Theorising about African Experiences is Possible if We Shift from Western-centred Ways of Knowing

It’s well documented by many scholars that psychological warfare took place for a long time as part of the colonial conquest. The colonialists laboured to ensure that black people’s minds were colonised. And to this end, many theories were developed (by white psychologists) to prove the inferiority of the black mind. One of the consequences of this is that, in colonial and post-colonial settings, psychology didn’t speak – or respond – to the lived realities of black people. The writer and scholar Chabani Manganyi pays particular attention to this in relation to institutionalised racism in apartheid South Africa in his book, Being Black in the World. As a result, the discipline of psychology cannot be divorced from its colonial history. The way it was taught, theorised and practised came as a “packaged” deal from both Europe and North America to be imposed on Africans. Researchers offer a critical analysis of what we call a colonial psychology. The question we ask is: How can we theorise about our lives using foreign theories that were developed elsewhere? This is particularly pertinent given that theories uphold Western ways of being, and position African knowledge systems as inferior and unable to capture accurately the colonial experience.

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