“We like to build community organisations to respond to discrimination and oppression”

We interviewed Dr. Moisès Carmona, Professor at the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona and a member of the Research Group on Interaction and Social Change.

We talked to Dr. Carmona about the interaction between people and the context in which they live, and the importance of organising collectively to fight discrimination.

What is the aim of your research group?
We are mainly interested in the interaction between people and context. We try to understand how we are affected by our relationships with other people and by the context in which we live. The aim of our research group is to contribute to improving aspects of society. We belong to a public university, we are funded by public money and we feel committed to giving back to society as much as society gives to us.

What is community psychology?
Community psychology refers to social aspects and structures that influence our everyday behaviour. As I see it, psychology is a discipline that tends to focus on shortcomings, problems, and deficits. In contrast, community psychology focuses on strengths, without forgetting that problems also exist. When we work with a group of people, we try to observe which are the most powerful aspects of that community and which can help to promote social change. We work to improve people’s living conditions and bring to the surface the hidden oppressions that we experience in society.

Such as what?
We have carried out a European-funded project to see to what extent universities are inclusive of the LGTBI community and promote their participation. We also go to neighbourhoods such as Gràcia and Poblenou to analyse the effects of gentrification and see how this affects the residents who are expelled from their neighbourhoods and those who stay behind. We want to highlight problems that are forgotten, denounce the existence of these situations and address them in a different way.

How do gender, race, and class perspectives influence community psychology?
These perspectives are a huge influence. In a course we teach at the Faculty, we ask students to tell us about situations of oppression they have experienced. Female students quickly relate to situations they have suffered, from harassment and stares to very serious situations. In contrast, some male students are unable to connect with any oppressive situation they have experienced, even though I am sure that despite being male, young, white, European university students, they have faced some oppressive situation throughout their lives.

The discrimination women continue to face nowadays is appalling…
In the case of gender, it is crystal clear that being a man or a woman in this society makes all the difference. Women bear chains that men don’t have to bear. Our research group wants people to be aware that certain things that happen to them are not the result of divine grace, but that they happen because of the way in which society is structured, which has led to some people having certain privileges while others do not.

And what can be done to fight this discrimination?
We must ponder the causes of such discrimination and oppression, learn from them, and collectively try to find ways to respond to them. We believe that it is essential for responses to be social. Many of the causes that lead to people suffering are social in nature, and therefore the solution must also involve social measures. We must be able to organise ourselves collectively to respond to these forms of discrimination and oppression. Our research group likes to build community and group organisations in order to provide a response. Our goal is not to save anyone, but to help them organise themselves in order to address discrimination.

In a post-pandemic context, with the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and a very high inflation rate… how important is it for society to organise itself to cope with times that can be difficult for many people?
It is crucial. During the pandemic, we saw that in certain neighbourhoods people were organising themselves, for instance, with some neighbours taking care of bringing food to others who could not go out because they were very old. We saw that this did not happen in all neighbourhoods. In neighbourhoods where there was some kind of pre-existing community organisation, people organised themselves to cope with the pandemic. Conversely, it was more difficult for such initiatives to emerge in neighbourhoods where community organisation was not traditionally strong. So, in places where there is previous experience of community organising, it is easier to continue this trend. As a society, we must be able to organise ourselves to solve small and big problems.

You have a very active research group, what projects are currently on the table?
Quite a few of them, heh, heh. We are working on a CatSalut project to make a proposal to humanise the healthcare system, because we see that patients’ experiences are less than ideal. We want to humanise public services so that the people who use them have a more satisfactory experience. We are interested in setting up a working group to determine current perceptions and how to get professionals to offer closer, more humane, and more comforting care. We want users to feel that they are being treated as people and not as numbers.

You are also working on a project with the Fundació Catalana de l’Esplai (Catalan Youth Clubs Foundation) to examine the educational impact of leisure time in schools.
Yes, it is a project we are developing in collaboration with a research group from the UB’s Faculty of Education. The aim is to see how lunchtime, where children eat and engage in other activities, influences children’s education. We want to understand the importance of this space, where children learn to relate to each other, acquire values, and develop eating and health habits.

More about Moisès Carmona

The best invention in history?

Something you would like to see in the future?
A more humane society.

A future advancement that scares you?
Chat GPT and arrangements that can be put in place to replace people.

A role model?
Carolyn Kagan, a scholar I admire who combined science with a very strong social commitment.

What could be done to achieve equality between men and women?
Better education and for men to work on the privileges we have and to realise that life is different depending on whether you are a man or a woman.

The FBG is…
For us it is a means of support and help to develop research projects in a more efficient, agile, and easy way. We have always felt very well assisted.

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