Shose Kessi

Shose Kessi

Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town


Shose Kessi is a lecturer in the Psychology Department at the University of Cape Town. The focus of her research is in the area of community-based empowerment and social change, particularly exploring how to address issues of identity, such as race and gender, that impact on people’s participation in transformation efforts. Shose is currently working on the development of innovative ways to use Photovoice methodology as a research tool that can raise consciousness and mobilize young people and community groups into social action.  She has published in South African and international journals on the social psychology of race, development, and political participation. Shose completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2010 on youth empowerment and social change. Before joining UCT, she spent approximately 10 years working in the development sector with international NGO’s in the UK and the USA, and NGO’s in Tanzania and South Africa.

Project Description

Transforming previously white universities in South Africa: Students and the politics of racial representation

My current research explores the politics of racial representation and transformation efforts in previously white Universities in South Africa. Through current academic literature, media debates, policy documents and institutional practices, representations of black students in higher education in South Africa remain largely negative, depicting students as catching up with existing institutional cultures and practices. However, little is known about the daily realities of black students in higher education in a post-apartheid context. This project therefore explores students’ experiences of transformation at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Using Photovoice methods, African and Coloured students participated in a research project, during which, with guided facilitation, they produced photographs and written stories representing their own experiences and perspectives on transformation in higher education at UCT. Students engaged in an ambivalent discourse of transformation that both reproduced and challenged racializing representations of themselves and their peers. Navigating between the stigma of being black and the whiteness of institutional discourses and practices on the one hand, and maintaining a distance from their involvement in affirmative action or other transformation programmes on the other – which were seen as necessary but for other black students. The analysis will draw on critical theory from a postcolonial psychological perspective and explore the contradictions between the internalization and double consciousness apparent in participants’ accounts of their experiences, and, a consciousness amongst these students of the racial politics that undermine possibilities for transformation.

Spring 2014: Mandela Mellon Fellow

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