n Psycho-analytic Psychotherapy in South Africa - Talk of whiteness : a psychosocial analysis of constructions of race amongst white novice clinical psychologists in South Africa

Volume 27 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1023-0548


This paper is concerned with the significance of raced experience, and whiteness in particular, as one facet of the emerging identities of trainee clinical psychologists in South Africa, and with adding to the existing literature in this area from a psychosocial perspective. This psychosocial perspective is broadly informed by social constructionism and psychoanalytic thinking reflecting a growing psychoanalytic interest in the intra- as well as inter-personal significance of socio-political processes. As part of this psychoanalytic emphasis, we employ the concept of mentalization to think about modes of psychic experience, in relation to race, as facilitated by different kinds of discursive practices or particular ways of talking. Analysing an interview encounter with a white trainee clinical psychologist highlights a discourse of ‘racial innocence’, which constructs the speaker as being free of racial enculturation, eliding a broader social context. We argue that this discourse may be understood in terms of a pretend mode of experience, where aspects of the wider social context and of race are experienced as being unrelated to intimate personal experience. The implications of this talk and mode of experiencing for clinical work are discussed, as is the importance of understanding the talk as co-constructed in the research context. The analysis highlights the complexity of our raced subjectivities, pointing to the need for ongoing work in relation to race within psychology, and in particular within professional psychology training programmes.

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