The Life History Approach as a Decolonial Feminist Method? Contextualising Intimate Partner Violence in South Africa

  • Taryn van NiekerkEmail author
  • Floretta Boonzaier
Part of the Community Psychology book series (COMPSY)


We explore the potential of the life story approach to exemplify the principles of a decolonial feminist community psychology through mxn’s narratives of intimate partner violence against womxn. The life story method foregrounds personal life stories within their wider socio-cultural, historical and material contexts, and places emphasis on the social dynamics of power, oppression and resistance relayed in these narratives. Everyday life in global Southern contexts, such as South Africa, is steeped in inequalities, global capitalism, violence, and dispossession; therefore, the utilisation of methods of knowledge production that acknowledge these complexities is crucial. We reflect on the application of the life story method with two black mxn – Michael (age 46) and Scott (age 33) – recruited, in Cape Town, South Africa from a programme for intimate partner violence, intended to end mxn’s violence. This paper begins a dialogue about how decolonial feminist methodologies can be enacted through the life story approach in relation to individuals who simultaneously hold marginal positions in society in terms of race and class but hold privileged positions as heterosexual mxn. We present mxn’s narrations of their violence within the broader contexts of their histories and lives, and place a focus on the emancipatory and transformative potential of the life story approach and the benefit it might hold for understanding this larger context of marginalised mxn’s histories and their lives. We conclude by providing commentary on the potential opportunities offered through this approach and what that might mean for a decolonial feminist community psychology as well as its capacity for challenging normalised ways of doing and for consciousness-raising.


Decolonial feminist methodologies Intimate partner violence Life history narratives Masculinities South Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hub for Decolonial Feminist Psychologies in Africa, Department of PsychologyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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