Conversations on Social Justice: How Our Social Locations Shape Our Work

Elizabeth G. Holman, Ph.D.; Tiffany L. Brown, Ph.D.; Anthony G. James, Jr., Ph.D., CFLE; Tyler Jamison, Ph.D., Kristy Y. Shih, Ph.D.; and Thomas W. Blume, Ph.D., LPC, LMFT, IDC Members
/ Fall 2018 NCFR Report

See all articles in this issue

NCFR and its members have a unique opportunity to lead the discourse on social justice issues that affect families. Over the last several years, NCFR’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC) has called upon family scholars and practitioners to apply a social justice framework in Family Science. We have defined this as, “actively identifying the dynamics of socially structured and institutionalized oppression and privilege; reflecting on our own socialization linked to social locations (e.g. the intersections of race, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, etc.); and acting on systematic and hidden disparities with meaningful leadership in the field of Family Science.” See the IDC’s full working definition of social justice at

In line with this mission, the IDC has now hosted special sessions at the last three annual conferences to engage NCFR members in actively identifying opportunities to promote social justice for diverse families through education, research, and practice. These sessions have promoted lively conversations that acknowledge the challenges of addressing inequalities—whether in the context of a classroom, a family room, or a community center. These sessions have created a space for openly discussing the roots and consequences of institutionalized forms of discrimination (e.g., racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia) that affect the lives and well-being of all families.

Although the 2017 IDC special session focused on race and racism, conversations also extended to different social identities, including gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, and religion. Attendees spent time in small groups actively identifying the dynamics of social structured and institutionalized oppression that affect the well-being of individuals and families. The session was supported by all NCFR sections, suggesting widespread support for using a social justice framework across Family Science domains. More information can be found at

With support from the NCFR Board of Directors, the IDC once again invites members to a discussion of issues related to social justice at the 2018 NCFR Annual Conference, Nov. 7–10, in  San Diego. This session, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 7, 4:45–6 p.m., will be different from its predecessors. Instead of seeking to identify and critique problematic social structures, this session will encourage attendees to reflect on and identify their own social locations and explore how those locations promote or constrain a social justice orientation across Family Science domains.

The session will explore how social location shapes education, research, and practice. Social location—the combination of social categories including race, ethnicity, social class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, ability status, and many others—shapes how humans move through their social world. This examination of social locations, and interactions within and between broader systems of privilege and oppression, will provide family scholars and practitioners with an opportunity to reflect on how their social locations affect their approaches to education, research, and practice.

Tyler Jamison, Ph.D., in proposing this session, stated: “Knowing your audience is one of the cornerstones of effective teaching, outreach, and clinical practice. Knowledge about who you want to reach impacts how you will approach your work. In other words, audience matters. What is sometimes overlooked is that the practitioner matters too. Who we are when we walk into a classroom, community center, or therapy room is equally important in shaping the interactions that follow.”

Co-moderated by Dr. Jamison and Anthony G. James Jr., Ph.D., CFLE, the session will be an interactive experience, including discussion with a panel of scholars and practitioners as well as opportunities for self-reflection and participant discussion. The overarching goal of the session is to equip participants with new insights and skills that can help to challenge institutionalized inequality one classroom experience, therapy session, or family interaction at a time.

Panelists will include the following:

  • Veronica Barrios, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Science and Social Work at Miami University. She has taught courses on Latino families in the U.S. in Spanish; family development across the life span, with a focus on the impact of ethnicity and culture; and a course called Power and Intersectionality. She currently teaches on family violence. As a self-identified Latina teaching at a predominantly White university, her pedagogy focuses on bridging knowledge and alliances among students to progress toward understanding and unity.
  • Greg Brooks Ph.D., LMFT, is an assistant professor of marriage and family studies at Abilene Christian University. Dr. Brooks teaches numerous classes in family studies and he has taught and published on the pedagogy of cultural diversity in marriage and family therapy training. At a faith-based university that is associated with a historically Evangelical Christian denomination, he challenges his students to consider how their deeply held beliefs, assumptions, and biases influence their standards of what is “healthy” in family life, and to compare those standards to evidence-based knowledge.
  • Manijeh Daneshpour, Ph.D., LMFT, is a professor and systemwide director of marriage and family therapy at Alliant International University in California and a licensed marriage and family therapist with more than 22 years of academic, research, and clinical experience. She is from Iran and identifies herself as a third-wave feminist. Dr. Daneshpour’s main areas of research, publications, and presentations have been centered on issues of immigration, multiculturalism, social justice, third-wave feminism, premarital and marital relationships, and Muslim family dynamics. She has spent more than 20 years training therapists to provide multiculturally sensitive therapy and has a five-year grant to train therapists to work with immigrants and refugees. She has spent many years working and studying Muslim families not as a religious group but as individuals, members of family units, and a distinct group in their own societal context. She recently published Family Therapy With Muslims, which advocates classic and contemporary family therapy theories in working with Muslim families cross-culturally.
  • Adrienne Duke, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University. She teaches the course Families in Cross-Cultural Perspective, as well as the seminar Program Design for Youth, Communities, and Families. As a self-identified African American woman of the millennial generation who teaches at a predominantly White university, she focuses on building critical consciousness in her students so that they can interrogate the biases, ethnocentrism, and historical legacy of inequality that influences the lives of families.
  • Vanja Lazarevic, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Child and Family Development at San Diego State University. She teaches courses on human development and family and cultural diversity. As a White female teaching at a Hispanic-serving institution with a very diverse student body, she focuses on creating a supportive environment in which students are able to discuss a wide variety of topics related to family diversity. She strives to create an open, inclusive, and nurturing environment so that students feel comfortable sharing wide variety of experiences and opinions.
  • Chang Su-Russell, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University. She grew up in Hulu Dao, Liaoning Province, China. After attaining her B.A. at Minzu University of China (a designated university for celebrating cultural diversity across China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups), she came to the United States for graduate training. In February 2017 she became a U.S. citizen. While a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, she taught Multicultural Study of Children and Families for five consecutive semesters, following campuswide protests surrounding racial injustice. In her teaching she uses readings, research, and her own personal experiences to exemplify existing issues related to culture and race and to facilitate discussions with her undergraduate students.

As in previous years, the IDC will also host the Active Conversation and Breakfast Meeting—to be held on Friday, Nov. 9, 7:30–9 a.m. We encourage everyone at the conference to attend this session to provide input on future directions and initiatives for the IDC. We are also planning to use this time as a follow-up to the special session. Attendees will have a chance to share the strategies and skills they learned and how they will apply them to their own lives and work. Additionally, strategies will be collected and added to the growing list of resources gathered from previous special sessions at

The IDC intends these steps to help move the NCFR membership to a place of action that centers on a social justice framework. Rather than simply acknowledging the elephant in the room—that is, the institutionalized discrimination and oppression in our society—we hope that attendees will better understand their own role in the conversation and develop strategies to address barriers to well-being for all families.

We look forward to seeing you in San Diego and are excited to dig into this work with you!