Professor Kopano Ratele

Kopano Ratele


Who needs African psychology when we are happy with psychology in Africa?

 Kopano Ratele

Institute for Social & Health Sciences, University of South Africa/

Medical Research Council-University of South Africa’s Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit


About three months ago I was in Paris where I had travelled to participate in the 6th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS). Over two years before that I convened three panels at the International Conference on African Studies that took place in Accra, in October 2013. A few months prior in the same year I was at ECAS 5 in Lisbon. Along the way, over a period of 12 years or so, in cities as diverse as Cape Town, Dakar, Helsinki, Lagos, and Leiden, I have participated in numerous other conferences, colloquia, symposia, seminars and lectures on different subjects where Africa and the lives of Africans are in the foreground. Why do I participate in these conferences and what reason do I have to tell you of my travels? The reason is simple yet significant: I was trained in psychology in South Africa and South African psychology has tended not do Africa or do it in a curious ways, meaning my adventures in studies of Africa appear odd. Given that there is little or unfathomable Africa in psychology while we have a thriving psychology in Africa, these travels are part of an ongoing search for more than simply a dealineated home for the psychological in studies of Africa. Three other motives have urged my pursuit. First, I am interested in how Africa is taught, studied, hailed, constructed and consumed by Africans, Americans, Europeans, and others across the globe. Second, I have been looking for points of productive convergence between psychology and other disciplines as taken up in and about Africa. Third, having remarked that scholars who work from a psychological perspective are scarce at conferences on African studies, I have felt that some of the topics under discussion in African studies conferences could benefit from critical African-situated psychological and psycho-analytic analyses. In light of this, this presentation responds to the question why there remains a need for African psychology even when we might feel happy with psychology in Africa. The objective is to contribute towards the development of a world-centred psychology conscious of its location in Africa. Since my scholarship focuses mainly on masculinities, some thoughts will be offered on what one needs to do to become an African psychologist of men in a world where there is a psychology of African men yet there is no African psychology of men. In the continuing personal and collective struggles for African psychology, being aware of the persisting legacy of coloniality-informed knowledge, being and power it may be vital to encourage each other as psychologists to tell our own searches for and hopefully attainment of less self-othering voice. An interest in psychology and Africa cannot be at home in Africa and American-centred psychology without troubling itself with globally hegemonic traditions into which we are hailed as psychology students, teachers and researchers. The project to develop African psychologies for the world yet conscious of their situatedness is one to which every psychologist in Africa interested in authentic living, relationships, research, and teaching can contribute and from which all can richly benefit.

Kopano Ratele is Professor in the Institute of Social and Health Sciences at the University of South Africa and former Co-Director of the Medical Research Council-UNISA Violence, Injury & Peace Research Unit. His social-political activism, community mobilisation and research focuses on the subjects of boys, men and masculinities as they intersect with traditions, violence, class, sexuality, and race. He is an advisory board member of NORMA: the International Journal for Masculinity Studies, associate editor of Feminism and Psychology, associate editor of Psychology in Society, member of the international reference group of GEXcel: the International Collegium for Advanced Transdisciplinary Gender Studies, and former editor-in-chief of African Safety Promotion: A Journal of A Journal of Injury and Violence Prevention. A past president of the Psychological Society of South Africa, chair of the board of Sonke Gender Justice, Ratele is a regular contributor to the media. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journals articles and book chapters, 5 edited books, and the critically acclaimed There was this goat (with Antjie Krog and Nosisi Mpolweni).

Last Modified: Tue, 19 Sep 2017 12:35:31 SAST