From Mad in America: Psychologist Mvikeli Ncube from the University of Arden in the UK has written an article calling for the decolonization of psychology. Decolonization is the process of reversing the effects of colonization of a country or region. This includes the political, cultural, social, and economic influences of another country.
In Psychology, decolonization means questioning the knowledge of the colonizer and focusing on the views, ideas, and knowledge of the colonized – the local people. These local perspectives and ways of life were often suppressed during colonization.
The author writes that decolonization is necessary to deal with the harm done to local communities in the Global South (includes South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan). He says that psychology should be seen from the viewpoint of the people living in the local areas, instead of only using ideas from far-away places like Europe, Canada, and the United States (Global North).
Right now, a lot of psychology in the Global South is influenced by the ideas that came when these countries were colonized. The effects of colonization are still there. For example, in many of the countries in the Global North people do not sleep in the same bed with their babies and so psychology considers it wrong and unhealthy to sleep in the same bed with babies. However, new UN guidelines and research from across the world shows that sleeping next to your babies is healthy, safe, and even good for their growth.
The Global North has exported its concepts of psychology and psychiatry worldwide. They take it for granted that findings from Western populations, like US college students, apply to everyone in the world. Ncube asks researchers in the Global South to see the harmful impact of Western knowledge and conduct their own research to counteract these effects.
The Movement for Global Mental Health is a world-wide movement that wants to bring Psychology to the whole world. But many researchers and writers have criticized this as Psychology does not understand most of the cultures it wants to help. For example, most Psychology is built around the nuclear family (mother, father, and children living in the same house). However, most of the world actually has joint/extended families. So, the things Psychology considers normal and healthy don’t apply to these families and communities.
Ncube writes that we shouldn’t just accept ideas from Europe and the United States as the only right ones. What we consider to be true and fair isn’t always objective and fair for everyone. Psychology has portrayed people in the Global South as lesser– from intelligence to personality to cognitive skills.
The current psychology either ignores and ridicules other ways of understanding things, especially those from the Global South. Ncube says we shouldn’t just accept Western ideas without thinking critically about them. Instead, we should come up with new and bold ideas that challenge power imbalances, exploitation, politics, and unfairness in mainstream psychological research.
Ncube believes that researchers from the Global South can challenge the power of Global North psychology by valuing their own ways of understanding things and doing research that shows the problems with the current ways. This will help everyone have a better understanding of the world and promote freedom and fairness for all.
This article originally appeared in Mad in America and can be read here.
This is an AI generated version shortened and edited for a South Asian audience.