Despite the unprecedented political and social changes that South Africa has undergone since its first democratic elections in 1994, racist ideology and practices have persisted in all the sectors of South African society, including academia. Indeed, not a day passes without us being reminded that racism is not a phenomenon of South Africa’s past that was buried along with the apartheid laws of the old order. Regrettably, its remnants continue to feature as an integral aspect of contemporary South African society.
Like most other institutions in South Africa, psychology did not escape the ongoing and pervasive influence of this country’s racist history. The chapters in this volume collectively reveal that racism had a profound impact upon psychology in South Africa, and psychology as a profession and academic enterprise has, in turn, played a pivotal role in perpetuating and sustaining the political and social manifestations of the ideology. However, the long-standing and persistently exclusionary and discriminatory character of the discipline has not escaped critique and challenge. Over the past two decades in particular, psychology has been subjected to significant critical scrutiny both from within and outside its ranks. This volume seeks to further the development of this scrutiny. It brings together a collection of essays written by a group of psychologists, some of whom have sought to contribute to the transformation of psychology as a profession and as an academic discipline since the late 1980s.
The contributors to this book attempt to examine essentially three aspects of South African psychology’s historical and recent role. Firstly, the focus is on the social and university context in which South African psychology developed. Secondly, psychology as a profession is scrutinised; and thirdly, there is a critique of psychology as a site of knowledge production. Underlying all three foci is a critical examination of the potential of psychology to contribute towards reconciliation and liberation.
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