Overcoming Essentialism in Community Psychology: The Use of a Narrative-Discursive Approach Within African Feminisms

  • Jabulile Mary-Jane Jace Mavuso
  • Malvern Tatenda Chiweshe
  • Catriona Ida Macleod
Part of the Community Psychology book series (COMPSY)


A decolonial feminist community psychology approach understands individual experience as being embedded in, enabled and shaped by discursive and social power relations, and that transformative change is only possible through this contextualised understanding of individual experiences. African feminisms have been concerned with the challenging task of exploring and producing accounts of the complexity and multiplicity in womxn’s (and mxn’s) experiences of localised, multiple forms of oppression and the resistances enacted against them. We demonstrate how the utilisation of a narrative-discursive method in research that is guided by poststructural and postcolonial African feminist theorising may be a useful tool in realising the goals and aims of both decolonial feminist community psychology, and African feminist theorising. In this chapter, we draw on research that explored Zimbabwean womxn’s narratives of abortion decision-making and South African womxn’s and healthcare providers’ narratives of their experiences of the pre-abortion counselling healthcare encounter in the Eastern Cape public health sector. We also draw on our own intervention, a policy brief that had been developed into pre-abortion counselling guidelines which were informed by womxn’s narrated experiences. We argue that applying a narrative-discursive approach to African feminist theorising enables understandings of African womxn’s experiences and resistances which are informed by definitions of racial identity and culture, womxnhood, and social reality as dynamic social concepts and practices. These kinds of understandings facilitate community psychology interventions that are relevant and ‘emancipatory’ as they stem from the multiplicity of participants’ narrated experiences and the social and discursive power relations implicit in these narratives.


Community psychology African feminism Narrative-discursive Representation Experience Abortion 



This work is based on research supported by the South African Research Chairs initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation of South Africa, grant no. 87582.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Critical Studies in Sexualities and ReproductionRhodes UniversityMakhanda (formerly Grahamstown)South Africa
  2. 2.London School of EconomicsLondonUK
  3. 3.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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