Social Change Award and public lecture: Professor Catriona Macleod

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Professor Catriona Ida Macleod
Professor Catriona Ida Macleod

Social Change Award and public lecture:  Professor Catriona Macleod

“The spectacular failure and extraordinary success of Psychology in South Africa: the decolonial imperative”

3 October 2017, 18h00, Eden Grove Red, Rhodes University

All who are interested are invited to attend.


The Psychology and Social Change Award was initiated in 2008 to recognise prominent psychologists for their contribution to social change in the country. The project aims to acknowledge people who have gone beyond the traditional bounds of the discipline and contributed, through intellectual, professional and personal labour, to progressive social change in South Africa. In this lecture, on the occasion of the 10th award, I reflect on the simultaneous successes and failures of Psychology in South Africa. Psychology is a popular subject at universities; it is well established and organized as a profession; and psychological resources are used in a range of spaces. However, there are multiple failures: it continues to be dominated by White women; practice is skewed towards assessment, diagnosis, and intervention with individuals; most psychologists work in private practice or for private institutions, with White and urban populations disproportionately benefitting from services; traditional topics of assessment, stress and psychopathology continue to dominate research, with social issues, such as housing, land reform, development programmes, water resources and socio-economic inequities largely ignored; knowledge is produced predominantly about adult, urban-based, middle-class participants. Despite much good work being done in the areas of Community Psychology, African Psychology, Critical Psychology, Critical Health Psychology, and Feminist and Queer Psychology, South African Psychology has failed, as a discipline, to radically transform from a colonialist endeavour. I argue for a movement towards a Critical Citizenship Psychology that promotes of an ethics of justice together with an ethics of care, and that attends to both the politics of the recognition and the politics of redistribution. I end by outlining some concrete action that should be taken to radically strengthen the decolonial imperative.