Activism in Changing Times: Reinvigorating Community Psychology – Introduction to the Special Thematic Section


  • Flora Cornish
  • Catherine Campbell
  • Cristián Montenegro


The field of community psychology has for decades concerned itself with the theory and practice of bottom-up emancipatory efforts to tackle health inequalities and other social injustices, often assuming a consensus around values of equality, tolerance and human rights. However, recent global socio-political shifts, particularly the individualisation of neoliberalism and the rise of intolerant, exclusionary politics, have shaken those assumptions, creating what many perceive to be exceptionally hostile conditions for emancipatory activism. This special thematic section brings together a diverse series of articles which address how health and social justice activists are responding to contemporary conditions, in the interest of re-invigorating community psychology’s contribution to emancipatory efforts. The current article introduces our collective conceptualisation of these ‘changing times’, the challenges they pose, and four openings offered by the collection of articles. Firstly, against the backdrop of neoliberal hegemony, these articles argue for a return to community psychology’s core principle of relationality. Secondly, articles identify novel sources of disruptive community agency, in the resistant identities of nonconformist groups, and new, technologically-mediated communicative relations. Thirdly, articles prompt a critical reflection on the potentials and tensions of scholar-activist-community relationships. Fourthly, and collectively, the articles inspire a politics of hope rather than of despair. Building on the creativity of the activists and authors represented in this special section, we conclude that the environment of neoliberal individualism and intolerance, rather than rendering community psychology outdated, serves to re-invigorate its core commitment to relationality, and to a bold and combative scholar-activism.