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UJ, UNISA exploring the contemporary role of Psychology

​”Historically, psychology has been understood as an independent discipline, separate from other Social and Human Science disciplines such as sociology, politics and history. It has been argued that this division within the Social and Human Science disciplines is a legacy of western colonial knowledge. This is imperative since these seemingly divergent knowledge systems, like psychology, draws on Western ideas of what it is to be a human, how to do research about the human condition, and how to assist people in improving their lives.”

These were the sentiments shared at the 6th South African student’s psychology conference on Monday 24 June until 26 June 2019 at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus.

The Department of Psychology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in collaboration with the University of South Africa (UNISA), hosted a three-day Psychology Conference for students across Southern Africa, under the theme “Psychology in conversation: co-constructing new psychologies“.

Dr Sumayya Ebrahim, Psychology Lecturer at UJ, stated that the main objective of the conference was to bring together students and discuss the relevance of psychology in a contemporary African context. She asserted that “psychology deals with human experiences, which are necessary to build good relationships with others as well as to lead a happy life with those around us.”

Topics and areas of study featured included practical or theoretical examples of combining psychology and other disciplines to make sense of social phenomena; psychology’s (post-) colonial heritage and the possibilities for reclaiming an African psychology; re-imagining psychology as a decolonial project; starting conversations with communities outside academia and beyond the consulting room and students’ role in co-constructing new psychologies, among others.

One of the presentations, titled The Portrayal of Black Women on Destiny Magazine Covers, by Mpho Sergio Malatji and Dr Sumayya Ebrahim, UJ who explored the collaborative benefits of the above mentioned subjects.

The duo uncovered the portrayal of black women and the results indicated that Destiny magazine portrays black women as rich, successful and independent which combats racial and patriarchal nature of the media at large as well as historically biased representations of black women in Africa.

African and global delegates from all walks of life attended this conference. This included healthcare professionals such as psychologists, medical doctors, occupational therapists, teachers, nurses and social workers; people working in organisational settings; people working in community development and individuals with a personal interest in the field.

Another interesting presentation was that of by Mpho Mathebula from UNISA on Nakedness as Decolonial Praxis. Mathebula established that the psychology behind naked protests, transforms the women’s body from social constructions of vulnerability and consumption to a site of militancy, defiance and one that speaks back from a position of solidarity and strength.

The Southern African Students’ Psychology Conference is a biannual event that provides a platform for young, aspiring academics and researchers to present their ideas and share their knowledge with peers. This collaborative effort aims to move forward the discipline of Psychology through the support of relevant research to contribute towards shaping psychology in Southern Africa.

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