NTUs Dr Deanne Bell explains the need for standing up for equality

NTU's Dr Deanne Bell explains the need for standing up for equality

 August 08, 2023

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Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Associate Professor of Critical Psychology and Decolonial Studies, Dr Deanne Bell, discusses the importance of standing up for equality, and decolonialising society.

Political and social change 

NTU Deanne Bell

Before embarking on her research journey, Deanne was a stockbroker, an investment banker and an entrepreneur. "I became part of Jamaicans for Justice - a non-governmental human rights and social justice organisation based in Jamaica. Their important work focuses on political and social change, but it didn’t explore or analyse the role our psychological life plays in the way society is structured," she says. 

"I’d never thought about doing a PhD, but while studying a Master’s degree in Depth Psychology with a focus on critical community psychology, liberation psychology and ecopsychology, I encountered the works of writers and philosophers Frantz Fanon, Albert Memmi and Aimé Césaire. I realised that there were ideas out there that could help me understand why racism and classism felt so wrong to me, and how they can be transformed. This is what eventually led me to complete a PhD in this area. The field of critical community psychology explores political and radical responses to creating a better society, and demands that we should all become aware of the influence of colonial power in creating and maintaining our unjust social conditions. The field of liberation psychology offers an approach that aims to actively understand the psychology of oppressed and impoverished communities by addressing the oppressive socio-political structure in which they exist."

Tteaching and learning from a pluriversal perspective

NTU Deanne Bell

Today, Deanne's research tackles how to go from where we are – which is where most of the world experiences themselves as inferior in the world of coloniality – to an anticolonial world. She explores how colonial racism and classism damage human beings, both psychologically and socially.

"We see the effects of coloniality in higher education itself, so I also take a decolonial perspective to explore how students experience what is called the ‘attainment gap’ - which are inequalities between people from different socioeconomic backgrounds in the westernised education system," shares Deanne.

"I also conduct research into how Westernised universities can be decolonised so that we can move away from teaching and learning from the monocultural EuroAmerican perspective to teaching and learning from a pluriversal perspective. Knowledge of Western and European origin is believed to be superior, and other kinds of knowledge are considered to be less valuable. Through my research, I am actively contributing to changing this belief."

Investigating colonial difference 

Deanne also investigates people’s colonial indifference, or apathy, in relation to the pain and suffering experienced by historically marginalised people as a result of coloniality. This work explores how coloniality moves from the social world inward, finding its way into psychological life, and how indifference towards other people’s pain becomes internalised.

"An example of my work is the project, Tivoli Stories. This is a platform for residents of Jamaica’s Tivoli Gardens to memorialise loved ones and to break historical silences following a state of emergency and incursion into the community in 2010. In May 2010, the government of Jamaica sent security forces into Tivoli Gardens in response to an extradition request for Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, a community member wanted for drug and money laundering charges in the USA. In four days, more than 70 civilians were killed – the single largest number of civilians killed by the state since the post-war slavery rebellion in 1865," says Deanne.

"At the request of the community, we produced the film: Four Days in May: Kingston 2010 to tell their story and to catalyse an international response to the community’s suffering. Framed as a truth and memory project, 'we centre the voices of people in the community to build an archive of memory so that their story can be told on their terms. We also created a multimedia art installation: Bearing Witness: Four Days in Kingston, as another way for the community to have their stories heard."

Research has taken Deanne from being a bystander to coloniality to interrogating how it affects people’s lives. "It has transformed my silence into voice, and it has 'given me a chance to analyse the violence of coloniality," she shares.

"I believe in the power of decolonising knowledge through research. The most meaningful affirmations of my work come from people sharing how their understanding of the world has opened up during research encounters and in feedback to my published work."

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