Towards contextual psychosocial practice

Brandon Hamber, Elizabeth Gallagher, Stevan Weine, Sumona DasGupta, Ingrid Palmary, Mike Wessells

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter, through summarising the findings of case studies in Guatemala, East Jerusalem, Indian Kashmir, Mozambique, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Sri Lanka, contends that dealing with political violence from a psychosocial perspective requires an analysis that recognises that violence and healing is embedded in the everyday social context. All the case study contexts are shown to be fragmented and with multiple power hierarchies at the macro and micro level. Race, class, gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, among others, are constituent and persistent parts of all the social realities described in the chapter. The chapter argues that linear models of peacebuilding are limited in mapping the continuities and discontinuities of how social, cultural and political contexts, as well as localised approaches for offering support to those in distress. A conceptual shift is advocated in which psychosocial practices are understood not merely to be about treating individuals and groups with context and culturally sensitive methods and approaches, but such interventions and practices should in themselves shape social change. The chapter argues that psychosocial practices can promote peacebuilding and other forms of social change through (1) contributing to personal transformation that can be the first step to equip individuals to engage in peace work; (2) carrying out interventions for building relationships and challenging social exclusion and separation; (3) providing the cognitive skills for understanding conflict and raising the awareness needed to promote social change; and (4) serve directly and indirectly as a platform for social action. To achieve this however a range of nuanced psychosocial practices and interventions are needed that build on local resources and contextually rooted conceptualisations of suffering and well-being. The social transformation that flows however will be gradual, mediated, often “hybridised”, contradictory, and takes place not just at the macro level but also at the micro level.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-09936-1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 14 Nov 2014


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