Topics, trends and silences in South African psychology ethnocentricism, crisis and liberatory echoes
The deliberate and sometimes unwitting complicity of psychology with apartheid social formations has received little attention in the psycho-historical literature. This, study in an attempt to break the silence, offers a descriptive characterization of South African psychology by tracing its origins, evolution, formalization and development to its ethnoscientific, colonial and apartheid roots. The study begins with an examination of the globalization of Euro-American psychology. The proliferation and domination of Euro-American psychology closely correlates with the emergence and globalization of colonial power that is intimately connected to the missionary discourses of conquest and conversion and to the doctrines of scientific racism. Western explorers, soldiers, missionaries, and social scientists are among the figures who participated in the occupation and conversion of the 'Dark Continent' of Africa. Within the context of colonialism, psychology became an enterprise of conquest and conversion that endeavoured to understand how people of colour, 'marginal beings', could be transformed into active subjects The history of South African psychology provides an illuminating illustration of how psychological discourse and practice may be employed for the purposes of oppressive social engineering. Besides projecting psychological intervention as vital to the alleviation of economic, social and industrial problems, psychologists utilized their expert roles in the Carnegie Poor White Study, in the Air-force and in industry and objects of Western racial and economic exploitation. The history of South African psychology provides an illuminating illustration of how psychological discourse and practice may be employed for the purposes of oppressive social engineering. Besides projecting psychological intervention as vital to the alleviation of economic, social and industrial problems, psychologists utilized their expert roles in the Carnegie Poor White Study, in the Air-force and in industry to rationalize and bolster White economic and political hegemony. The racial overtones that characterized the establishment of a professional association represents a startling example of how apartheid ideology was reproduced within the profession itself Unfortunately, oppressive discourse appears to continue to inform the research agenda, practices and theoretical concerns of many South African psychologists, thereby creating the impetus for the present crisis within the discipline. The crisis relates to, among other issues, the failure of Euro-American psychology to represent the psychological experiences of people of colour. Attempts at resolving the crisis are stymied by the production and reproduction of conceptual paradoxes within the fields of family therapy, community psychology and cross-cultural psychology, fields that are often portrayed as the solution to the crisis. Despite the increasing levels of theoretical complexity and ideological scrutiny each of these fields offer, South African psychology still faces various epistemological challenges and communieentric biases. A content analysis of 977 articles that appear in the South African Journal of Psychology, Psychologia Africana, the Journal of Behavioural Science, Psychology in Society, Humanitas. Psygram and the South African Psychologist confirms that the crisis in psychology continues. Details obtained from the analytical review show South African psychology, between 1948 and 1988, to be characterized by five features. First, Whites and males affiliated to the open liberal universities and Afrikaans universities dominate knowledge-production in the discipline. Blacks and women authors, especially those affiliated to the historically Black universities, tend to occupy mainly co-authorship positions at the level of publication. Second, the majority of articles reviewed are written in English. Third, whereas the bulk of articles analysed are empirical in nature, there is an increasing trend towards theoretical articles that examine the ideological and philosophical premises of the discipline. Fourth, empirical studies tend -to select subjects from both male and female gender groups, who are mainly White, and mostly affiliated to institutional settings. Fifth, research is dominated by an emphasis on conventional areas such as psychometrics, research methodology, industrial psychology and educational psychology. The more recently evolved fields such as community psychology and the psychology of oppression receive little attention. By moving to a point beyond critique and characterizations, the study concludes with an exploration of the dynamic quest for liberatory psychology, central to which is the formulation of an emancipatory agenda. An emancipatory agenda may well propel progressive psychologists towards systematically addressing the silences within the field, securing the centralization of Blacks and women at the levels of knowledge production and political representation and creating liberatory epistemologies.