Psychology & Society
Psychology & Society


Current Issue - August 2016

This special issue of Psychology & Society was guest edited by Gabriel Velez from the University of Chicago. This issue emerged in response to the revelations and public discourse surrounding the 2014 United States’ Senate Intelligence Committee’s report that implicated specific psychologists and the American Psychological Society as complicit in torture practices. While these connections are troubling, in many ways, social psychology supports the study and practice of human rights. To achieve this end, the current issue follows the special issue of Peace & Conflict: the Journal of Peace Psychology and includes a concluding commentary by that journal's editor, Fathali Moghaddam, that discusses the development of human rights and duties and its relation to change and violence. This issue provides an array of work occurring at the nexus of human rights and social psychology, with particular emphasis on the variety of methodologies and theories that can be employed to understand how human rights are understood, constructed, and enacted in social contexts. McFee demonstrates how a local-level social group constructs understandings of peace and future promise in relation to state discourses. Mazur analyzes geographical representation to argue for the importance of such constructions in human rights. Bertrand employs narrative analysis to explore youth meaning making amid governmental discourses of human rights. Canguçu Campinho, Sampaio Oliveira Lima, And Leone De Souza outline the process and importance of being attentive to human rights in producing psychological material for families with intersex children. Rafferty offers a human-rights based approach to constructing mental health supports for child victims of sex trafficking. Finally, Velez analyzes the construction of the child in human rights documents, and then demonstrates how social psychological theory offers a way to develop a more nuanced approach to child's rights. Each of these papers utilizes methodology and theory from social psychology to develop understandings of human rights in context and as socially constructed.



Introduction to the Special Issue: The Intersection of Psychology and Human Rights
GABRIEL VELEZ

The discipline of psychology has a rich history of investigating how humans relate to and treat each other. These topics include—but are not limited to—the social construction of the mind (Vytgotsky, 1978), intergroup relations (Tajfel & Turner, 1981), the emergence of group structures and norms (Festinger, Schachter, & Back, 1950) and power dynamics in interpersonal relations (Milgram, 1974). While these areas of inquiry are rooted in psychology’s foundations as a scholarly field, much of the theory emerged and matured in the latter half of the 20th century. The development thus coincided with the emergence and proliferation of human rights as an international discourse following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. Nevertheless, psychology and human rights have developed mostly in isolation, and only recently have researchers begun to explicitly situate their work at this intersection (Twose & Cohrs, 2015).

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The Contested Promise of Peace: Social Representations of Peace and the Posacuerdo Citizen-Subject in Colombia
ERIN MCFEE

Colombian President Santos’s government and the leftist guerrilla group, the FARC, have led three years of peace negotiations to end the half-century long internal conflict. Not surprisingly, “peace” and its significance have emerged as loci of debate in all sectors of political and social life. This work draws on hegemonic discourses and ethnographic research among conflict affected actors in the department of Caquetá in order to analyze a core site of contestation: the sequencing of peace in relation to other domains of sociopoliticial and economic well-being. I find that the state articulates these other areas of citizen life as contingent upon achieving peace, while citizens believe that peace will only come once there are changes in these other domains. I argue that competing representations in this domain comprise the processes through which key state actors work to set the terms for a very particular kind of Colombian posacuerdo subject.

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Where Were The Concentration Camps? The Porous Border Between Geography And Responsibility
LUCAS B. MAZUR

Within the context of war, the constructed nature of borders becomes acutely apparent, and assertions regarding geopolitical space become statements of ideology and collective ownership. Two studies examine how, when speaking about the location of genocidal mass murder, statements of geography influence assessments of collective responsibility. It was found that variations in reference to the geopolitical space in which the violence took place can differently influence how collective responsibility for these crimes is understood. Study 1 found that when Nazi concentration camps were said to have been in Poland, participants held Poland more responsible for the camps, and evaluated Poland and Poles more negatively (relative to when Poland was not mentioned). Study 2 found similar results when using visual representations of the location of Nazi German concentration camps and death camps on maps. Participants held Poland more responsible for the camps when Poland appeared on the map, particularly if it appeared on the map as would a sovereign nation. Implications of these findings for education, commemoration, and the cultivation of collective memory around genocide and mass violence are discussed.

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“The House of Young People”: The Role of Cultural Rights and Agency within Human Rights Intervention
CARLY OFFIDANI-BERTRAND

Over the past several decades Argentina has experienced increased human rights interventions from state and non-profit organizations that seek to address the economic and social consequences of collective trauma caused by a repressive dictatorship and extreme economic uncertainty (Brysk, 1993; Roniger & Sznajder, 1999). In Argentina human rights efforts have not focused exclusively on addressing abuses of individuals’ human rights, but also on repairing the damage done to social cohesion caused by a climate of fear and insecurity. I employ narrative analysis to explore the experiences of participants and employees in one state cultural center in order to analyze how state programs work to promote cultural rights as an alternative treatment to collective social trauma. Institutional efforts to promote human rights can enact limited changes in youths’ lives, but interventions may be constrained in their efforts to change individuals’ circumstances if they are not aligned with the culturally and developmentally specific notions of agency that participants hold, and will continue to have limited success without greater investment in improving the material conditions of youths’ lives.

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Human Rights and Gender Identity: The Process of Developing a Booklet For Families of Intersex Children
ANA KARINA CANGUÇU-CAMPINHO, ISABEL MARIA SAMPAIO OLIVEIRA LIMA, & ANDREA SANTANA LEONE DE SOUZA

Amongst the various challenges faced while studying intersex matters, there is the defiant discussion of sexuality and gender. In this special issue there are certain dimensions of wholeness and integrity of the individual which cannot be ignored. One of these dimensions is the approach in human rights. However, every intersex child’s birth confronts the family and the multidisciplinary team with a sticky situation. This article aims to analyze the process of developing a booklet for families with intersex children. The methodology of this article draws upon the collection of graduate research procedures for the development of the content. The interviews done in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil with intersex youth and adults, their families, health and social service agents such as psychologists and legal professionals were gathered together to create the booklet. The booklet is a mild form of communication for families of intersex children introducing them to scientific information. This work paves the way for further discussions concerning the principles of human rights and of the psychologist's role in its provision. Future directions include a matrix that fills the training practice and the research—an approach of professional experience in a mostly interdisciplinary perspective—with the family. Facing the challenges of the family with an intersexed child, the involvement of a psychologist in an interdisciplinary team is decisive and irreplaceable.

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Trauma as an Outcome of Child Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation: A Human Rights-Based Perspective
YVONNE RAFFERTY

The trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) is a human-rights violation, with serious consequences for the psychosocial well-being of victims. This paper highlights the human rights-based approach (HRBA) to the recovery and (re)integration of children who have been traumatized as a result of being trafficked for CSE. The literature reviewed was extensive and included academic publications, as well as governmental and non-governmental reports. It begins by describing the children’s rights framework and highlights international mechanisms for protection (international and regional declarations, conventions and treaties) that incorporate the principles of human rights to health, mental health, and child trafficking. In addition, a comprehensive HRBA to child trafficking is described, including rights designed to guide efforts to prevent, protect from, respond to, and provide remedy for human rights violations. It also highlights trauma as an outcome of child trafficking for CSE, identifies a range of physical, psychological, and emotional abuses to which victims are exposed to, and describes the impact of these human rights violations on children’s psychological development. Finally, it highlights trauma informed care (TIC) as a promising practice to facilitate the recovery and (re)integration of young victims.

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Children’s Human Rights: Psychological Assumptions in Comments on the Convention of the Rights of the Child and a Phenomenological Critique
GABRIEL VELEZ

Child’s rights have become prominent and widely discussed since the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. They are invoked in discussions on current events and are influential in the creation of policy and programs that affect millions of children across the world. While the foundational text—the CRC—has been analyzed previously for its impact and its psychological assumptions about the child, this paper extends the discussion to include the General Comments (i.e., documents that explain and expound upon child rights) of the CRC. Three prevalent themes emerge from the discursive conceptualization of the child in these documents: the internal development of the individual child is separable from social context, environmental risk equates to vulnerability, and human development is a universal and linear process. This paper critiques these assumptions based on a framework that integrates positioning theory and Spencer’s PVEST. In these foundations of children’s rights, child development should be understood as multifaceted, recursive, and involving individuals’ complex processing of their social contexts. Such a change is possible because of the continual publication of General Comments.

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Varieties of Human Rights and Duties
FATHALI M. MOGHADDAM

The papers on human rights published in the current issue of Psychology & Society have two important underlying themes, the first being varieties of human rights and duties. In addition to formal rights and duties that are ‘on the books’ and reflected in national and international law, I discuss primitive rights and duties that evolved as a functional foundation for 21st century rights and duties, and also supererogatory rights and duties. The second underlying theme in these papers concerns varieties of change and violence, in relation to human rights and duties. Three types of change are identified, and their relationship to direct, structural, and cultural violence is examined.

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