Slow Knowing Deep Learning

for Health-Justice

Inter-connection for public health                 

Live zoom session

3.30pm – 5pm UK time Meeting ID: 864 1970 3983        Passcode: 113544

** UK clocks change at the end of March **

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Email questions for live session:

Activity One

Framing Change

Nikki shared some links related to last week’s session that are relevant to this session too, and I’ve put them in the resources section. Thanks Nikki  

A simple and helpful framing that links self-care and social action is one I came across early on in my search for different framings of fatness. Ironically perhaps it’s in an article about “empowerment for adults with severe mental health problems and ob* ” by H Ekpe. Here’s the abstract.  I don’t think it’s available free online. (It was written in 2001, I get the impression he would be open to reconsidering his views on language, and framings of fatness.)

Do you agree that this theorises empowerment? 

He adds further details around some aspects of the process:

Other people use the term  ‘self-empowerment’ as a necessary first step to social change. What do you think about this?

sepia image of James Baldwin. Not everything that is faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced on blue oblong

Activity Two

Liberation Psychology 

Another key article that helped me organise my thoughts comes from community development/peace work. 

“A psychology of liberation is one whose primary focus is the communities we come from and create. Our collective history is as important as our individual history.. . . a liberation psychology is  . . . concerned with ways of creating communal healing and collective change. (p. 23)”

The quote/framing is from Geraldine Moane’s work in Northern Ireland: Bridging the Personal and the Political: Practices for a Liberation Psychology

It’s quite  a long article. It might be useful to skim read and pick one or two themes to think about in depth.

How does liberation psychology align with empowerment? Are they the same thing?

For anyone especially interested in  psychology, community psychology is a discipline with a strong commitment to critical approaches to wellbeing interventions. The contributions are mainly from mental health professionals, who also largely form the community. 

Activity Three

How Do We Know?

This is a question I asked earlier on in the course in connection with the Mediterranean diet. I suggested that there was more than one way of rationally interrogating data linked to health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

It seems useful to revisit and add to the theme of exploring deep assumptions when building knowledge.

Here the invitation is to go beyond a scenario of several ways of constructing a rational justification, to think of different ways of knowing, including non-rational.

We’ll pool these in the zoom call.

How does knowing fit in with belief and truth/s?

What impact does it have that rationality is valued above body-based wisdom?

Activity Four

Identity Wheel

I am a great fan of the paper plate in training, and if you happen to have one lying around now’s your chance to use it!

Alternatively, a pen and paper is great. 

Here’s how it goes: draw a circle and divide it into sections.

Each section is an aspect of your identity for you to name. Add as many sections as you like.

Once you’ve done this, can you think through the different ways in which these aspects shape your life. Here’s some suggestions. Using a coloured pencil, shade in those aspects that generally work in your favour. Using a different coloured pen, shade in aspects that often work against you socially. 

If there are aspects of your identity you prefer not to share in public, why is this?

You can add more nuance by considering these questions as if you are at home, at work, among friends etc. 

man in baseball cat peering through windscreen as driving car

How did this feel?

What have your learnt?

Can you define ‘identity’?

There’s lots of examples of different ways to do identity wheels on the net, here’s one with lesson notes.


Activity Five

Being Bold
A topic that came up in the last zoom (I’m paraphrasing) was around being bold. Is there anything we can do to grow in boldness and clarity so we are able to act effectively as our best bold selves when it matters?

image of Fanon 'o my body make of me always a man who questions' Black Skin, White Masks

The image shows Algerian psychiatrist and activist Frantz Fanon with a quote from his book Black Skin, White Masks. I think  questioning everything is vital – and this act itself requires courage.

One of the things that has helped me to question is feeling connected. So, back-tracking, I nurture courage by nurturing connection. As someone steeped in colonial thinking, my thoughts first turned to connection with other humans – and they once stopped there. However, I have come to appreciate the value of inter-connection, yes with other humans, and also with the land, non-human nature like trees for instance, lineages, and more.

Ideas like this contradict a colonial value system which means that even  speaking of them can require some measure of courage, because it carries an an inherent risk of being ridiculed or otherwise discredited. We might be cast out of groups we belong to.

This is how the status quo is stabilised – we learn there are consequences to being odd, and so we keep in line. And when being odd, at a social level,  means being in any way removed from the  white, thin, cis male  etc etc standard, then challenge, creativity, possibility, feelings and so on are heavily constricted and denied. This often happens in really subtle ways. So we limit our thinking about what is relevant but remain unaware that this is what we are doing.

I think we need robust methods of knowledge creation that train us to notice our (colonial) assumptions, and that don’t prescribe what feelings are permissible. Ecofeminist Joanna Macy explore this latter theme:


person emerging from swimming in old quarry, arms raised

I hope there’s something useful in these reflections. If there’s things you can share on the topic please feel free to email me, or share with the group in our next zoom.

One last thing. I have found that it’s the breaking silence that can be emboldening, perhaps because it can be hugely liberating – a step away from the corrosive shame that was tying us to silence, maybe.


Activity Six

Hope as a Practice  

This quote, by a GP in northern England, is one I return to over and over. I find it helps to keep me on track with praxis, and hope as a practice.

The toxic combination of limited and iniquitous access to resources against a high profile of poor health and a political ideology which puts individual agency at the heart of health delivery, eschewing the structural inequalities as causal, places the practitioner in a dilemma. Hand wringing helps no one and defeatism creates cynical doctors who can offer little therapeutic care. I believe that there are two constructive responses we can offer. The first is compassion. I offer this not as a superficial panacea but as an active stance which recognises the lived realities of patients and their contextualised embodied narratives of distress. It is a position which prohibits unrealistic expectations and demands of patients and does not diminish the dignity of individual lives. The second is a re-awakening of [practitioners] role as advocates for social justice. (Roberts 2009:p46)

view onto fields and blue sky from arch under bridge, Hathersage


Activity Seven 


Some great links from Nikki:  

  • Barry Johnson’s book “And” ,  with a second volume due which talks about how different people have applied this tool in the areas of equity and justice.
  • A recent example of  polarity mapping is this recent post from Kai Cheng Thom in relation to “Loving Justice” (in the context of recent discussions on cancel culture). See here.
child's yellow plastic spade in sand