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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The unconscious at work in a South African historically black university: exploring the (k)not of relationship between lecturers and management

The historically black and white universities in South Africa were shaped by apartheid policies (Abdi, 2002). Due to 300 years of minority rule, 50 years of Afrikaner nationalism as exercised through the apartheid system, black people never determined their own educational system. The educational system provided for black people during apartheid ensured that they remained marginalised (Mabokela, 2001; Nedebele, 1997; Pityana, 2005; Subotzky, 1997). Education and therefore higher education for black people in South Africa was a deliberate programme of educational, economic and socio-cultural underdevelopment (Abdi, 2002). However, the educational system also became a place where several stakeholders were able to express their dissatisfaction with the oppression and domination they experienced through the education systems in the country (Eslin, 1982; Hyslop, 1982; Naidoo, 1982; Nkondo; 1976). This political struggle formed part of an overall initiative to make the country ungovernable. Thus, the historically black universities became progressively unstable as student power grew phenomenally since the early 1970's (Ndebele, 2003). Consequently the managerial, administrative and academic aspects of historically black universities were severely affected by the power wielded by black students (Nkondo, 1976; Sumbulu & Boswell, 2003). This power of black students remained evident after the 1994 democratic elections. Within this socio-political context this project started when I, who was a lecturer at a historically black university, was confronted with unresolved experiences with regards to the relationship between lecturers and management. I was confronted by on the one hand violent interactions between lecturers and students, and a perceived passivity on the part of management when lecturers are threatened by students with violence in social and academic settings. I felt compelled by socio-historical factors and personal experiences to explore the experiences of lecturers at a historically black university (HBU), in particular their relationship with management. Through this research project information was gathered and analysed to explore, the extent to which lecturers' perception of their experiences influenced the unconscious dynamic processes of the intergroup transactions between lecturers and the management of the HBU.