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Wits University Press

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Wits University Press book wins prestigious ASSAf Humanities Book Award

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has announced that the winner of its biennial Humanities Book Award is N Chabani Manganyi’s Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist: A Memoir. The book was published in 2016 by Wits University Press.


N. Chabani Manganyi signs a copy of his book at the launch of his memoir, Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist: A Memoir – June 2016 – CIRCA Gallery, Johannesburg. Picture: Corina van der Spoel

In its recommendation for the award ASSAF describes the book as an exceptional autobiography that tells the story of an extraordinary South African life.

Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist illuminates the history of a country through sensitive, insightful, personalised accounts of the devastating effects of rural poverty, family dislocation, migrant labour and Bantu Education on whole communities. The book on the life and times of Manganyi gains its authority as a result of the author’s formidable skills as a psychobiographer, and his remarkable restraint as a writer even as he recounts painful and recurring episodes of personal and family suffering through the course of his life.

“What is different about this is how Manganyi finds in the most oppressive circumstances – whether as a child being caned for missing school or an aspirant academic turned down for a job – opportunities for learning that advance his career; over a long period of time he refuses to yield to the many obstacles on his path as a black man and as a psychologist. This is a book on how ordinary black South Africans reached great heights in their lives and careers.”

Chabani Manganyi and Roshan Cader, commissioning editor – Wits University Press. Picture: Corina van der Spoel

The ASSAf Humanities Book Award is a biennial book award for a publication that is a scholarly, well-written work of non-fiction, published up to three years prior to its nomination. The book should be noteworthy in its contribution to developing new understanding and insight of a topic in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Performing Arts.

Veronica Klipp, publisher of Wits University Press, said: ‘We’re delighted that this important book has won such a prestigious award. Chabani Manganyi fully deserves this recognition of his immense contribution to South African scholarship. And as a long-standing member of our board he has provided wise counsel and become a great friend and supporter of the Press. Congratulations!’


Chabani Manganyi and Prof David Attwell (York University) (L); SACP secretary Blade Nzimande at the launch of Manganyi’s book (R). Pictures: Corina van der Spoel

More from the ASSAf’s recommendation:

Chosen from among 32 entries, the memoir presents a picture of the marginal man and the exilic state he experienced in his pursuit of becoming one of the first Black psychologists. The book, as reviewers have commented, weaves a rich and layered tapestry that surfaces not simply autobiographical experience; but is in fact also an autobiography of a black intellectual shaped by the psychosocial intricacies of black subjectivity (especially within the constraints of apartheid social relations).

It is in several ways not a nostalgic storytelling, but a poignant self-reflective and self-reflexive reading (and analysis) of life, relationships, home, work, ideas, loss, alienation and identity. It is a text – while providing a retrospective account of being located in time and place in the past – at best also offers some deep analysis of issues of our time into the future. This is a compelling text that provides unprecedented depth to the current rhetoric about race, racism, and the meaning of higher education inasmuch as it is a story about the life of a remarkable psychologist, human being and intellectual.

More on N Chabani Manganyi:

Prof. N Chabani Manganyi is a clinical psychologist, writer, theorist and biographer. He was the first qualified black psychologist in South Africa. He served as Director-General in the Department of Education from 1994- 1999 and was Vice-Principal of the University of Pretoria from 2003-2006. He has published widely, notably books on artists Dumile Feni and on Gerard Sekoto (Gerard Sekoto: ‘I am an African’, Wits University Press, 2004), and on Es’kia Mphahlele, Bury me at the Marketplace, Es’kia Mphahlele and Company. Letters 1943-2006 (with David Attwell), Wits University Press, 2009).

Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist

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