Working in the field of Critical Diversity Literacy (CDL) it is an inevitable moment when one must interrogate the role and place of diversity in any field and context. The questions that we must ask ourselves pertain to the issues of relevance – both of our different disciplinary backgrounds to the team as well as in how these disciplinary backgrounds can be critically brought to bear on making society a better place. Given my location in the discipline of Psychology, I am interested in Psychology’s potential for relevance, disruption of the status quo and collaboration potential with other disciplines. This is the moment that we must ask of ourselves: Are we relevant? Who should we be collaborating with? Is society a better place because we are tasked to be of service to it? What would collaboration look like – with Psychologists in the driving seat or in the passenger seat? These are important questions that speak to the Decolonial moment that we find ourselves. This Decolonial moment demands that we reflect on the ways that we can be of better service. Part of this task and responsibility, to my mind, is the need to revisit how we collaborate and participate in multidisciplinary types of work and social activism. Firstly, we must be open to learning about our society and the people who live in it (including ourselves) from other disciplines. This is a fundamental requirement.
There is much that Psychology can offer to other disciplinary fields on the complexities of subjectivity and the human psyche. But there is also much that we have to learn and could possibly learn from multidisciplinary insights. In much of my research and supervision contexts, I am always fascinated by the desire and enthusiasm I observe in students to pin subjectivities and behavior in a neat box: a box that not only fully explains the phenomena under investigation, but also neatly ties together the different dimensions of human behavior. I also imagine that this eagerness to label and fit into a box is part of inculcation into specific disciplinary practice. Attempting to understand and explain human behavior and subjectivities is in itself not a problem. However we are all of us only too familiar with Psychology’s dark history of categorization and labeling of individuals and groups in ways that have been detrimental to their well-being and health. The recent Practice Guidelines Launch hosted by the Sexuality and Gender Division and PsySSA is a testament to attempts to redress this dark history.
Given all of this, how then can the role of the psychologist be reconsidered in collaboration? This brings us to the second suggestion: Psychology potentially serves an important role to play in fostering deeper understanding of the biopsychosocial dimensions of human behavior and subjectivities. This will further enable integrated forms of assessment and treatments that respond to holistic complexities of the person. Psychologists offer a unique contribution to multidisciplinary teams re behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, physiologic, social, cultural, and psychic dimensions of the human mind and body. In this regard, perhaps we are well-placed to lead and provide expert knowledge. Thirdly, and to return to the Decolonial moment that we find ourselves: we must be attentive to disciplinary boundaries as permeable. This is important if we are to engage those areas of indigenous knowledge that have been excluded and/or marginalized within the discipline. Mental health systems can only benefit from reflexive integration, engagement and understanding of diverse knowledge systems and models. Community-based initiatives, in particular, can benefit from such practice. In conclusion, multidisciplinary team collaboration is far from easy and simplistic but by its very nature is imbued with disciplinary conflict and tensions. This in itself is not a problem. It is when any discipline fails to honor its promise of social relevance through refusal to self-reflect, collaborate and dialogue with other disciplinary forms of practice, that we are in danger of engaging in redundant academic re-productions of ourselves that take us and society no-where.