Alumni Spotlight: Robert Beshara, Ph.D. Graduate
Beshara is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Humanities at Northern New Mexico College and editor of Decolonial Psychoanalysis: Towards Critical Islamophobia Studies.
How have the skills and knowledge you learned in the Psychology program translated to your current job? How did the Psychology program at UWG help you to achieve your goals?
The Ph.D. program in Psychology, Consciousness and Society at the University of West Georgia, is unique for its emphasis on qualitative and theoretical approaches to psychology that are grounded in a humanistic, critical, and/or transpersonal orientation(s). This education has provided me with the necessary tools for teaching, and doing research in, psychology from a critical perspective.
What topics did your dissertation address? What research methods did you use and what did you find?
My dissertation was a qualitative research study on Islamophobia in the United States vis-à-vis the “war on terror.” I interviewed 19 US Muslims about their accounts of Islamophobia and how they resist it. I analyzed the data using mainly Lacanian Discourse Analysis. I found that the research participants resisted Islamophobia in two significant ways: epistemically and ontically. In other words, through critical knowledge and their very being.
What advice would you give to current students in the program?
It took me a while to figure out my research topic. However, it helps to think about what you are really passionate about because you need to be driven to complete your dissertation, which can be a strenuous process. But it becomes enjoyable if you do things you really care about in terms of your research question, your epistemological position, and, of course, your research methods. I find reflexivity, or thinking about your positionality vis-à-vis your research topic, to be crucial. Other than that, friends are important, so is a fairly healthy lifestyle.
Given that I have a background in the fine arts, I find creativity to be healing whether one is being creative artistically or simply exposed to creative things. In addition to reading a lot and in different areas within and beyond psychology, which is more or less expected in a Ph.D. program, travel and present your work-in-progress at conferences. I find it helpful to be in dialogue with strangers at a conference because it forces me to really articulate what I am trying to do. If it is not clear or convincing, I need to think about that. Finally, take some distance from your work every once in a while, so you can see it with fresh eyes. Being too close to your topic may prevent you from seeing interesting things beyond your laserfocus vision. For this reason, I find visual mapping and outlining to be extremely helpful. I want to be able to see the big picture to get a sense of the overall structure of my project. It needs to feel right intuitively but also work conceptually.