Psychology organization in the Latin America as Science and Profession

Ana M. B. Bock

The globalization wave that we have experienced along the last two decades - fostered among others by the technological development and its impacts on the productive processes, as well as by the setting of a new global order marked by the neo-liberal ideology – has imposed a challenge to be faced by several professional categories: the market integration. Being in many aspects conflictive to collective interests, mainly those of the peripheral countries’ societies, this scenario builds new opportunities of overcoming frontiers, establishing significant cultural interchanges among different peoples from different countries. Such condition is surely a starting point for psychologists in the continent to (re) discover the countless opportunities of defeating the condition of colonial isolation experienced by psychological production in each country. Since MERCOSUR establishment, the expectation of free circulation of services fostered the flourishing of permanent articulation among national professional entities of psychology in the South Cone countries. 10 integrating meetings were held, as follows: The 1st Meeting in 94 in Uruguay; the 2nd in 95 in Argentina; the 3rd in 96 in Santa Catarina Brazil; the 4th in April 97 in Uruguay; the 5th in November 97 in Chile; the 6th in June 98 in Bolivia; the 7th in December 98 in Uruguay; the 8th in May 99 in Bahia Brazil; the 9th in September 99 in Argentina and the 10th in September 2000 in Paraguay. Moreover, the following Theme Meetings were held: 1st – in 96 in Uruguay approaching mental health; 2nd – in 97 in Paraguay approaching Psychological Practices and regionalization; 3rd – in 98 in Argentina about the Latin American Psychologist Identity; and, 4th – in 99, in Porto Alegre, dealing with Psychology Social Commitment. It is worth highlighting that, for their importance as reference and initiative, those meetings led to the signing of Protocols related to the standard agreement. Three Protocols were signed: one on legal aspects of the professional exercise; one on ethical principles to professional exercise; and, another, on the principles for psychologists’ training. After such a meaningful series of documents and integrating and theme events involving the Federal Council of Psychology, the Argentina’s Federation of Psychologists, the Chile’s College of Psychologists, the Paraguayan Society of Psychology, the Coordination of Psychologists in Uruguay and the College of Psychologists of Bolivia, the next step would be expanding the horizons by integrating psychologists from different Latin-American countries. The meeting between that initiative and identical expectations disclosed by some Mexican entities set a powerful geopolitical axis towards fostering the creation of the ULAPSI – Latin-American Union of Psychology Entities.

Entities from all Latin-American countries were invited to attend a meeting held in Buenos Aires, in 1999. Many units have not answered the invitation, but those which attended the meeting agreed on establishing the ULAPSI, under the coordination of the Coordinadora de Psicólogos de Uruguai. A new meeting was then held in 2000, in Montevideo, Uruguay. That meeting rested on the important adherence of Mexico. The participants discussed the creation of Latin-American portal of Psychology entities; creation of an e-magazine on Psychology in the Latin America; and the development of new efforts to mobilize Psychology-related entities. The first Congress was then held in 2005, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The second Congress is scheduled to take place in Cuba, in September 2007.

The Latin-American Dialogues stood for another important initiative towards integrating psychologists and Psychology in Latin-America. The event was outlined in an original way: it took psychologists and researchers from one or more countries, as well as several Universities and institutions, to hold debates in another country. Brazil held one of such events and now, in this 2nd Congress, will hold another. Mexico held three Latin-American Dialogues, and Peru is organizing its first one.

The path followed by Cuba strengthens this fight. It advanced by holding important events in the field of Psychology, which gathered several psychologists from different Latin-American countries.

In this panel, we intend to evaluate that path, highlight difficulties, analyze new challenges posed towards consolidating that kind of project, and review the theoretical and technical grounds that should sustain it.

To conclude my introduction to the debates, I would like to point out some aspects of the assessment we have been developing in Brazil, concerning the path followed by us.

An important element here is the actual openness of professors, psychologists and Psychology students to the Latin-American literature. It is like a famous Brazilian poetry says: if the manioc meal were American, the cassava were imported, it would then be a sophisticated meal. This piece of poetry by Juraildes da Luz clearly reflects our colonialism. In these days, urges the need for building mutual understanding in the Latin America, and for understanding the need for building “national" theoretical references. Those initiatives are steps forwards in this sense.

Another important aspect that should be mentioned is the recognized fragility of our psychologists’ entities. In Brazil, we have the Federal Council of Psychology, which is a big entity, with financial power. But we know that the remainder entities are small and rest on little social acknowledgment. In other Latin-American countries we will also find weak entities, and this scenario should be taken into consideration when outlining the policy.

The field of psychology is poorly developed as profession, since it is not broadly acknowledged by society, does not rest on privative working techniques, neither on specific duties. Psychology intertwines other areas and has tenuous frontiers that produce conflicts in the labor market.

Our category is born amidst the elite, endowed with a colonialist ideology, oriented to the sources of knowledge from the big powers (USA and Europe) and a positivist thinking that, by naturalizing the subject and its psychological world, starts understanding the world as universal, accepting any knowledge from the First World, in an automatic and non-critical way.

Facing those issues is a crucial step towards advancing the organization of psychologists and the Psychology in Latin-america. We must overcome the organizational weakness; the positivist and naturalizing concepts that impairs us to perceive that Psychology knowledge should take into consideration the social reality wherein the subject is inserted; the prevailing ideology in our countries according to which the only source of knowledge is the science built in the First World countries. We must suppress our colonialist thinking.

Our basic duty is to discuss the issues; the differences and similitude; the epistemological references we have been using in our Psychologies; to gather psychologists and entities; the reverses of fate; the pursuit… always guided by the certainty that Psychology can contribute to build worthy living conditions in the Latin-America, provided that it is a genuine Latin-American Psychology.