Is there space for freedom of expression in Prevent culture?

Professor Lisa Downing organised a recent panel discussion entitled Wellbeing and Freedom of Expression in a Prevent Culture to accompany Navine G. Khan-Dossos’s exhibition ‘There Is No Alternative’ at The Showroom in London.

Professor Downing was joined by experts in Psychiatry, conflict transformation, community relations, and mental wellbeing.

Speakers included Dr Shazad Amin - Chief Executive of Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND), Dr Jonathan Hurlow - chair of the Psychiatry Division of the Birmingham Medical Institute and a council member for the Birmingham Medico-Legal Society, and Professor Basia Spalek - Visiting Professor in Conflict Transformation at the University of Derby.

The discussion focused on three broad issues:

  1. Impact on the mental health of those having to participate in the strategy, often against their own conscience (GPs, psychiatrists, teachers, social workers, police);
  2. Impact on the collective mental health of the nation of living under conditions of impaired freedom of expression;
  3. Impact on gender / race stereotyping and unconscious bias involved in Prevent reporting and counter-terrorism more generally.

Professor Lisa Downing, said: “In a surveillance society, with authoritarianism on the rise, technologies such as the Prevent strategy take the notion of policing thoughts and ideas to another level. Professionals are charged not only with reporting dangerous behaviours, but with reporting dangerous ideas. We aimed to examine the impact that living under such conditions has on mental wellbeing – as well as on civil liberties.”

The event built upon a series of workshops and talks that are an integral part of artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos’ exhibition There Is No Alternative at The Showroom.

The exhibition is a performative, durational installation that combines live painting, a research archive, and this series of free workshops, talks, and events that are open to the public. The project, Khan-Dossos’s first in a UK public institution, features her on-going research into the complex context of the UK government’s development of pre-crime and surveillance policies, questioning the politics of representation and the positioning of care that the strategies around those policies generate.