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Jordan Potash on Relational Social Justice

04/06/2019 1:39 PM | Devora Weinapple (Administrator)

I am proud to be the inaugural poster of NorCATA's new blog!

I am also happy to announce that Dr. Jordan S. Potash, Ph.D., ATR-BC, REAT, LPCAT (MD), LCAT (NY) will be our keynote speaker at the NorCATA Conference/Retreat July 10-12, 2020 at the Sonoma State University Events Center. 

If you are an AATA member, you may have read his article: "Relational Social Justice Ethics for Art Therapists" in AATA's most recent Art Therapy Journal, Vol 35, No. 4, 2019. (Published online 2/8/19)   If you're not a member, I feel it is imperative reading and I am sharing the link with you here.  (Scroll down past the first page).

In his article, Dr. Potash attempts to find what Dr. Martin Luther King referred to as the "militant middle between riots on the one hand, and weak and timid supplication for justice on the other hand. That middle ground"., and identifies the "middle" with relational social justice. 

Dr. Potash discusses how art therapists can use a relational approach to ethics when engaging with policymakers, colleagues, and clients to challenge injustice and reimagine societal norms. He refers to complementary moral emotions such as pride vs shame, joy vs pity, anger vs fear, hope vs despair, and how each have the potential to be both constructive and damaging.  As an example, he says that boycotts might be useful against corporations by applying financial pressure so that they accommodate consumer demands. However, when the target is a membership association, a boycott produces fewer disparate voices. He argues that protesters "might have to weigh the value of this action for mitigating shame and reinforcing pride against the expense of further marginalizing much needed perspectives for influence and change." (p. 203)

If we can give up either-or dualism, Dr. Potash asserts that a relational approach to social justice will compel us to resist our natural tendency to fight, flight or freeze, "which in the context of protest often appear as belligerence, secession, or capitulation" (p.204). Those in opposition would no longer be viewed as one-dimensional stereotypes but more as multidimensional partners with whom to solve problems and build community.  He stresses  that the parties involved must "maintain a balance between educating vs indoctrinating, listening vs silencing, and instigating discomfort v intimidating through cultivation of reflexive humility, open-mindedness, and sympathetic attentiveness. Continuous and difficult dialogue eventually might convert conflict into deeper understanding and communal transformation." 

Dr. Potash reminds us that within the core tenets of art therapy there is a natural affinity with relational social justice through the "soliciting of narratives, engaging multiple meanings, tolerating ambiguities, embracing paradox, and channeling emotion into purposeful action." (p. 204). 

I encourage members to read the article, and potentially be inspired to work with your own colleagues, clients and policymakers to uphold our art therapists' principles of nondiscrimination, monitoring the effects of attitudes on treatment, understanding oppression, and improving society.

Dr. Jordan S. Potash is primarily interested in the applications of art and art therapy in community development and social change with an emphasis on reducing stigma, confronting discrimination and promoting cross-cultural relationships. He also advocates for a broad approach to art therapy that increases client access to services by focusing on therapy, prevention, and wellness applications. Jordan is an active member of the American Art Therapy Association and served as chairperson of both the Multicultural and Ethics Committees, and Book Review Editor of Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. While living in Hong Kong for eight years, Jordan co-founded the Masters of Expressive Arts Therapy at The University of Hong Kong, the first degree of its kind in Asia.  In addition, he taught and led workshops in China, Thailand, Korea, and Israel. 


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