Shose Kessi

Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town

Biography

Spring 2014: Mandela Mellon Fellow

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

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.

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