Professor Catriona Macleod
Good evening and welcome to:
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the first of the Psychology Department’s social change project events. The aim of this project is to celebrate and acknowledge the contribution made by leading psychologists to social change in South Africa. Over the next five years we shall, each year, acknowledge, through an event such as the one tonight five different psychologists. In addition to a public lecture, we hope to have media coverage at the very least in PsyTalk, the magazine of the Psychological Society of South Africa, and we shall have a permanent exhibition in our department in which the psychologists acknowledged and their work will be displayed.
Before I get to introducing the first of our distinguished psychologists, I would like to speak a bit about this project. Why have such a project? Why celebrate and acknowledge psychologists who have contributed to social change? Perhaps there are many answers, but I think that most pertinent ones lies with the basic nature of psychology both internationally and in South Africa and to do with the kinds of role models we, at least at Rhodes, would like make visible to our students.
Psychology is, of course, a very diverse discipline, and so what I am about to say needs to be seen in the light of providing broad brush strokes that will, I am sure, on closer inspection look quite coarse. Nevertheless, let me proceed with the broad brush stroke. Two major trends within Psychology mitigate against psychologists working within an intellectual or professional model that takes social change as its overt aim. These are an emphasis on the individual, and a mimicking of a natural science model of investigation. Turning to the first of these, Psychology, both in South Africa and internationally, has taken, in the past and, to a large extent still takes the individual as its starting point of analysis. We have spent much time analysing the cognitive functions, the developmental stages, the personality, the neurology, the abnormal behaviour, the motivations, the memory, the emotional states and etc. of the individual. Now, I do not wish to suggest that this kind of activity is, in and of itself, problematic. However, all too frequently, the socio-political, socio-economic and socio-spatial elements that are all intricately interwoven in these issues are either ignored or treated as an add-on. Or perhaps I should state that the taken-for-granted context is masculinist, middle-class, white, heterosexual, able-bodied environment. Where environments differ to these, they are seen as exotic or pathological.
Secondly, there is Psychology’s attempt to emulate a natural science model of knowledge production. I noted with interest in a recent email from our research office that experimental psychology took pride or place next to physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science as being eligible for funding from the South Africa-UK science networking fund. Once again I am not saying that we should never set up an experimental design in our psychological research, but it very easy in this paradigm to adopt an objective outsider perspective and to ignore deep political, philosophical and social questions.
And so, I would argue that the emphasis on the individual and the ascendancy of a natural science model within Psychology has meant is that social issues have, for the most part, been ignored, at least overtly, by psychologists. I say at least overtly because as Nikolas Rose points out, what he calls the psy-complex (basically the disciplines and professional involved in psychological thinking and work, including psychology, psychiatry, social work) is intricately interweaved with modern forms of government. This interconnection is a subtle and complex one. The overt concentration on the individual masks any political connotations to the work that psychologists do.
It is not surprising, perhaps, given the context of international psychology that psychology in South Africa during Apartheid was a conservative and intensely racialised project. In some instances it was utilised to support the Apartheid regime and in others it pretended neutrality and objectivity in its activities. Although there are certainly many changes within the discipline since the demise of Apartheid and, many would argue, many exciting theoretical and professional developments, many of the old patterns remain. We are a profession that continues to be overwhelmingly white. As a discipline there is also much to be desired. In a recent situational analysis that I conducted of psychological research in South Africa, I found the following:
Quantitative methods based on ‘hard’ science theory continue dominate psychological research. A minority of studies utilise theoretical frameworks and tackle topics that illuminate the interweaving of the individual with the socio-political context. Knowledge is being generated chiefly about urban, middle-class adults living in the three wealthiest provinces, with university students being the most popular source of participants.
It is against this backdrop that we wish to acknowledge the courage of a number of psychologists, who have stepped outside of the traditional, and perhaps alluring, bounds of psychology. People who through their intellectual, professional and personal work have contributed to social change in South Africa in a broader sense and to a psychology that begins to practice and theorise at the intersection of the individual and society without ignoring one or the other.
And so, to turn to our first recipient, Prof Chabani Manganyi
Prof Noel Chabani Manganyi was born in 1940 in the Louis Trichardt district of South Africa. The date of his birth, it appears is common knowledge as it is on his CV. He is married to Dr Sekele. He matriculated from Douglas Laing Smit Secondary School in 1959. He studied through Unisa where he graduated with a BA in English and Psychology, BA (Hons) in Psychology, Masters in Psychology and, finally, a doctorate in Psychology. The title of his doctorate was, ‘Body image in paraplegia’. In an interview with Fred van Staden and Puleng Segalo of the Psychology Department of UNISA on the occasion of receiving a honorary doctorate, Prof Manganyi reflects as follows concerning the question of choosing to study at UNISA, ‘Well, I don’t think it was a matter of choice. As you probably know historically there wasn’t much choice. At least for South African Blacks as far as the university education is concerned I was one of the generations that finished high school at a time when the doors were closed to African students, and so called Coloureds and Indians’. Later in the interview, he says, ‘to go to the library which is a substantial library, the prospect of having to use separate facilities like bathrooms as a Masters- or Doctorate student could not go unnoticed at least for people like myself, as it is something that I felt was demeaning’.Prof Manganyi rose above and beyond this imposed lack of choice and the humiliation that accompanied overt racism. In 1970 he was one of the first black psychologists to be registered with the then South African Medical and Dental Council as a clinical psychologist.In terms of his early working career, Prof Manganyi spent three years working as a personnel officer for ASEA Electric before qualifying as a psychologist. Immediately after becoming a psychologist he worked as a clinical psychologist at the Baragwanath Hospital and the University of the Witwatersrand. From 1973 to 1975 he was a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University, School of Medicine.As I have said the two criteria that we used in deciding on people we wished to acknowledge in this was were: intellectual contribution and professional contribution. In the following I shall outline some of Prof Manganyi’s contributions in both areas. I say ‘some’ because the evening is, of course, too short to allow for a full explication of them all!ProfessionalDuring the late 1970s and 1980s, Prof Manganyi’s professional life was dedicated to academic leadership. He was professor and chair of the Department of Psychology of the University of the Transkei and later visiting professor and senior research fellow at the African Studies Institute of the University of Witwatersrand. During this time he was visiting fellow at Yale University and he managed to secured significant Ford Foundation funding for the establishment of the Political Violence and Health Resources Project at the University of the Witwatersrand. Together with three other clinicians he conducted research, worked with victims of violence (including families and Hillbrow street children], and undertook the pscho-legal defence of political activists in the courts. Many psychologists consider this to have been important pioneering work which was brought to a sudden close by the rapid political developments which started at the beginning of 1990!Between 1969 and the late 1980s, he also managed to work at different times in out-patient psychiatry clinics at Baragwanath, Umtata General Hospital, Hillbrow Hospital as well as consultant psychologist at Baragwanath and in a part-time clinical practice in Johannesburg and Lenasia.While Prof Manganyi’s intellectual and professional labour was occupied with countering both apartheid and the psychological effects thereof prior to 1990, he joined many other of our leaders in taking up positions to build a new South Africa post – 1990. Since 1990 he has held the positions of: vice-chancellor and principal, University of the North, Executive Director, PSI Joint Education Trust, Director General, Department of Education, Advisor to the vice-chancellor, University of Pretoria, Vice-Principal, University of Pretoria, and currently Senior Research Fellow, University of Pretoria and Chairperson of the Council on Higher Education.All of these positions are, of course, extraordinarily high profile ones, vested with much responsibility. For each, the encumbent is entrusted with developing strategic vision, developing policy, implementing change, and managing difficult and complex processes. That Prof Manganyi excelled in these positions is borne out by the public acknowledgement he has received from the political elite. In 1999, the then Minister of Education, Prof Bengu, when introducing the debate on Vote 10 (Education), said, I am proud to say that this Department, under Dr Chabani Manganyi's committed leadership, has maintained an excellent record of financial discipline throughout the past five years.He was appointed as chairperson of the CHE for a five year term by Minister Naledi Pandor on the basis of his, and I quote here, ‘vast experience in higher education’As if this was not enough, he has given of his time for a variety of important committee work. For example, he served on Department of Science and Technology Panels for the review of the South African system of innovation, the ICT Institute government Panel as well as the FRD-CHD review panel, the Appeals Committee and the Executive Evaluation Committee of the NRFIntellectualProf Manganyi’s intellectual contribution to psychology and scholarly life in general in South Africa has been substantial. His writing spans thirty six years and covers a wide terrain.The first papers were published in 1972. These were:Body Image boundary differentiation and self-steering behaviour in African Paraplegics, Journal of Personality Assessment, 36, 1, 1972, 45- 50
“Projective stimulus ambiguity: Some theoretical and empirical considerations”, Journal of Personality Assessment 36, 1, 1972, 4-7
These are followed in 1973 by the book ‘Being black in the world’. Taking a black consciousness and existential perspective Manganyi sought to understand the body within an analytics of racism that accounted for the complicity of its victims in the exact racism that oppressed them. This book, written 35 years ago continues to be cited widely in the articles of critical psychologists. Indeed in a recent 2008 article published in the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, Derek Hook writes in the following way about this book and two later ones written by Prof Manganyi, Mashangu’s reverie and other essays, written in 1977,and Looking through the keyhole: Dissenting essays on the black experience, written in 1981.
Manganyi’s analysis of racializing embodiment represents an important … contribution to psychoanalytic social psychology. Influenced as much by Fanon’s anti-colonial and psycho-existential concerns as by phenomenology and the imperatives of the Black Consciousness struggle against apartheid, Manganyi’s work represents an unusually politically-committed form of social psychology.
Other than the three books mentioned here and a range of articles and conference papers, Prof Manganyi has written or edited the following books:
Alienation and the body in Racist Society. New York, NOK Publishers International, 1977
Exiles and Homecomings: A Biography of Es’kia Mphahlele, Johannesburg, Ravan Press, 1983
Bury me at the marketplace: Selected Letters of Es’kia Mphahlele, 1943-1980.
Johannesburg ,Skotaville, 1984
Political Violence and the Struggle in South Africa (Ed with A du Toit) London, Macmillan, 1990
Treachery and Innocence: Psychology and Racial Difference. Hans Zell Publishers, Kent: 1991
A Black Man Called Sekoto. Johannesburg , Witwatersrand University Press, 1996
Gerard Sekoto: I am an African. Johannesburg , Witwatersrand University Press, 2004
On Becoming a Democracy: Transition and the Transformation of South African Society (Ed) Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 2004
For the most part they have met with critical acclaim. Take, for example, the book Treachery and Innocence’. Julian Stern from the Maudsley hopital in London writes the following : ‘The scope is broad, as is his range of intellectual influences – from Freud and Fanon to Foucault and Sartre. Questions pertinent to all social scientists and health care professionals working in South Africa are discussed in intellectual curiosity and rigour’.
Letlaka-Rennert wrote the following about this same book in 1994 in the journal African Studies Review.
This book is a prime example of the type of teaching tool that should be used in university courses to critique psychology and its present training. We need more of this kind of book that goes beyond articulating the problems inherent in a discipline that has had an oppressive and maladaptive development because of apartheid … (Letlaka-Rennert, 1994, p. 176).
Prof Manganyi has received a string of awards for his work, the most recent of which are a honorary Doctorate of Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand and a honorary Doctorate of Literature and Philosophy from the University of South Africa. Tonight, we add in a small way to these acknowledgements.
Prof Manganyi will now address us on the fascinating topic of: ‘Moments of awakening: Apartheid South Africa and the making of a psychologist’.
Letlaka-Rennert, K. (1994). Review. African Studies Review, 37(2), 175-178.
Welcome and thanks by Dr S Badat
Read the speech delivered by Prof Chabani Manganyi here
Last Modified: Thu, 15 Aug 2013 12:17:34 SAST