Kudos Column: Dr. Rezarta Bilali
The kudos column showcases the work of junior political psychologists. Whether you want to know more about what political psychology is, want to see how junior scholars have shaped their careers, want to find research collaborators or want to contribute and get your name out there, this column is for you!
This month we are showcasing the work of Dr. Rezarta Bilali.
Current position and Teaching
I am an assistant professor in Psychology and Social Intervention PhD program in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University. At NYU I am an affiliate of Global TIES for Children: Transforming Intervention Effectiveness and Scale--a center that aims to improve the design, implementation and evaluation of programs to promote children's development in low-income and conflict-affected countries. I am also an affiliate of The Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity (PACH). Prior to joining NYU Steinhardt in Fall 2013, I was an assistant professor of conflict resolution at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I teach courses in social psychology, conflict resolution, and intergroup reconciliation.
My research focuses on the social psychological underpinnings of intergroup conflict and violence in various international settings (e.g., Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Turkey, United States). My goal is to generate knowledge that successfully informs practice and social policy on prevention of intergroup violence and promotion of positive intergroup relations. To achieve this goal, I have designed a research program that integrates my scholarship with practice and service to communities ridden by conflict. Since 2005 I have worked on a mass media project in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), translating psychological research on group-based violence and reconciliation to media interventions to promote positive intergroup relations. For several years, I have reviewed media programs providing feedback informed by research in social psychology, trained the local staff on psychological principles related to peace and violence, and conducted research to inform the development and implementation of media interventions. In line with this work, in collaboration with Johanna Vollhardt, we have conducted three large-scale field studies to assess the impact of theory-driven media interventions on the targeted populations in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC. These field studies revealed a positive impact of reconciliation media in the post-conflict contexts where violence has diminished, such as in Rwanda (Bilali & Vollhardt, 2013) and Burundi (under review). To better understand the role of media in ongoing conflicts, we have conducted qualitative focus group interviews and two field experiments in the Eastern provinces in the DRC that shed light on the mechanisms that might facilitate (e.g., portrayals of positive role models) or inhibit media's effectiveness.
In another line of research that follows my doctoral thesis, I conduct research aimed at understanding and targeting the mechanisms producing denials and justifications of collective harm doing (e.g., Bilali, 2013; Bilali, Tropp, & Dasgupta, 2012), while at the same time fostering the conditions that lead to acknowledgment and restitution of harm. In addition to testing theory-driven strategies, I engage practitioners to draw insights from their knowledge and expertise working with different communities. I am currently investigating practices around the world focusing on confronting in-group's historical harm-doing, with the aim of strengthening the links between research and practice. I am also conducting a research review on strategies to effectively address collective narratives of conflict.
My research has been supported by several foundations including Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, American Psychological Foundation, International Peace Research Association, Psychology Beyond Borders, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. My most recent publications appear in Political Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and Journal of Social and Political Psychology.