Rhodes Psychology researcher wins continental award

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PhD student from the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Preproduction (CSSR) Yanela Ndabula
PhD student from the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Preproduction (CSSR) Yanela Ndabula

Rhodes University’s Psychology researcher won a top award and fifteen received honourable mentions at the Student Presentation Awards during the inauguration of continental 2017 Pan African Psychology Union conference in Durban recently.

Yanela Ndabula (pictured), a PhD student from the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Preproduction (CSSR) unit won the Sexuality and Gender Division/Feminism and Psychology Student Presentation Award at a ceremony (event) attended by over 600 delegates from different countries across the African diaspora.

The theme of the conference, ‘Psychology in Society’, spoke to pushing the boundaries of the discipline. The fifteen CSSR researchers were commended for covering diverse areas of psychology that are yet to be explored and recognised.

Ndabula’s paper titled, “Sistering and sexual socialisation: A psychosocial study of Xhosa women's 'sex and reproduction talk' with their sisters”, was originally her Master’s thesis supervised by Professor Lisa Saville Young and Professor Catriona Macleod.

“As one of six girls at home, I am passionate about women’s issues which is why my academic project is more than just writing a dissertation. Being a student at CSSR allows you to produce research based on lived experiences. The work must inspire interventions and be central to the talks we give in schools around Grahamstown,” said Ndabula.

Her paper on sister-sister sex talk looks at how most work done is about understanding parent-child talk about sex, and less is known about how sisters discuss sex. Five isiXhosa-speaking, middle aged and working class women were interviewed using the Free Association Narrative Interview technique.

According to Ndabula, psychology is a broad field where researchers like herself who are not therapists do exist. “I want to develop into an affluent researcher in sexuality and reproduction, producing research that is ethical and dynamic”.

Among the students who received an honourable mention at the awards was Zipho Dolamo, Cassandra Robertson and Sarah-Anne Moore. Dolamo’s paper was on, “A systematic review of how Fag Hags resist and/or reinforce heteronormativity in friendship dyads” and Sarah-Anne Moore, a CSSR MA student presented a paper on “Policy responses to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of queer youth in the global South”. And lastly, Cassandra Robertson, a CSSR MA student presented her paper on “Blessers, naps, and the friendzone: Colloquial terms in young adults talk about sexual desire, sexual practices and sexual subjectivities”.

Research associate, Natalie Donaldson presented a paper on “To come out or not to come out? Queering the discourse of 'coming out” as part of the on-going conversation by feminists using queer theory to challenge the nature of socially and politically constructed notions of normative sexualities particularly sexual behaviour and sexual identities.

Despite some positive outcomes, challenges remain in relation to non-normative sexuality, identity disclosures, and policies addressing queer sexual health. In this symposium, the researchers presented a number of reviews that analyse how queer literature and policies really are.

The CSSR research programme conducts critical research that analyses the technologies of representation and the technologies of intervention concerning sexualities and reproduction. The centre endeavours to produce useful, practical and critical work specific to the South African context.

Professor Catriona Macleod, SARCHI Chair: Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction commended her team for making a mark in a continental and socially relevant platform.

“We are very proud of these student researchers. I recused myself from the vetting of the student awards owing to the obvious conflict of interest, but I can confirm that there was a long list of contenders. Essentially, the CSSR walked away with all of the honourable mentions and the main award,” she enthused.