Historical Perspectives : Renos Papadopoulos

Historical Perspectives on Jungian Psychology in South Africa (English). Renos Papadopoulos (UK) and Graham Saayman (South Africa)

Jung and Otherings in South Africa
by Renos K Papadopoulos

This presentation will be based on my own journey of (re-)encountering Jung in South Africa as it interconnects with the origins of the Southern African Association of Jungian Analysts (SAAJA). The process of Othering emerged as a unifying theme of the various dimensions of this journey, which include the theoretical and clinical as well as the wider socio-political, historical and, of course, the personal.

In 1980, my doctoral thesis which was successfully submitted to the University of Cape Town, ‘The Dialectic of the Other in the Psychology of C. G. Jung: a Metatheoretical Investigation’, was the first PhD in Africa that dealt with issues of Analytical Psychology. From 1971 to 1981 I was a lecturer in the Department of Psychology of the same University teaching clinical psychology and psychotherapy, and soon after I was appointed, I started introducing Jungian ideas into these courses. In parallel, I was the founder and organiser of the ‘Jung Study Group’ for senior professionals that was led by Dr Vera Buhrmann (the only Jungian analyst in Africa, at the time) as well as being involved in various community development activities.

The dominant theoretical orientation of the Department, at that time, was behaviouristic, emphasising positivistic research. The Department had a strong experimental bias and an active laboratory studying different varieties of learning, using animals, mainly rats. In opposition, a ‘counter-culture’ movement of humanistic psychology developed which organised ‘Encounter’, ‘Sensitivity’ and ‘Training’ groups and emphasised multicultural contact. In the context of this polarisation, the emergence of Jungian thought, at the time, acquired several meanings which will be analysed and discussed.

My previous understanding of Jung, which I had developed in Europe, needed to be re-cast to fit within the changed contexts that surrounded me; these included the socio-political realities of South Africa, the physical landscape and reality of Africa as well as the upheavals in the realm of psychological schools, ideologies and approaches. It was in the context of this re-formulation of my contact with Jung that I developed my ideas about the Other. Central to this was the comprehension of the Other both as an intrapsychic condition of a dissociated psyche and as an external Other that is in constant relational interaction with the ‘me’; in this sense, identity is a construct of the constant mutuality of exchange with the internal and external Other/s.

My PhD research was theoretical and proposed a reading of Jung according to which his theories could be better understood if they were to be viewed as successive reformulations of his preoccupation with his life-long struggle of comprehending the nature and functions of the Other, as well as the best ways of interacting with it. I discerned various formulations of the Other within Jung’s writings (e.g. the ‘Other-as-complex’, the ‘Other-as-Self’ etc.) and I argued that ‘dialectic’ was the key process that characterised his way of relating to these Others. Subsequently, my ideas have developed, differentiating between additional categories of Others (e.g. the ‘Exotic’ and the ‘Familiar’ Others) and valuing more the importance of the actual process of Othering (when the specific construction of Otherness takes place).

In the meanwhile, the ‘Jung Study Group’ was developing and there were many different possible formulae that it could follow. In parallel, the work at the Department of Psychology (with Professor Graham Saayman and myself) was producing exciting research and ideas and Dr Buhrmann’s interest turned to examining the traditional therapeutic systems of indigenous Xhosa healers. Despite the immense creativity and hard work involved in all these, no further formalisation of a ‘Jungian group’ was possible without sufficient financial support. This came when Sir Laurens van der Post appeared on the scene and offered to help us. The introduction of this new input changed the dynamics and eventually led to the establishment of ‘The Cape of Good Hope Centre for Jungian Studies’ which, in turn, eventually became the current SAAJA.

Thus, this presentation will attempt to articulate the various Otherings involved in the formation of the current IAAP Jungian organisation in South Africa as they intersect my own journey of reconnecting with Jung in Africa.

Biographical Details

Renos PapadopoulosRenos K. Papadopoulos, Ph.D., is Professor of Analytical Psychology in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex, UK. In addition, he is Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic (London), training and supervising systemic family psychotherapist and Jungian psychoanalyst in private practice. He is the editor of Harvest: International Journal for Jungian Studies and was the first chair of the Academic Subcommittee of the International Association for Analytical Psychology.  As consultant to the United Nations and other organizations, he has worked with refugees and other survivors of political violence in many countries.  He is the founder and director of the Masters and PhD programmes in Refugee Care that are offered jointly by the University of Essex and the Tavistock Clinic. His last two books are Therapeutic Care for Refugees. No Place Like Home (London: Karnac, 2002 Tavistock Clinic Series) and The Handbook of Jungian Psychology. Theory, Practice and Applications (London and New York: Routledge, 2006). He is a member of the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists (London) and an Honorary Member of SAAJA.