International Affairs



Volume 48 Number 1
Winter 2015


Edited by Kahaema Byer

Community Psychology Nucleus (NUCOM-Brazil):  The Choice for the Oppressed People and a Liberation Way of Doing in Psychology

Written by James Ferreira Moura Junior (, Barbara Barbosa Nepomuceno, Elívia Camurça Cidade, and Verônica Morais Ximenes

Latin American reality, specifically the Northeast of Brazil, has historically been marked by poverty, vulnerability, and material and symbolic violence. These conditions lead to modes of domination, culpability, and silencing that have psychological implications (Cidade, Moura Jr & Ximenes, 2012). Oppression is conceived as a situation of unequal power in which individuals can be prevented from being agents in their own lives, and become objects of manipulation and alienation (Guzzo, 2010). The Liberation School arose in Latin America as a movement critical of the status quo and of the predominance of scientific productions which are distant from the oppressed majorities’ needs. Several disciplines intersect with the Liberation School: Philosophy, Pedagogy, Psychology, Sociology and Theology (Burton, 2013; Santiago, 2007).

 Latin American Community Psychology emerged influenced by the perspectives critical of positivism and colonized knowledge. This discipline proposes new standards for psychologists based on denaturalization of knowledge and of social reality (Montero, 2009). In this sense, we realize that there is a strong link between Community Psychology and spaces of academic training. In these areas, there are also intervention projects (university extension) developed by the university itself. Students in training usually perform these actions with the local population under the supervision of professors in Brazil.

The Community Psychology Nucleus (NUCOM in Portuguese) at the Federal University of Ceará is one of those training and intervention spaces. It arose in 1980 aiming to: adapt the discipline of Psychology to the oppressive reality of the Northeastern population; consolidate a Latin American Community Psychology anchored in theoretical and methodological assumptions of Liberation Psychology; and provide training spaces for psychologists and students guided by the sociopolitical tripod theory-practice-commitment in universities (Góis, 2003).

NUCOM's activities position the university as a tool for reality transformation. Therefore, not only the theory but also the practice should be focused on social change in favor of the oppressed population (Martín-Baró, 1985). The interventions must be designed to promote liberation based on the epistemological, ontological and praxis alignment. Thus, there must be an epistemology that questions the truth criteria that are legitimizers of knowledge. The conceptual order emphasizes the importance of critical analysis of the used concepts. The praxis order challenges the contribution of Psychology to the integral development of the Latin American people (Martín-Baró, 2009).

NUCOM, over its thirty years of existence, has developed projects in rural and urban communities, in the capital of the state of Ceará (Brazil) and in the countryside towns. Generally, the organization establishes partnerships with social movements, neighborhood associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social policies.  These partnerships are essential to undertake community interventions (Ornelas & Moniz, 2007). Over the years, NUCOM has developed the following activities: groups for strengthening personal and community identities of women, adolescents and children; groups of community mobilization with adults; groups for productive inclusion; support groups for the community associations; community strategic planning; and groups for strengthening community leaders, among others.

These academic interventions in Community Psychology should be understood as practices of cooperation and articulation of academic and popular knowledge shared by local residents (Ximenes, Nepomuceno, & Moreira, 2007). The university may make an ethical commitment to solve social problems and to modify critically the process of training of qualified and engaged professionals. This article aims to present experiences anchored in the Liberation school of thought, developed at the Center of Community Psychology at Federal University of Ceará.

Characteristics of a Liberating Praxis

First, we have historically chosen to act in poverty contexts; this would be a major feature of a Liberation Psychology (Martín Baró, 1985). Such a choice requires an attitude and praxis based on problematizing dialogue (Freire, 1980), on participation (Montero, 2004) and a horizon of liberation (Martin-Baró, 1986). In a reflection / action / social-political commitment triangulation, the Libertarian ethic guides us on the ability of oppressed people to denounce oppression and dehumanizing structures, announcing liberation and a new society project (Guzzo, 2010). We try to denaturalize, with local residents, their everyday experiences and propose paths of consistent changes. Thus, these actions that are developed in communities may reverberate in research, scientific production and classroom activities at university.

Those actions must be based on a democratic and participatory approach (Ximenes et al., 2007). Likewise, we must constantly problematize reality. As a consequence of that, we can perform dynamics of liberation with the local residents, for there may be the unveiling of social processes related to individual and collective suffering (Martín Baró, 1986). Problematization and the enhancement of popular knowledge can foster conscientization. This process would be the deepening of conscience, allowing the critical perception of contradictory and oppressive relations of reality. Thereby, there would be a greater appropriation of reality and an increase in a greater rate of participation of local residents in their community (Freire, 1980; Vieira & Ximenes, 2012).

These processes are developed through the dialogic-experiential method. This method conceives that the posture of a community psychologist must include feelings and meanings of the symbolic system present in the community and in the relations between local residents and external agents (Rebouças & Ximenes, 2010). The experience allows them to be in touch with reality in a deep and sensitive way, being able to bond intimately with local residents and the community. It is also necessary to analyze the community. This analysis provides critical distance of reality and personal conceptions of professionals and students regarding the community way of life (Góis, 2008). Consequently, it is necessary to experience and dialogue in order to analyze the community reality effectively and thoroughly. In this process, both external agent (community psychologist) and local residents are transformed. 

From this perspective, it is possible to strengthen the community subject, deepening their conscience and their ability to transform reality. The community is seen as a space full of potentialities where interactions related to the movement of consciousness and possibilities of social change are produced (Soares, Diogo & Moura Jr., 2013). Thus, NUCOM aims to develop for students a training program that has the assumptions noted above. We try to deepen the praxis of psychologists in action-reflections that are based on social commitment.


We understand that there is a difficult path to develop critical and libertarian actions in Community Psychology at Brazilian universities. Firstly, it is necessary to perform a constant reflection on the attitudes that are developed by students, professionals and professors in interventions in communities. Secondly, these critical positions should be aligned with an overall epistemological, ontological and praxical perspective of knowledge production. NUCOM aims to build practices that merge critical guidelines with teaching and research, where communities are taken as central in the action and production of knowledge.


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