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Apartheid and the making of a Black psychologist, by Chabani Manganyi.

Apartheid and the making of a Black psychologist, by Chabani Manganyi East Sussex: Routledge, 2016. ISBN 978-1-868-148622


Professor Chabani Manganyi presets his memoir, Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist (2016), in Mavambe--a place he calls home. He graduates to the less rural and rustic hospital of Baragwanath Hospital (now Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital), on the somewhat periphery of the South Western Township (Soweto). While on the periphery, it is certainly the heart of Soweto's health needs and in the heart of Sowetans respectively. He notes his problematic and painful exclusion from Tara Hospital early in his memoir, which is significantly different and displaced from the two former contexts. I am deeply familiar, from vivid and visceral personal and professional experiences, with these milieus. However, I recognise the striking paradox between his and my own experiences of these contexts, as a Black psychologist currently employed at Tara Hospital. I recognise that a reading of the memoir would lift as many consensual themes as it would idiosyncratic reflections, including an important reflection on the marginal man (see below) and the exilic state experienced in Manganyi's pursuit of becoming one of the first Black psychologists.

The memoir explores many other and equally diverse and divergent geographical, political, social, economic and academic contexts that Manganyi traverses with both an unease and a finesse, which bear on his professional and personal identity. Manganyi's memoir reflects excruciatingly on the identity of the profession and discipline of psychology in South Africa, during and shortly after Apartheid. While it is difficult to define distinctly the period of Apartheid, Manganyi's memoir is set in the midst of this oppressive and dehumanising regime. The parallel narrative apparent in the memoir is an account of the collusion of the discipline and profession of psychology with this status quo. With sophistication Manganyi exposes how the malignant ethos of Apartheid cascaded into everyday experiences and interactions, as a 'banality of evil' (Arendt, 1963).

A written review has the pleasure of offering several options in approach (Kometsi, 2010). The reviewer may benefit the reader by focusing on the content of the book, providing in the review therefore with an executive summary and highlighting core and important themes and constructs. The reviewer may also afford the reader a meta-review, for example, commenting on commitments to style, form and focus of the book. An additional option is to combine the former two, including perhaps a third approach that I have opted for, in choosing to expose my reflections from engaging with the book, while dialoguing in guidance with the content and material evoked by the book. The experience of 'Being-Black-in-White-Psychology' is addressed through two key themes of this review, namely: the personal reflections embedded in the memoir as these exemplify the 'marginal man' and the 'exilic state' (see below), and the controversy of the academy and psychology as a discipline in its perpetuation and replication of an Apartheid machine.

Manganyi, the marginal man

Through the article 'Human Migration and the Marginal Man' (Park, 1928), and a beneficiary book, The Marginal Man (Stonequist, 1937), Park and Stonequist introduce and elaborate on the now seminal and canonised concept of the 'marginal man'. For Park (1928, p. 5), the marginal man is:
   ... a man living and sharing in the cultural life and traditions of
   two distinct peoples; never quite willing to break, even if he were
   permitted to do so, with his past and his traditions and not quite
   accepted in the new society in which he now sought to find a place.

His honorary student Stonequist (1937, p. 14) inserts and asserts that the marginal man is ' a man poised in psychological uncertainty between two or more social worlds; reflecting in his soul the discords and harmonies, repulsions and attractions of these worlds' and possibly sinks in the melancholia of never fitting in with or fully belonging to either culture. This man then, it can be proposed, is of both the true culture and the ideal culture, and also of neither. For Bhabha (1994), this is of central importance in his assertions and thesis on 'mimicry', to the extent that the marginality within which the man finds himself is the catalyst and substrate for and of mimicry. Bhabha (1994) elucidates that 'colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognisable 'Other', as a subject of difference that is almost the same, but not quite' (p. 122).

Manganyi's tragedy is that of marginality. There are several and certain markers which evidence his displacement and disposition as 'almost the same but not quite', including his constant geographic translocation, his identity as professional misfit, and his social idiosyncrasy and racial and political marginality. While Manganyi navigates the former with unique and admirable reflections and insight, his otherness and the tragedy of such imitates that of Park and others' experience and their expressions of psychic exile. While he himself does not directly suggest this, the melancholia must also reside in the trauma of being made a misfit or other on home-soil--as was the political intention of Apartheid. Mangnayi (2016, p. 46-47) writes:
   Indeed, mixed with the rosy picture painted above were moments of
   excruciating anger and bitterness between September 1973 and July
   1975. These were moments of bitter recollection as I lived through
   the rage that I had nursed in subdued forms back home. The anguish,
   the endless questions and occasional self-recrimination of those
   days and nights in New Haven are still vividly etched in my memory.
   [...] In the US I was a free man in the 'land of the free'. Being
   free, I could be self-conscious and shamelessly angry. There was no
   need to look over my shoulder. [...] The reality is that in those
   early days the prospect of life in exile and recollections of life
   under Apartheid kept me awake at night.

Manganyi seems to have paralleled his self-exploration as an exiled man in his own country with an investment in other exiled Black South Africans. He commits himself to writing biographies and memoirs of colleagues and friends (and colleagues who became friends), marrying their geographic and psychic exile. Autobiographically, in addition to this current memoir, we can find such insights in Being-Black-in-the-World (1973), Alienation and the Body in Racist Society (1977a), and Mashungu's Reverie (1977b). It becomes clearer to surmise the angst of this marginality in his aspirations. Eng and Han (2000, p. 675) convincingly suggest that this self-state is the pathogenesis for psychic pathology in identity:
   The Marginal Man faithfully subscribes to the ideals of
   assimilation only through an elaborate self-denial of the daily
   acts of institutionalised racism directed against him [...] caught
   in this untenable contradiction, the Marginal Man must necessarily
   become a split subject--one who exhibits a faithful allegiance to
   the universal norms of abstract equality and collective national
   membership at the same time that he displays an uncomfortable
   understanding of his utter disenfranchisement from these democratic

The latter authors describe this psychic pathology in identity, using clinical material, as the melancholic preserve suffered and indulged by this split subject in the melancholia of identity and specifically in racial melancholia related to the marginal man.

Psychology, South Africa and evil

In South Africa, the profession of psychology has long been accused of passive and, at times, active participation in and perpetuation of the Apartheid regime and its subjugating principles. The accusations have found a variety of articulations within the last two decades (see Hocoy, 1997; Hook, 2004; Long, 2013; Manganyi, 2013; Van Ommen & Painter, 2008; Wolf, 2014, for example). The discipline and profession of psychology in contemporary South Africa has arguably experienced notable shifts from that depicted in Manganyi's memoir. Of particular interest in the aforementioned paradoxical relationship between Manganyi and the reviewer, is the professional context. Managyi (2016, p. 26) introduces Tara hospital as an institution where he 'could not be admitted' for further training, noting that 'Johannesburg's Tara Hospital, an established psychiatric training hospital [...] [was] segregated on the basis of race' (Manganyi, 2016, p. 26). I, a Black psychologist, am currently practicing at Tara hospital, the same hospital from which Manganyi was excluded. Furthermore, I trained as an intern at the institution, a privilege Manganyi notes as reserved for White South Africans and denied for persons with my saturation of melanin. Whilst the discipline of psychology is making an effort to reflect on its participation in the system of Apartheid (see Seedat & Lazarus, 2011, for example), Manganyi's painfully personalised confrontation with exclusion and the resulting strife, begs acknowledgement of the discipline as a perverse and shameful accomplice to a social crime.

A close reading of the text suggests that Manganyi endured depersonalisation as the proverbial 'only Black at a dinner party' (Miyeni, 2007), which again echoes a banished state and the plight of a peripheral man. It is apparent that Manganyi refers, almost exclusively, to White men and women in his collegial encounters and exchange in the bulk of the text, punctuating the extent to which psychology in South Africa, particularly during the Apartheid period (though not exclusively) abetted unfair discrimination. Of course the extent to which the profession was complicit in this social order can be problematised extensively, although that falls outside the scope of this review. Suffice here to engage briefly with Hanna Arendt's (1963) arguments and conversations on the 'banality of evil'. Although the thesis of the banality of evil is strongly contested and controversial it offers a useful understanding of socially inhumane acts--such as Apartheid, by engaging the perpetrator. A succinct explanation is shared by Banhabib (1996; p. 46):
   In using the phrase 'banality of evil' and in exploring the moral
   equality of Eichmann's deeds not in terms of monstrous or demonic
   nature of the doer, Arendt became aware of going counter to the
   tradition of Western thought which saw evil in metaphysical terms
   as ultimate depravity, corruption or sinfulness. The most striking
   quality of Eichmann, she claimed, was not stupidity, wickedness or
   depravity but one she described as 'thoughtlessness'.

For Arendt, evil acts can arise from banal compliance, in a condition where thought and thinking are lacking. While disputed, Arendt does not seem to want to absolve the evil of the process and act, but rather cautions against thoughtlessness and its accompanying malice. In a bid to claim universality, Huang (2005) notes how during Apartheid in the South African context, evil cascaded from a structural system to heinous crimes by individuals. There is a risk that the discipline of psychology is remitted of its role in harm and perhaps, as an occupational hazard, has its enactments rather understood and empathised with. However the more legitimate caution encapsulated in this discussion is that of continuing, propagating and enlivening thoughtlessness in a profession hailed for the antithesis.


Manganyi is neither explicit nor definitive on what a psychologist is or ought to be. However, if for him, and perhaps as is for this reviewer, a psychologist is as much a clinician as s/he is a researcher, an advocate and an activist, a politician and a tactician, a teacher and a student, an agent of both internal and external change both psychologically and socially, then paradoxically Apartheid had to be the best and the worst of times to have made a Black psychologist. The unjust, illegitimate, inhumane, defamatory, unrelenting and shaming conditions from which this Black man emerges were the breeding grounds for the creation of a psychologist who aims to address and redress the former and more, where many would not have had the courage and conviction to live, let alone thrive. This is the psychologist that Apartheid made, and within the pages of this book are the memoirs of the extraordinary man that Apartheid made.


Arendt, H. (1963) (5th ed). Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Penguin Books.

Banhabib, S. (1996). Identity, perspective and narrative in Hannah Arendt's 'Eichmann in Jerusalem'. History and Memory, 8(2), 3559.

Bhabha, H. K. (1994). Location of culture, Routledge. London.

Eng, D., & Han, S. (2000). A dialogue on racial melancholia. Psychoanalyic Dialogues, 10, 667-700.

Hocoy, D. (1997). Apartheid, racism, and Black mental health in South Africa, and the role of racial identity. (Unpublished research report). Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Hook, D. (2004). Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, 'psychopolitics ' and critical psychology. London: LSE Research Online.

Huang, M. (2005). Hannah Arendt on banality of evil. Soochow Journal of Political Science, 23, 1-23.

Kometsi, K. (2010). Translocations of psychoanalysis: Review article. Psychology in Society, 39, 45-53.

Long, H. (2013). Rethinking 'relevance': South African Psychology in context. History of Psychology, 16(1), 19-35.

Manganyi, N. C. (1973). Being-Black-in-the-World. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press.

Manganyi, N. C. (1977a). Alienation and the body in racist society. New York, NY: NOK.

Manganyi, N. C. (1977b). Mashangu's reverie and other essays. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press.

Manganyi, N. C. (2013). On becoming a psychologist in Apartheid South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, 43(3), 278-288.

Manangyi, N. C. (2016). Apartheid and the making of a Black Psychologist. Wits University Press.

Miyeni, E. (2007). O'Mandingo!: The only Black at a dinner party. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.

Park, R. E. (1928). Human migration and the marginal man. American Journal of Sociology, 5, 886-893

Seedat, M. & Lazarus, S (2011). Community psychology in South Africa: Origins, developments, and manifestation. Journal of Community Psychology, 39(3), 241-257.

Stonequist, E. V. (1937). The marginal man: A study of personality and culture conflict. New York: Russell & Russell.

Van Ommen, C., & Painter, D. (Eds.). (2008). Interiors: A history of psychology in South Africa. Pretoria: UNISA Press.

Wolf, A. (2014). The State of psychotherapy in South Africa: A legacy of Apartheid and western biases. UC Merced Undergraduate Research Journal, 7(2), 1-7.

Zamo Mbele is a clinical psychologist in Johannesburg. He has worked predominantly within the public healthcare sector and currently works at the Tara H. Moross Hospital, a specialist psychiatric hospital. Zamo also forms part of the multidisciplinary team at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Zamo Mbele is also a director of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and the MH Foundation--the latter of which he is also a co-founder. He also lends his expertise to the African Leadership Academy (ALA), acting not only as a consultant, but also providing supervision and training. Zamo Mbele is currently reading for his PhD at The University of the Witwatersrand. His academic interests include psychoanalytic psychotherapy and literature and identity and its intersectionality.

Zamo Mbele

University of the Witwatersrand
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Author:Mbele, Zamo
Publication:Psycho-analytic Psychotherapy in South Africa
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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