Research / Theory

Four (African) Psychologies

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Have you ever considered the meaning and peculiarity of the debates on African psychology in African countries?

The debate in and about psychology in Africa and as African is part of the same cloth with debates within other disciplines as they get taken up in African universities where intellectuals have grappled with the issue of having or not having the adjective African in front of a discipline – African history, African literature, African politics, and so on. That doesn’t mean those disciplines that don’t have Africa in them, do Africa any better. The debate is really more than just about Africanisation, obviously, and instead it’s about situatedness, about thinking Africa, thinking the world from Africa, theorising while being African. Of course, this conundrum is a significant element of Africa’s colonial inheritance, meaning a part of struggles around decolonising education and the psyche.

Kopano Ratele has published a new article in Theory & Psychology which grapples with the issue within psychology as taught and practiced in African countries, former colonies, the global South and peripheries. The article responds to an article published in the same journal in 2015 by the Nigerian scholar Augustine Nwoye, based at the University of Kwazulu Natal. Nwoye’s article had the provocative, great title of “What is African psychology the psychology of?” Ratele uses Nwoye’s article as a jump-off point to proposes four African psychological orientations. Here is the abstract to Ratele’s OnlineFirst article.

In “What is African psychology the psychology of?,” Augustine Nwoye asks a question that continues to trouble those with an interest in psychology in relation to African societies. This question, in various semblances, is not entirely new. And, to be sure, it is far from unique to Africa but instead tends to worry many socially conscious psychologists in countries in the global South. The effort Nwoye makes toward advancing African psychology warrants an extended response. In broad terms, I agree with the argument to advance an African psychology. However, there are differences between how we conceive of African psychology. Thus, this article asserts that the growth of Africa(n)-centred psychology is hindered by the view that it is singular and static instead of composed of dynamic and manifold orientations. The article presents four orientations to psychology in Africa, namely, psychology in Africa, cultural African psychology, critical African psychology, and psychological African Studies.


It seems as if SAGE, the publisher of Theory & Psychology, is offering free access to this and other articles for a limited period. The article can be accessed here. (Please let me know if you are not able to access the article and I will send it to you). To get a fuller view of the debate it will be worth reading Nwoye’s article too.

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