writers have largely focused on processes undertaken by the colonised and oppressed (Freire, 1975; Smith, 1999) rather than those undertaken by the coloniser. Although coloniser groups are often called upon to theorise their own processes of change (Kessaris, 2006), such responses are seldom found in psychological writing. Social movements, on the other hand, have targeted the dominant Anglophone group in former British colonies such as Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and have developed ideological and psychological interventions for change. So how may the work of social movements help to theorise the contribution of the coloniser to decolonisation work?

This paper presents findings of two studies undertaken recently with Pakeha in the anti-racism and Treaty movement in Aotearoa New Zealand. Responding to requests from indigenous Maori, the Treaty educational movement has worked in community and organisational settings with the dominant Pakeha settler group to ‘honour the Treaty’ for harmonious settlement. Key interventions used by Treaty educators are (i) revisiting colonial history from an indigenous standpoint (ii) encouraging a sense of collective responsibility for dominant cultural/institutional forms and (iii) encouraging collective action by Pakeha in mutual agreement with Maori groups. Using a participatory action approach, fifty educators were invited to articulate theory about how they themselves and their target groups change. To provide evidence of the effect of such interventions, sixteen organisations were invited to recount their experiences of Treaty-focused change over 20 years. Their accounts were analysed using a critical discursive approach.

Key social-psychological elements in decolonising change were emotional responses to new learning and collective cultural change work among the coloniser group. Further critical psychological steps in the process were actively affirming indigenous authority and striving towards a mutually agreed relationship with indigenous groups.

These innovative contributions to psychological theory in the area of decolonisation will be discussed in relation to community, social and cultural psychology. Practice implications for educational and organisational work in New Zealand and Australia will also be drawn out.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: Conference held 11-16 July, 2010, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Uncontrolled Keywords: psychology of coloniser decolonisation, emergent decolonisation theory, coloniser indigenous relationships, Treaty of Waitangi education, emotions in social change
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Development
Depositing User: Ingrid Huygens
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2011 23:50
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 02:33

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