Dr Sofia Chanda-Gool

Contact details

Dr Sofia Chanda-Gool
Researcher Fellow of The Higher Education Academy 2007 and ILT(Institute of Learning and Teaching), Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice 2015 at Plymouth University: PhD with University of Bath(awarded bursary) 2003. Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling in Organisations with Bristol University 2007, BACP accredited 2009. MEd – Full Research with QueenslandUniversity of Technology. BSc (Hons) Psychology 2:1 with Open University 1995
Position/Fellowship type:
Associate Fellow
Fellowship term:
01-Feb-2019 to 31-Jul-2026
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Plymouth PL1 4RD
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Civil Rights, Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Communities, Classes, Races, Culture, Globalization & Development, Human rights, International Law, International Relations, Modern History , Philosophy, Politics, Social Sciences
Australasia, United Kingdom
Summary of research interests and expertise:

My research interests include the exploration of cultural, social, and political contexts and the tensions they present. This is with particular focus on the Indigenous Australians and Global South communities and by contrast British colonialism and influence. I am also interested in the psychological dimension, understanding the challenges that minoritized people in the global south face, especially in relation to colonialisation.

Current research interests developed in line with my initial interest in cross-cultural contexts, the value in learning from contrasting cultures and the contexts that affect minoritized cultures.

My research in collaboration with Indigenous Australians and South Asian communities, impressed me in terms of what Western, developed civilizations could learn from these minority communities. My recent focus and publications on group work has critiqued our individualistic, competitive culture and by contrast drawn upon insight gained through working with minority communities who express a greater shared existence. Through facilitated group work students engaged more collectively, gained a sense of belonging and confidence to speak out as well as hearing each other better (the hearing element is also related to my work as a BACP accredited counsellor). Experience with Indigenous Australian and South Asian communities underlies this group work.

I have also developed and designed programmes to address issues related to equality and cultural diversity and have expertise in working in organisations to apply the knowledge I have gathered from my research. 


Project summary relevant to Fellowship:

Working with archival material, researching the origins of the colonialisation of Australia and considering Britain's involvement in the genocide of Indigenous Australia. The origins of power imbalance between the indigenous Australians and the colonizers provides a pertinent backdrop to the present situation for the Indigenous population.

 White Australia is implicated in the genocide of Indigenous Australia. Examining historical, and political records on the colonisation of Australia provides insight into what happened. These dimensions also focus attention on attitudes to race and class. I will be reviewing the narrative of what happened and question who was involved.

Additionally, I will reappraise the meaning of colonisation at different levels. The situation remains unresolved as First Australians continue to experience high rates of incarceration and death in custody (refs). Germany’s aim to address the effects of colonisation in Namibia, (see Melber) and recognise culpability, contrasts with Britain's acknowledgement of culpability in the genocide of the First Australians, this passes under the radar.

I would still like to pursue the initial focus of ethnographic research and collaboration with Queensland University and the University of London that I started three years ago, but unfortunately the pandemic (Covid 19) highjacked this opportunity. I outline this original plan further below.

My intial plan was to return to my focus on Australian Indigenous communities' circumstances and to enhance knowledge of the communities’ resourcefulness, sophisticated beliefs and profound challenges they face living within the wider Australian culture. This concurs with recent international BLMs (Black Lives Matters) awareness of racism and colonial legacy. I am inspired by Professor Damien Short's work at the University of London (UoL) and will be working with him, Professor Kristen Lyons of the University of Queensland (UQ)and Dr Adam Hughes-Henry of Australian National University (ANU) to develop collaboration between the Human Rights Consortium's of UoL and UQ and pursue a program on: An ethnographic study of Incarceration and Indigenous Rights in Australia:Evaluating potential Genocide and Ecocide. I will be coordinating this work and my specific focus is on the incarceration of Indigenous mothers and the effects upon communities. This will incorporate colonist memorialisation of conflict with indigenous Australians. We are adopting a holistic approach, including analysis of land rights, behaviour of multinational companies and ecological concerns will provide the wider context. The social and ecological survival of communities will be contextualised within a Human Rights agenda to examine what support can be harnessed, and what is threatening Indigenous cultural, social and political future. Strategic ways forward will be identified. I have an ongoing interest in cross-cultural contexts and issues of identity and belonging. Cross-cultural tensions that children/families/communities traversing different cultures experience is implicit. With direct relevance to Indigenous communities I recognize that their experience of these tensions is fraught with challenges. For example racism, genocide and poverty compound the struggle these communities encounter. And yet I have found both Indigenous Australians and South Asian communities possess values and beliefs, as well as creative ways of life that can confer an affirming identity, and which may help them to survive, revealing exceptional flexibility and resourcefulness.

I draw upon an emancipatory, ethnographic (post structural and critical – post colonial) approach, which aims to advance awareness but also empower communities by creating a platform for their voices.

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Feb-2024 Free-safe-and-heartsick


Free safe and heartsick
Therapy Today, February 2024

Counselling can help clients who have fled to the West for safety to understand their complex attachments to their homelands.

When I work with clients who have left their homelands to escape persecution or conflict situations I am struck by their complex attachments to their home of origin. Although they may have experienced abuse and now appreciate the stability of living in a safer country, their emotional bonds to their homeland are often undiminished.

01-Nov-2017 ‘Coming from somewhere else’ – group engagement between students and academics

Journal articles

 The present political and economic climate for universities can promote competitive learning and anxieties about individual students' academic achievements. It can inhibit the enjoyment and skill in shared learning. Group work can provide a creative, empowering avenue so students become proactive in their learning and engage more equally with academics. It has potential to enhance intellectual ability as well as social and emotional wellbeing, yet careful planning is essential to achieve this. This paper addresses the shortfall of prioritising assessment over relationships and identifies how relationships are central in preparation for assessment. It draws upon an ethnographic, qualitative and emancipatory approach to research. This approach enabled students to initiate the research focus and design of the last session. The paper identifies how the group was set up, developed and what it achieved. It makes recommendations for overcoming some tensions and fears that can inhibit effective group work so that social and emotional equity inspires intellectual development.

01-Jul-2017 ‘Becoming others’ Valuing our relationship and communication with students

Journal articles

 This paper reviews a qualitative study of student and lecturer communication and engagement within a ‘safe’, ‘structured’ setting. Relationships between students and academics are part of an emotional as well as intellectual encounter. Our sense of self is profoundly affected by how we feel others think about us. Being heard and valued gives us the confidence to question. Yet within the university context hierarchies and positions easily inhibit this rich potential. The prevalent focus on performativity and individual success can undermine our shared encounters, isolating us so that group work, endemic within university processes becomes, tokenistic and superficial. The study embedded ‘selves’ within a small group setting that facilitated a sense of belonging, open mindedness and compassion towards others by sharing thoughts and experiences. Students and academics exchanged roles and responsibilities. The results suggest that if this type of group work was extended and implemented into the wider university practice, certain concerns about inclusion and equity could be addressed and students and lecturers could enjoy a deeper intellectual and emotional affinity.

01-Jan-2015 Chapter 9: Language, cultural identity and belonging


 'Language, cultural identity and belonging' developed out of conversations between its authors, Sofia Chanda-Gool and Mandy Andrews, about their different understandings of the word 'integration'. The chapter addresses some of the ways in which language can be used to bind people into a community of shared understandings or to marginalise people who are different in some way. Changes in the words we use to identify people and in the way we feel about the labels attached to us by others reflect shifting power relations in people's struggles to own how they are known. Sofia and Mandy point out that the best way to avoid inadvertantly using language which others may find offensive is to 'seek the other', to engage with people and ask them how they feel about the words that may used to identity them. By actively entering into dialogue with people we encounter in our work we can enrich and extend the range of perspectives available to us. We can also make an important contribution to strengthening our local community, both inside our setting and beyond it. 

Here is the link to part of the ebook



01-Jan-2006 South Asian Communities catalysts for educational change

Edited Book

This book draws on the strengths that characterize communities and shows how these strengths can be put to use in improving education. Inspired by the South Asian communities with whom she worked, the author considers also Black African and dual heritage communities. Her ethnographic approach used a methodology specifically addressing the imbalance of power so that the suggestions and initiatives are led by the communities themselves. Members of a community have the greatest knowledge of their own culture and of cross-cultural challenges. This makes the book uniquely valuable.The book combines findings from the study, analysis, and theory with practical approaches. Each chapter concludes with creative applications in the classroom what the children can do. The suggestions for lesson plans and activities are based on the children s own knowledge and socio-cognitive development.South Asian Communities will be invaluable for all those who work or intend to work with South Asian communities. With its extensive references to sociological and psychological research, it will be of interest to students of sociology, cultural studies, and social psychology, and its attention to issues of globalization and western society will attract an international audience.

01-Apr-1999 Career Aspirations of Young Aboriginal Women

Journal articles

 This article focuses on the career aspirations of young female Aboriginal students at high school. Its aim is to contribute to a greater understanding of these clients' needs and concerns in order to be able to not only assist them with appropriate information and contacts but to help develop an awareness of relevant issues for careers advisers. It is the thesis of this article that careers advisers who liaise with both education and vocational institutions are well placed to facilitate the career decision-making process for indigenous clients. However, too little is known about their career aspirations and their concerns with respect to career. The research was based on open-ended interviews with 12 young Aboriginal women.

01-Jul-1998 Voices still to be heard

Journal articles

In a climate of self-determination it is essential to clarify what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves feel about their cultural identity and future. These voices exist in a context of the great potential in Aboriginal culture and by contrast the severe problems which Aboriginal people face.

Lippman (1994) argues that, although there is some evidence of Aboriginal status becoming more equitable, education being one instance to avail self-determination, data continue to reveal that Aboriginal mortality and morbidity rates lie in stark contrast to those of the general population of Australia. The death rate for Aboriginal men and women of 35 to 44 years is eight times higher than for the average non-Aboriginal (Ferrari, 1997). Queensland Health (1996) recently reported that Cape York has yet to experience the mortality gains seen by Indigenous populations in New Zealand and North America.

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