Nicolás Mosso Tupper (he/him)

The University of Melbourne

Nicolás’s PhD research is exploring how narrative practitioners are responding to police violence. You can read more about his work in an article in International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work.

Tell us about your research

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Social Work at The University of Melbourne. Additionally, I work as a research assistant in the department. I moved to Adelaide to pursue a Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work amidst the social uprising in Chile in early 2020. At that time, protests seeking reforms in education, healthcare, pensions, increases in minimum wages, the resignation of the president at the time, and the drafting of a new constitution were met with massive repression and brutality.

As I sought to maintain a connection with the social movement in Chile, I decided to focus my master’s project on ways of conducting multi-storied interviews with individuals who had experienced police brutality. This decision was influenced by my personal experience with police violence and my ongoing work with clients facing similar challenges in Chile.

My current PhD thesis takes a step back, and I hope to provide a broader description of how narrative practitioners from the Global South are responding to police violence. This project is framed from a decolonial perspective, aiming to illuminate knowledge from the South in resisting police violence.

What’s most significant to you about this research?

As someone with lived experience, both personally enduring violence and working closely with clients facing similar challenges, I am deeply committed to exploring the ways in which others have responded to police violence. The act of describing how we resist state-sanctioned violence can carry inherent risks for the person speaking up, which might even be accompanied by societal stigma. My primary goal in this project is to provide a safe space for people to share their knowledge. Being able to provide a space and platform for people to speak up safely and illuminating relevant knowledge for therapists and survivors are my main goals and what’s most important to me in this project.

What drew you to narrative practice in the first place?

As a psychology student, I was always interested in the intersection of clinical practice and social justice. Early in my career, I moved towards systemic family therapy and decided to pursue a postgraduate degree with this focus. Fortunately, Michael White has had a massive influence on the field of family therapy, and he is highly regarded in South America.

I initially read “Saying hullo again: The incorporation of the lost relationship in the resolution of grief” (White, 1988) when I was working with a woman who had lost her dad and described feeling like she had lost so much of herself with his passing. While I didn’t have a great understanding of narrative ideas at the time, it made a significant impact on me and on what I perceived therapy to be. I was so captivated that I wanted to learn more about this narrative therapy.

Next, I read “Beating Sneaky Poo” (Heins & Ritchie, 1988). Again, I found many interesting ideas that I felt I could adapt to my work, prompting me to buy Maps of Narrative Practice (White, 2007). Reading this book led to a whole new understanding for me of what my work was, and I finally found that place where social justice and therapy seemed to intersect. This eventually led me to move to Adelaide for two years while I pursued my master’s, and it has now brought me to Melbourne, where I am undertaking my PhD.

Please share a story of one sparkling moment in your research journey so far

Recently, as part of my PhD, I had to revisit many videos and testimonies of police violence. One particular day, I spent many hours watching five- to six-second clips of police beating people in the streets of Chile. I was so hypnotized by the work that I didn’t even realize how much it was draining me to watch. By the end of the day, I was devastated, with no energy to do anything else. I just wanted to curl up in my bed and cry.

As my workday was ending, I came across a video testimony of a 13-year-old Mapuche girl who had been shot in the head with a pellet at a peaceful rally in Arica, in the north of Chile. Listening to her voice speaking up with such strength against the violence the Mapuche face on a daily basis in Chile, after having faced a brutal attack, was a massive turning point for me and my research. It’s a moment that continues to give me strength on those days when I begin to feel exhausted, tired and drained from the violence. I go back to her words and find the courage to keep going.

Is there a book or article or other publication that has particularly informed or inspired your approach to bringing together narrative practice and research?

There are many books that have informed my research. While I could mention classics like Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends (White & Epston, 1990) and Maps of Narrative Practice (White, 2007), which are foundational to my work, there are other pieces that have inspired me to write and research.

Back when I was doing my master’s, the article “‘Leaning in’ as imperfect allies in community work” (Reynolds, 2013) inspired the whole idea that I would continue to be a part of a social movement, even when I was located so far away. It also informed my project in terms of inviting collective accountability. “Resisting burnout with justice-doing” (Reynolds, 2011) was also crucial for supporting me and my colleagues when we were facing police violence and seemed to be recruited to despair when we saw a lack of justice in the face of the violence we were witnessing and experiencing. Additionally, this paper introduced me to Anita Lacey’s (2005) ideas about “spaces of justice” and “anti-capital activists’ sites of resistance”, which inform my current research.

What are your hopes for your participation in the Narrative Practice Research Network?

I hope to connect with researchers and practitioners from across the globe, enriching both all research practices. My aspiration is to gain insights into the work others are doing and the challenges they face. By sharing diverse perspectives and experiences, we can not only broaden our understanding but also strive to develop a platform for collaborative problem-solving.