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  4. Blackness, personality and urban lives




Blackness, personality and urban lives



Public, Staff, Students

Speaker: Neo Pule, University of the Free State, South Africa


Blackness has historically been constructed as the ‘barbaric other’ to the ‘civility’ of whiteness. In psychology, and specifically the historical development of personality theory context in South Africa; psychological assessments have been used to legitimize ideas about township respondents or African personality to be characterized by strong latent aggression as well as insufficient moderation and control (Nicholas, 2016). As a result, the South African law was used unfairly and in a discriminative fashion towards African people. Therefore, through the lens of critical theory, it is important to interrogate presumptions around blackness in urbans spaces, especially on the level of human connection.

The issue about human connection is essential to highlight in the conversation about urban lives because urban spaces are known for diversity. Thus, diversity dynamics should also take a turn in the play given the ever - changing environment of urban lives. Diversity in this discussion refers to simultaneously comprise of the following elements: co-existence of people in one social system; the playing out of similarities and differences based on subjective identities, both conscious and unconscious (May, 2012; Pretorius, 2003). Such diversity can be examined by identifying static factors such as age, race, and gender, among others (Pretorius, 2009). In addition, it could include intrapersonal accounts and interpersonal culturally located phenomena, as well as those issues embedded in the macro-environment such as religious beliefs, life values, ideology, socioeconomic status and socio-political context (Pretorius et al., 2012). Diversity dynamics therefore concerns interactional complexities based on the assumption of subjective identities which emerge from similarities and differences among people (May, 2012).

When considering ways that we know ourselves and know each other, personality can be expected as one of the main issues for psychologists. This is because one of the questions in personality theory focuses on who we are and how others perceive (or know) us. However, one can argue that personality is reserved for legitimized humanness.  In his work “Black Skin, White Mask”, Fanon pursued to legitimize the ‘you’. Thus, Maldonado Torres (2016,2017) reflects on this pursuit by highlighting the issue of colonianity of being. As a result, for people to be able to imagine their lives, which come with the territory of urbanization - they should first have a letigimised human status. Maldonado Torres (2016) comments on this by engaging the issue of Zones of Being and Non-Being. Important for psychology then, personality theory should advance in the direction of the decolonial attitude which authorizes blackness and black personality (the Africentric perspective) in the diversity dynamic of urban lives.

Through my own research work specifically through social dream drawing methodology, I wish to contribute a discourse pertaining to identity and relational dynamics, which facilitate each other but held in tension by a defended identity. This relationship unconsciously sets up the conversation about the anxiety of working with diversity dynamics. The current hypothesis of interest therefore relates to this collective unconscious conflict that occurs in urban lives or spaces that involve blackness as an identity and personality as a relational dynamic.

A light lunch with refreshments will be available from 12:30, with the seminar starting at 13:00.

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When and where

1.00pm - 2.00pmWednesday 6th November 2019

D427 City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom