Understanding Land-based Psychological Trauma in Light of Epistemic Justice

Garret Barnwell

Please register to join us on Wednesday, February 8 at 2:00pm Pacific for a hybrid (in-person and online) talk, “Understanding Land-based Psychological Trauma in Light of Epistemic Justice,” by Dr. Garret Barnwell, South African clinical psychologist and community psychology practitioner.


This event will be presented both online and in-person. A Zoom link will be sent to all registrants prior to the event.


The places we live are inseparably connected to who we are. Our relationship with these spaces we come into being through is somewhat foundational to our knowing and being in the world. They shape who we are, and we, in so many ways, shape them, inscribing them with personal meanings and finding social coordinates in them. In this talk, Barnwell uses vignettes to describe how this takes place, emphasizing that these bonds are most evidently seen when threatened. Basing his insights on several years of clinical experience and critical psychology theory, he draws attention to how people’s psychological relationship to place is threatened through grievous acts of epistemic injustices — violence directed at knowledge and speech. These forms of epistemic injustice include the silencing, misrecognition, threats, and killings of land defenders, as well as systematized land dispossession in the name of capitalist expansion and mining. Decolonial and critical psychologies teach us that the language we come into being, which privileges certain politics, ways of knowing and being in the world in relation to such places, has a bearing on subjectivity — what can be said and what is unsayable, and, thus, unactionable. He will describe how such forms of epistemic violence threaten these psychological bonds and produce psychological trauma. Around the world in these extractive zones, Indigenous and land-based resurgent movements play a critical role in defending against epistemic injustices for the flourishing of life. In conclusion, Barnwell draws attention to how such resurgent groups use different forms of land dialogues and speech as integral parts of community resistance and psychological healing.

About the Speaker

Dr. Garret Barnwell is a clinical psychologist working as a psychotherapist and community psychology practitioner. He is most interested in different forms of accompaniment and resistance to extractivism for the flourishing of all life. Barnwell was an expert on the landmark youth-led #cancelcoal climate case launched against the South African government’s plans for new coal-fired power. He is also a member of the American Psychological Association’s Climate Change Advisory Group. Barnwell’s writing includes several expert reports, special issues, and a book, Terrapsychology: Further Inquiry Into Self, Place and Planet (with Prof Craig Chalquist). He is a research associate at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

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